Las Vegas II: John Force preview

The Strip at Las Vegas holds key to Force's bid for 10th straight title. LAS VEGAS, Nev. It is a measure of John Force's racing stature that, on the only track on which he has lost more competitive rounds than he has won (3-4), in an event in ...

Las Vegas II: John Force preview

The Strip at Las Vegas holds key to Force's bid for 10th straight title.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. It is a measure of John Force's racing stature that, on the only track on which he has lost more competitive rounds than he has won (3-4), in an event in which he has distinguished himself only through a controversial first round disqualification, in a season in which he is facing the most serious challenge to his championship reign since 1992, he has been installed as a 7-2 favorite to win the second annual AC/Delco Las Vegas Nationals.

"What movie are they watching?," Force asked after being informed of the official Las Vegas odds. "I've never had much luck in Vegas, gambling or racing. It's good track, like all of Bruton Smith's tracks, but it hasn't been very good to us."

Indeed, Force has not advanced beyond the second round in either of his four career appearances at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Furthermore, it is one of only two tracks in the NHRA POWERade Series on which he has been shut out in a career that has yielded a record 104 tour victories (the other is another Smith track, Bristol Dragway, in Bristol, Tenn.)

Add to that the fact that teammate Tony Pedregon has won three of the last four events to pull to within 13 points of the lead less than one competitive round and one can understand why Force would question the oddsmakers' logic.

"They've picked me every year," Force said, "and every year I've gotten beat."

Last year's AC/Delco result demonstrated how truly unlucky Force has been at Las Vegas. After qualifying No. 2, the 10-time Auto Racing All-America selection was involved in a first round brouhaha in which both he and his opponent, Bob Bode, were disqualified.

Bode, the No. 15 qualifier, left the starting line well before the green light. Force, reacting to his opponent, charged off in pursuit. Both left before the timing system was armed which, according to rule, is grounds for automatic disqualification.

Force didn't understand it then; doesn't understand it now, but will try to put it behind him when he pulls his national record-holding Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the starting line for Sunday's single elimination tournament.

His Las Vegas past notwithstanding, Force isn't conceding anything to Pedregon or anyone else in the Funny Car field.

"My guys have a lot of pride and they're not going to just give (the championship) up without a fight," Force said. "People forget, we're still the leaders. Besides, how can you not be confident when you have Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly tuning you up?"

Bottom line, win or lose, Force still wins.

With the GM, Dodge and Toyota challenge defused, he already is assured of winning his 10th straight series championship, if not as a driver, then certainly as a car owner.

However, his competitive side has not yet allowed him to enjoy the accomplishment.

"Our ol' heap is trying to run like Tony's," Force said. "People forget that we had the fastest car on Sunday at two of the last four races (4.855 at Memphis, Tenn., and 4.816 two weeks ago at Ennis, Texas).

"Bottom line, we just haven't had Tony's consistency."

Apparently, the oddsmakers haven't noticed.

FORCE at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ...

*One of only two tracks on the NHRA pro tour (with Bristol Dragway) at which he hasn't reached the winners' circle and the only track at which he has a losing record (3-4).

*Eliminated in bizarre double disqualification at last year's inaugural AC/Delco Las Vegas Nationals when he and first round foe Bob Bode both left the starting line before the Christmas Tree was activated.

FORCE Highlights...

*With NASCAR legends Richard Petty and David Pearson, is one of only three drivers to win 100 career events in a major motorsports series.

*NHRA national record holder at 4.731 seconds.

*1996 Driver of the Year for all American motor racing.

*Is seeking his 12th series title in the last 13 years and his 10th in succession.

*Named to the Auto Racing All-America Team nine straight years (and 10 times overall) by members of the American Auto Racing Writers, Broadcasters Association.

John this week will try to extend to 299 the number of consecutive NHRA national events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car. The last time he failed to make the 16-car lineup was, appropriately enough, on Halloween October, 31,1987 at the Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif.....all three of Force's Funny Cars are adorned with "Go Angels" signs this weekend in support of the California Angels bid to win baseball's World Series. Anaheim Stadium, home to the Angels, is just 10 miles down the road from Force's Yorba Linda, Calif., shop....John's 19-year-old daughter, Ashley, is competing this week in the Super Comp class....Eric Medlen, son of John Medlen, the Crew Chief on Tony Pedregon's Castrol SYNTEC Ford and the clutch specialist on Forc e's Castrol GTX Mustang, will make his competitive debut at next week's Lucas Oil Series event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at the wheel of a Top Alcohol Funny Car....Tony Pedregon's 13-point deficit is as close as anyone has been to Force this late in the season since 1998 when Ron Capps trailed by 90 points before losing by 135....the Force team will return to the standard Castrol GTX body for the rest of the season after running the 11-time Champion body for four of the last five events.

Las Vegas II: Capps rides with Thunderbirds

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