O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals
Force summons super powers in bid to repeat at Bristol
Bristol, prerace: Six years after he drove a "Superman" version of his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang to an historic victory in the inaugural Winston Showdown at Bristol Dragway, one in which he beat five Top Fuel dragsters on the way to a $210,000 payday, John Force still has access to certain of his super powers.
Oh, he may no longer be "more powerful than a locomotive" and he's unlikely to "leap tall buildings in a single bound."
But, like Superman, age doesn't seem to be a limiting factor for the 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion who, at 55, still is "faster than a speeding bullet," a quality that should serve him well in this week's fifth annual O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals.
The NHRA national record holder for both quarter mile time (4.665 seconds) and speed (333.58 mph), Force returns to the track nicknamed "
"Too many distractions," Force said of his
As a result, Force fell 61 points behind Whit Bazemore, roughly the equivalent of three rounds of racing. This week, he hopes to erase or at least reduce that deficit in a race in which he is the defending champion.
"We love coming to
"It's been a long two weeks," acknowledged the 115-time tour winner. "We stayed over and tested (after the
"We're in a fight (for the championship), but that's how we like it."
Force has won the NHRA Funny Car title in 13 of the last 15 seasons, including 2004. His team has won 12 straight titles dating back to the 1993 season.
"They're gonna beat us sometime," Force said, "but we're not gonna to just give it to 'em."
In fact, Force isn't planning to relinquish the team's stranglehold on the class even after he has made his last quarter mile run.
"I'm working to train the next generation," he said. "That's why I put Eric Medlen in the (Castrol) Syntec car last year and that's why Robert Hight is in the triple-A car (the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford) this year. Along with my daughter, Ashley (who is competing this week in a Lucas Sportsman Series points race at
"(Some of the sponsors) wanted me to hire 'names,'" Force said. "You can't blame them. But I wanted individuals who weren't going to leave me. I'm looking 5-10 years down the road."
Force's "vision" already has paid dividends. Medlen was the top Funny Car rookie a year ago on the strength of a win at Brainerd, Minn., and Hight is a virtual shoo-in as this year's top rookie, having already won his first race (at Houston).
For the time being, though, both still are racing in the shadow of drag racing's most prolific winner. Superman, it seems, still lives.
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