Although he turned 60 this year and even though he is less than two years removed from the devastating crash that left him hospitalized for almost a month with broken bones in his arms, legs, hands, and feet, John Force has given few indications that his skills have diminished.
Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations
Nevertheless, that streak will end this Friday when the 14-time champion rolls to the starting line to begin qualifying for the 25th annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in a Castrol GTX® High Mileage™ Ford prepared by Jimmy Prock.
In a bid to provide a struggling Robert Hight with the best opportunity to make the NHRA's Countdown to 1 playoffs, Force decided to place the former NHRA rookie of the year with the most experienced of the four crews that support the John Force Racing Funny Car effort – his own.
As a result, Hight will drive for Coil and Bernie Fedderly this week at Maple Grove Raceway, while Force will rely on Prock to lock up a playoff spot of his own.
"We're just trying to shake things up a little and give Robert and Auto Club their best chance to make the Countdown," Force said. "Going to the semifinals last week got me close enough so now we can focus on Robert."
It's the latest in a series of steps taken by the sport's biggest winner in an effort to light a fire under a team that, as a whole, has struggled this season.
"It's one of the things we talked about when I met with the crew chiefs after
The last time anyone
but Coil made the tuning decisions on Force's Funny Car at an NHRA
national event was Oct. 21, 1984, when Larry Frazier was crew chief and
the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection was beaten in the first
round of the Auto Club Finals in
Nevertheless, Force is excited about being paired with Prock, considered one of the most talented young crew chiefs in the sport.
"I remember Jimmy sitting on the tailgate of the truck back when his dad [Tom Prock] used to give me used clutch parts," Force recalled.
"He's been a little lost, but he's close. All he needs is to get his confidence back."
Although he turned 60 this year and even though he is less than two years removed from the devastating crash that left him hospitalized for almost a month with broken bones in his arms, legs, hands, and feet, Force has given few indications that his skills have diminished.
In fact, he was credited with a .033 reaction time last week in a semifinal showdown with Ron Capps that gave him a substantial starting-line advantage before his car lost traction in the heat. If anything, Force believes he is in better physical condition today than he was when he crashed on Sept. 23, 2007.
That said, the 14-time series champion is in the midst of the longest streak of his career in which he hasn't reached the finals. Not since June 1, 2008, has the 126-time tour winner raced for a tour victory. That's 31 events. The longest he had gone previously without a final-round appearance was 22 consecutive events from 1979 through June of 1983.