Pre-Race Package for the 21st Annual O’Reilly Mid-South Nationals
September 26-28, 2008
Memphis Motorsports Park
Third of Six Events in the 2008 NHRA Countdown to the POWERade Championship
After making an equipment change and adapting clutch technology developed by Jimmy Prock, crew chief on teammate Robert Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang, John Force last week ended at two the number of consecutive races for which he had failed to qualify his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang and reached the semifinals at Dallas, Texas, where he had crashed the previous year and suffered career-threatening injuries to his legs, hands and feet..
As a result, the 14-time champion moves to Memphis, a race he’s won five times, in eighth place in NHRA Countdown points with four races remaining.
Highest placed of the Team Castrol entries is Hight’s Mustang, which presently is fourth. Hight has qualified No. 1 and gone to the semifinals in each of his last three appearances at Memphis but still is seeking his first win.
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John Force Racing History at Memphis Motorsports Park:
– It was after a semifinal loss to Al Hofmann at the 1992 Mid-South Nationals that Force uttered his now famous quote, “I saw Elvis at a thousand feet.” Until his crash last Sept. 23rd in Dallas, Texas, that 1992 incident in which his car caught fire, hit the wall and speed and flew off the end of the track, backwards, had been the worst incident of his career.
– John was in the opposite lane at the 2001 Mid-South Nationals when then teammate Gary Densham won the first NHRA race of his pro career.
– John has qualified for 20 consecutive races at Memphis Motorsports Park and NEVER has he failed to earn a quick eight position.
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Track Records (set at the quarter mile distance):
Funny Car – 4.762 seconds by Robert Hight, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, Sept. ‘07; 322.42 mph by Gary Scelzi, Sept. ‘03.
Top Fuel – 4.533 seconds by David Baca, Sept. ‘03; 327.90 mph by Doug Kalitta, Sept. ‘03.
Pro Stock – 6.594 seconds by Max Naylor, Sept. ‘07; 209.17 mph by Greg Anderson, Sept. ‘07.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.892 seconds, 193.21 mph by Chip Ellis, Sept. ‘07.
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NHRA POWERade Series (After two of six races in the Countdown to the Championship) – 1 Tim Wilkerson, Levi, Ray and Shoup Chevrolet, 2235; 2. Tony Pedregon, Q Racing Chevrolet, 2224; 3. Jack Beckman, Valvoline Dodge, 2206; 4. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 2185; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Advance Chevrolet, 2166; 6. Ashley Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 2142; 7. Gary Densham, Racebricks Chevrolet, 2093; 8. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 2083; 9. Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger, 2074; 10. Mike Neff, Old Spice Ford Mustang, 2043.
Traditional POWERade Series points (provided as a courtesy to the media for comparison purposes) – 1. Tim Wilkerson, Levi, Ray and Shoup Chevrolet, 1406; 2. Tony Pedregon, Q Racing Chevrolet, 1288; 3. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 1249; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Advance Chevrolet, 1141; 5. Jack Beckman, Valvoline Dodge, 1114; 6. Ashley Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 1077; 7. Gary Densham, Racebricks Chevrolet, 998; 8. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 964; 9. Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger, 956; 10. Mike Neff, Old Spice Ford Mustang, 914.
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Television (all on ESPN2, all times Eastern Daylight):
Qualifying – Saturday, Sept. 27, 10 p.m.-12 midnight
NHRA RaceDay – Sunday, Sept. 28, 11 a.m.
Race Highlights – Sunday, Sept. 28, 7-10 p.m.
Repeat race highlights – Friday, Oct. 9, 4-6 a.m.
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Next Events (Countdown to the Championship):
Oct. 10-12 NHRA Virginia Nationals Richmond, Va.
Oct. 30-Nov. 2 ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals Las Vegas, Nevada
Nov. 13-16 Auto Club of SC Finals Pomona, Calif.
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For Immediate Release
BACK WHERE HE 'SAW ELVIS'
FORCE READY TO WIN AGAIN
14-Time Champ Trying to Make Move in Countdown
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Fully 16 years after he "saw Elvis at 1,000 feet" while careening backward down the Memphis Motorsports Park quarter mile at 200-plus miles per hour, John Force thinks that maybe "The King" was trying to tell him something.
At 59, drag racing's biggest winner has had an epiphany. Entering this week's 21st annual O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, third race in the NHRA's Countdown to 1, Force still wants to win but he wants to do so safely.
A year after suffering near fatal injuries in a devastating crash in Dallas, Texas, the working man's champion is back this week at a track on which he won most recently in 2004 and 2006.
He returns at the wheel of a Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang that may finally have turned the competitive corner in what has been an often frustrating season.
After consecutive DNQs at Indianapolis, Ind., and Charlotte, N.C., Force qualified solidly in a triumphant return last week to the scene of his 2007 crash and then won two rounds to move from dead last in the Countdown standings to eighth.
He hopes to continue to move up this week in his bid for an unprecedented 15th series title -- all of them since 1989.
"I like Memphis," Force said. "I've always been a big Elvis fan and one of my cars is over at his museum. I always go by to make sure it's still there.
"It's good to have a fast hot rod again," Force said. "It was a little embarrassing. We went to Charlotte and Bruton Smith named this big ol' grandstand for me and all I could do on race day was go up there and sit.
"We've been making lots of power," said the 126-time tour winner, "but we couldn't get it to the ground. But, after Charlotte, Jimmy Prock (crew chief on the world's quickest Funny Car, Robert Hight's Auto Club Mustang) got with Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly and made some changes and you could tell a difference right away."
Despite the improvement, Force still has a long way to go.
He'll start this week 152 points behind Tim Wilkerson, to whom he lost in last week's semifinals.
"We need some magic," Force said. "We need to win a couple of these races but it's hard to do. You look at the competition with Wilkerson and (Jack) Beckman and Tony (Pedregon) up there 1-2-3 followed by Robert and Cruz (Pedregon). This is the toughest bunch of Funny Cars I've ever seen. And that's the truth. I thought it was tough when (Don) Prudhomme and (Raymond) Beadle and (Kenny) Bernstein and the Ace' (Ed McCulloch, now the crew chief on Ron Capps' Dodge) were out here, but it's tougher now."
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Force Family Featured on ESPN
– John Force, his wife Laurie and their daughters Ashley, Brittany and Courtney will be featured Tuesday, Sept.30, at 7 p.m., Eastern time, in a major TV segment on E60, ESPN's only prime time multi-subject news magazine show. It features in-depth reporting, long-form stories and a roster of award-winning stories. Reporter Michael Smith handled the bulk of the story for E60.
– On the same day, the Force family will be featured on espn.com in a lengthy story composed by veteran motorsports reporter Terry Blount. Finally, to complete the tri-fecta, John and Ashley Force will be featured in a four-page photo and text feature nest week in ESPN The Magazine. It seems that everywhere he looks these days, drag racing's biggest winner sees clues he may have overlooked in a headlong rush for more power, more speed, more success.
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Did You Know?
– John hasn't qualified No. 1 since the 2006 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind. That's a span of 49 races, the longest he's gone without starting No. 1 since beginning his career with a 59-race drought.
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JOHN FORCE by the numbers....
1 victory since suffering ca