John Force Says: Five More Years In The Cockpit

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 16 2012

Funny Car driver John Force is negotiating a longer deal. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

CONCORD, N.C. – Fifteen-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon. The 63-year-old Force said at zMAX Dragway he was in meetings with sponsors Castrol and Auto Club about extending his contract.

“We’ve got two years left and we’re looking at pushing it out three more to five,” said Force, who has been drag racing for 35 years. “It’s going to happen.”

Force also said his 26-year-old daughter, Brittany, would follow a different drag racing path than her sisters, Ashley and Courtney. Instead of Funny Car, Brittany will drive Top Fuel, her father said.

On another front, the John Force Racing Road Show has 34 events this year, from Barrett-Jackson to New Hampshire.

Top Fuel Countdown to the Championship No. 1 seed Antron Brown says the NHRA title run is tough because it’s only six events whereas NASCAR’s championship Chase is 10.

“Our sport is so much different than NASCAR,” Brown continued. “It’s way different because NASCAR, you have laps where you can make up. We go one race, you lose one round, you’re done for the day. No more points, no more anything.”

Drag racing’s “playoffs” begin with this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at zMAX Dragway and conclude in November at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona, Calif. In between, the NHRA Full Throttle Series visits Dallas, St. Louis, Reading, Pa., and Las Vegas. It’s a playoff system that began in 2007, three years after NASCAR’s 10-race Chase to the Championship proved popular with fans and produced good TV ratings. It’s also a system the competitors didn’t like initially. In fact, Brown still prefers the old points system.

“I was 60 percent old system, 40 percent the new system,” Brown said. “I understand that you want to make our sport more exciting, more interesting for the fans at the end.

“My whole deal was maybe the Countdown could have been longer. We have 24 races coming up now next year; maybe 14 races for the regular season. Use the Western swing, do 10 races for the Countdown where you have a little bit more of a marathon for our championship. The six races, I think that’s kind of tight.”

Pro Stock point leader Allen Johnson describes the six events as “intense.” Johnson, unlike Brown, believes a competitor can have a mulligan in the Countdown and still win the championship, but not more than one.

“You mess up in the semis, you might get another second round at the next one,” Johnson said. “Our thoughts are just round-by-round, run-by-run, getting little qualifying points to maybe make up for it.”

Funny Car top seed Ron Capps says z MAX Dragway is one of the few tracks where good times can be recorded in less than stellar conditions, . He also notes a Funny Car driver can’t see the track’s surface at the beginning of a run.

“This track is unique in a lot of ways,” Capps said. “It can be a little tricky when the sun comes out.

“It’s a tricky place in a Funny Car, not as much in a dragster, because it’s slightly downhill. When you back up to stage you lose view of the track because you’re back and you’re level on the starting area. So you see the track and when the guy tells you to stop from the burnout, you back up and all of a sudden you lose vision. When you stage you don’t see the track surface from a Funny Car. It’s a strange, strange thing. It creates a little apprehension as a driver, but, man, it’s a fast place.”

Larry Dixon was back racing at zMAX due to Hillary Will and her Top Fuel team going their separate ways after the U.S. Nationals. Will told Dixon of the split in the press room at Indianapolis.

“When I was at the ESPN trailer doing the Sportsman show, I got a text from Doug Kuch, their crew chief, asking me if I would come by there and talk with them,” Dixon said. “They had been talking to (Pro Mod driver) Leah Pruett, but she didn’t have a license. Then they asked me about running the last three races.”

Dixon jumped at the opportunity with the small team that has three full-time crewmen and three who fly in.

“Good parts, good people, so, hopefully, we can get some good times this weekend,” said Dixon, who qualified 11th at 3.886 with 311.99.

Dixon doesn’t have anything finalized for 2013.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, September 16 2012
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