Championship Drag Racing

NHRA Nationals
Las Vegas, NV
(April 6-9)

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John Force
Castrol GTX Ford Mustang

Force hopes to fly under radar in Vegas title bid

Las Vegas, prerace: Las Vegas oddsmakers have established Ron Capps as the 3-1 favorite to win the Funny Car championship at this week's seventh annual Nationals and the man most delighted with that turn of events is 13-time NHRA champion John Force.

Its the first time in 12 trips to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that Force wont be the favorite.

"They finally got it right," Force said of oddsmakers for Station Casinos. "They kept making us the favorites even though we've only won, I think, one time."

Indeed, drag racing's biggest winner has earned only one of his record 119 tour victories at LVMS, a track on which he prevailed only in the fall race in 2002.

"Capps should be the favorite," Force continued. "He's won the last two races (including last week's O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas) and he's won a lot more at Vegas than me. I'm no good at gambling and I haven't been that good racing on this track even though I love it here."

Capps drove his Brut Dodge to victory in last October's ACDelco Nationals, the same race he won for the first time in 2001.

Nevertheless, if one was to poll the Funny Car competition, there is a strong likelihood that the odds still would favor Force and the new 2006 Castrol GTX Ford Mustang in which he has done everything this year except win a race.

Coming off a 2005 campaign in which he qualified No. 1 just once, lost in the first round 10 times and finished third in points, Force has been on a mission since he pulled to the starting line for his first test run at LVMS last February.

After twice breaking the 4.70 second barrier in Vegas testing, the 13-time Auto Racing All-American moved to Phoenix, where he duplicated that performance. In the season-opener at Pomona, Calif., he recorded the quickest quarter mile in Funny Car history at 4.664 seconds.

In fact, he has been the No. 1 qualifier at three of the season's first four races and twice has gone to the final round.

We've got a real good hot rod," Force said. "It's just hard to win with the competition.  Capps and (crew chief Ed) McCulloch, they're good racers. The last two times we've raced them, the difference is their car has gone down the track and ours hasn't. But it's a long season."

Force, who enters this week's race 68 points behind Capps, has been much more focused this year even in the glare of TV cameras filming for the real-life series Driving Force, which debuts on A&E Network in July.

"Last year was a wake up call," Force said. "I lost in the first round 10 times. Ten times. That's unacceptable. So we went to work in the off season."

That "work" included, but wasn't limited to, putting the finishing touches on a new Mustang body that was in development for 18 months.

In addition, Force's braintrust, comprising crew chiefs Austin Coil, Bernie Fedderly, John Medlen and Jimmy Prock, pursued engine and clutch projects which previously had been back-burnered.

The results immediately were apparent as all three of the John Force Racing Fords busted the 4.70 barrier in February testing at The Strip, something no other drivers have done yet this season.

As for Force, he's still looking for the victory that will enable him to extend to 10 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one NHRA tour event. He'll have to beat the odds to do so this week and that's just fine with him.

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