In a career spanning 42 seasons, John Force routinely has defied the odds while paying little attention to conventional wisdom. It’s a strategy that has worked out okay for the former big rig truck driver if you call 16 championships and 149 tour victories okay.
The upshot is that even though he is only seventh in Mello Yello driver points entering this week’s 18th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the sport’s most successful pro driver still believes he can win another title at the wheel of a much-improved PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro.
“This PEAK Camaro has gotten better every week,” said the former Driver of the Year for all American motorsports (1996). “It has consistency now. (At the last race at Charlotte) it went down the racetrack every run in qualifying and every run (on race day). Overall, as a team, we’re doing good.
“It’s a long way to that championship and we are running out of races,” he grudgingly admitted, “but I never give up as long as there’s a chance. Things happen. It’s drag racing. I know we’ve got our work cut out for us but if we go out and win Vegas, we’ll see where it goes?”
Winning Vegas” is something Force knows how to do. After a horrid first 10 years at The Strip during which he won just one time in 17 attempts, the Hall of Famer has turned things around, winning five of his last 16 Vegas starts including Toyota Nationals’ titles in 2010, 2013 and 2016, the first two paving the way to championships.
After a start to the 2018 season where Force made multiple trips to the hospital after on track incidents, the racing icon turned around and won the Mile-High Nationals at Denver and extended to 31 the number of different seasons in which he has won at least one tour event, a feat unparalleled in professional sport.
“I want to win and I know I still can,” Force said. “This isn’t NASCAR. I don’t have to drive around for three or four hours. I’ve been doing this a long time. I know the drill. When it’s over, I’ll know it’s over – but it ain’t over yet!”
Although he is on the verge of win 150, Force will be focused on something much grander.
“It’s all about the championship,” Force said. “If I can’t get it and Courtney (youngest daughter Courtney Force, driver of the Advance Auto Parts Camaro) can’t get it, then I’m going to try to take out the guys who are chasing Robert (Hight, the current points leader and president of John Force Racing) so he has the best chance of winning.”
Nitro qualifying at the Toyota Nationals is scheduled at 12:30 and 3 p.m. on Friday, 12:30 and 2:45 p.m. Saturday. The single elimination tournament will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.
JFR PR/Photo Credit: Gary Nastase, Auto Imagery