12-Time Champ Aims for Fifth 1-2 Finish in Eight Years for Team Castrol
For the first time in 11 years, John Force rolls into the next-to-last race of the season with no realistic chance of winning the NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship.

Nevertheless, down 177 points to Castrol SYNTEC¿ teammate Tony Pedregon as the tour moves this week to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection is anything but dispirited about the likely end of the most incredible singular performance in sports history ¿ 10 consecutive series championships.
Not since 1992 has Force been on the short end of the points race.  That's the year Tony's older brother, Cruz, won five of the season's last six races to catch and pass him.

"Nothing lasts forever," Force said, "but if Tony wins, I still win ¿ 'cause I own the car."

Indeed, if Pedregon holds on, it would be the 11th straight championship for Team Castrol and John Force Racing and the 13th in 14 years..
Of course, while the championship may be beyond his control, Force isn't without motivation this week as he returns to the third annual AC/Delco Las Vegas Nationals as the defending Funny Car Champion.

With just this week's race and the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California World Finals remaining in the 2003 POWERade Series, Force quietly has moved himself and the Castrol GTX® High Mileage Ford Mustang into position to challenge Whit Bazemore for second place.  

That Force would even have a shot at a runner-up finish is almost unfathomable given the kind of season he has endured.

After all, he stumbled out of the gate when a new chassis/engine/clutch combination failed to deliver immediate results.  The result was a dismal six-race stretch in which he went 3-6 and never got past the second round.

Four races into the season, he was 11th in points, the first time he had been outside the Top 10 at such a point since 1989.

Once Co-Crew Chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly finally were able to put the mechanical gremlins to rest, a new, and wholly unexpected, problem arose.

Force, who had been guilty of leaving the starting line in advance of the "go" signal just four times in his first 25 seasons on the tour, was guilty of two foul starts in three races.  A third would follow in August, effectively ending his title aspirations.

Those starting line woes were attributed to changes in the NHRA's starting system that mandated a change in Force's driving routine, especially his starting line routine.  For his part, Force accepted full responsibility. 

"You fix the car," he told Coil and Fedderly.  "I'll fix the driver."

Nevertheless, the 1996 Driver of the Year finally has worked his way back to within 63 points of second place and his performance at Las Vegas will have very large bearing on whether he actually can overtake Bazemore and secure his team's fifth 1-2 finish in eight seasons.

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BY THE NUMBERS....             
1    Points position occupied 215 times over the last 14 seasons ¿ although not once this season.
3    Number of 2003 tour victories.           
10  Consecutive NHRA POWERade titles.
63  Points by which he trails second place Whit Bazemore in POWERade points, the equivalent of three rounds.
109     Career victories, a drag racing record, second all-time behind only Winston Cup legend Richard Petty.
321     Consecutive starts, another drag racing record.  

Best time.............4.790 seconds, Oct. 27, 2001.
Best speed..........323.19 mph, Oct. 27, 2002.
Victories..............1 (2002 AC/Delco Nationals)
Notable................Final round victory last year denied teammate Tony Pedregon the points lead and keyed Force to his 10th straight series championship.
Last year.............After qualifying No. 4, beat Frank Pedregon, Gary Densham, Tim Wilkerson and Tony Pedregon for his first and only win at The Strip.      

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John is the only drag racer ever named Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing (1996)....John is trying to extend to 322 the record number of consecutive NHRA national events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car.  The last time he failed to make a starting lineup was at the 1987 World Finals at Pomona, Calif. (Oct. 31, 1987) has begun on a new 40,000 square foot John Force Racing shop facility in Brownsburg, Ind., just down the road from Indianapolis Raceway Park, home of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.  The new shop will provide a midwest base of operations for the team which will continue to maintain a permanent home at facilities in Yorba Linda, Calif., which also are being expanded and upgraded....with his victory two weeks ago at Ennis, Texas, John extended to 14 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least three NHRA national events....John is driving a special "Three Stooges" edition of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang this week in a joint promotion with Action Performance Companies....John will finish in the Top 10 this  year for the 19th consecutive time.  The last time he was outside that elite grouping was in 1984 when he competed in just eight events and finished 13th....John's daughter Ashley, a 20-year-old senior at California State University-Fullerton, qualified for her Top Alcohol Dragster driver's license last weekend in three days of testing at The Strip in which she drove the Darien and Meadows A/Fuel Dragster in which Morgan Lucas has won four races this year.  Ms. Force has been driving a Super Comp dragster.