Ford Automobiles Forum banner
1 - 1 of 1 Posts

TF News Manager
900 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
By Team Ford Racing Corresponedent

John Force tries to make the most of a change of venue this week when he drives his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang in pursuit of not one, but two Mello Yello tour victories on the all-concrete track at the Texas Motorplex that, in the past, has both given and taken away from the 16-time NHRA champion.

The suspension of racing last week at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C., and the subsequent decision to complete the seventh annual Pep Boys Carolina Nationals in Texas has produced a unique opportunity, not just for Force, but for everyone vying for $500,000 Mello Yello championships in both the Funny Car and Top Fuel classes.

Carolina Nationals elimination rounds will be contested Saturday in conjunction with qualifying rounds forSunday's 29th annual AAA Texas Fall Nationals and the unscheduled "doubleheader" likely will have "make or break" implications insofar as the Countdown to the Championship is concerned.

Nevertheless, maintaining his leading position in Countdown points isn't Force's only motivation this week.

Sure, becoming the first to win back-to-back titles in the Countdown Era is important to the 65-year-old racing icon, especially since he is trying to secure sponsorship for his Funny Car and daughter Brittany's dragster for 2015 and beyond.

"It's important to show that we're still strong," Force said, "that we can still do the job for our sponsors."

Nevertheless, for the Hall of Famer, there are a few other issues to be resolved at Billy Meyer's Motorplex. For one, he comes in having taken his Mustang to the final round in six straight tour events, one shy of his personal record.

For another, he hasn't won an NHRA tour event at the Motorplex since a 2007 crash that almost ended his career, and he always has insisted that his comeback will not be complete until he's back in the winners' circle.

Finally, he'll have two chances this weekend to make Ford Racing history as the winningest driver in any single series. He and Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden both have won 78 races for Ford and since the Blue Oval won't be involved in his operation after this year, the former truck driver would like nothing more than to go out with that record.

"Ford has been nothing but good to me, especially when we lost Eric (Medlen, a rising young Ford star who was killed in a 2007 testing accident at Gainesville, Fla.). Ford engineers, NHRA, all the other sponsors, we got together and changed things to make the sport better for our kids. I'll never forget that."

The 2007 crash was only the worst of several incidents Force survived at the Motorplex. In 1992, locked in a tense battle for the championship with then-rookie Cruz Pedregon, he drove an out-of-control car into the guardwall three times in a futile bid to run down the eventual champion. In 1997, his first year with Ford, Ray Higley lost control of his car past the finish line after losing to Force and ultimately rammed the Castrol Ford from behind in the shutdown area.

Of course, those "incidents" notwithstanding, Force has won seven times on the Motorplex concrete and was runner-up just a year ago in a replay of the 1992 duel -- but without all the extracurricular activity.

Not that Force this week will be the lone standard bearer for Ford Racing. The Countdown hopes of three other Ford drivers -- Robert Hight, Courtney Force and Time Wilkerson -- are still very much intact and a fourth, Bob Tasca III, is looking forward to playing a major spoiler role at the wheel of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Mustang.

The Rhode Island Ford dealer is one of a handful of drivers to have won a Countdown race from outside the Top 10. In fact, he accomplished that feat at Dallas in 2012. It was his last trip to the winners' circle.

"(Since) I've already won in Dallas, it would be awesome to pick up two more in (one weekend)," Tasca said. "We're still in the competition from Charlotte, and I've got a car we're really happy with. It showed promise (in Charlotte in a first-round upset of Cruz Pedregon). I really feel that we've got a legitimate shot at picking up some trophies (this week)."

Of course, he's not alone in that belief. By Sunday night, though, there should be some definition to the chase that continues next week in St. Louis.

"With four races in a row (starting the Countdown) getting a good start is important," Hight said. "You want to build momentum and not fall behind (and) you better not waste any round wins. Also, that all-concrete track is key for qualifying bonus points. It might be hot, but we have a good hot weather tune up so I'm excited."

Like Force, Hight has had a good news-bad news relationship with the Motorplex. When he failed to qualify for the 2007 race, it probably cost him the championship (which he eventual lost by 19 points). But when he drove his Auto Club Ford to victory in 2009, it boosted into a points lead he never lost in affecting a worst-to-first drive to the title from the No. 10 starting position.

Although he comes in having won more races this year than anyone else in the Funny Car category (five), he knows that he and crew chief Mike Neff need to generate momentum this week if they hope to claim the title.

"We had a great regular season," said the 34-time tour winner, "but the key is to be leading the points after the last race. It's a whole new ballgame now. The first 18 races are in the past. If you want a championship, you better be on top of your game (because) winning in the Countdown is what it's all about.

"There are so many things that go into running a Funny Car at the championship level," said the 45-year-old who serves as president of John Force Racing, Inc. "You need a good driver, a good crew chief, a good crew and then, most importantly, you need consistency and confidence. We have all those elements over here. We just have to put them together this week."

While Force, Hight, Wilkerson and Tasca will have double-up opportunities this week, the same can't be said for Courtney Force whose Traxxas Ford was ousted in the completed first round last week at Charlotte.

"Unfortunately we didn't have the best start to the Countdown having to race my dad in the first round at Charlotte," said the-26-year-old graduate of Cal State-Fullerton. "He edged me for the win (4.058 to 4.070). The positive thing leaving Charlotte (was) the fact that our car seems to be more consistent at each race.

"I'm staying confident and motivated because I think we've got a great car (and) we've made some huge strides with our consistency. We've made some good runs at this track in the past (No. 1 qualifier in 2012) so I'm excited (about turning) our luck around at the second race of the Countdown."

Wilkerson, who started from the bottom just like Hight did in 2009, will try to change the dynamic in one big weekend at the wheel of the Levi, Ray and Shoup Mustang he owns, drives and tunes.

"I've never been a part of anything like this," Wilkerson said of the two-in-one, "so I don't really know how it's going to go, and I'm not sure what to expect other than there are going to be an awful lot of points up for grabs in just a couple of days.

"If you take a peek at the points right now, you might as well erase that view from your memory because once we get to Sunday night it's all going to be completely different. Seven rounds of racing in one weekend is something none of us have even considered before.

"The good news is we've done this sort of format in a way, with the Traxxas Shootout, but there aren't points at stake in that special event. The Traxxas race happens in conjunction with qualifying in Indy, so we know how to do it and we know how to juggle qualifying and racing at the same time.

"What's going to be really important (though) is to get solidly in the Dallas field before the Charlotte rounds start," said the 17-time tour winner.

"That way you can focus on a race-day approach and not have to walk a tightrope where you're trying to win rounds and qualify for a race at the same time. Those are two very different approaches to tuning and driving, and it's hard to do both at once."

Click here to view the news
1 - 1 of 1 Posts