Boss 500 Engine Powers 14-Time Champion
POMONA, Calif. – At this week's 25th annual Lucas Oil Slick Mist Nationals, John Force is driving a special edition, gold-and-black Ford Mustang sponsored by Castrol EDGE®, his long-time sponsor's new high-end synthetic lubricant.
However, if the 14-time NHRA Funny Car champion has an advantage at Firebird International Raceway, a track on which he's won a record eight times in the last 15 seasons, it's not what's on his car, it's what's in it.
After failing to survive beyond the first round in his last two appearances at Charlie Allen's desert drag strip, the sport's biggest winner launches his latest bid with a new BOSS 500 Ford nitro motor between the frame rails.
In fact, the 59-year-old icon is locked in a good-natured duel with teammate Mike Neff to become the first to win an NHRA Full Throttle tour event with BOSS 500 power.
"It's a nice piece," Force said of the nitro motor developed within strict NHRA specifications by his crew chiefs and Ford engineers. "Mike Neff and John Medlen put that motor in three finals last year, but we're still trying to get the first win. I think we'll get it this year, me or Neff or both of us."
"(Crew chief Austin) Coil says it makes more horsepower," Force said of the new motor, "but the big thing (to me) is durability. "You can knock a rod out the side and it doesn't destroy the b lock. We built strength into it. I don't know of any of the Ford blocks we've lost so far. We just put em right back into action."
Although the engine eventually will power all four of the JFR Mustangs, right now there is not enough inventory to support such an ambitious effort.
"After we got a second machine (a MAG Giddings and Lewis CNC), we were finally able to get blocks for me and for Neff," Force said.
Originally, the BOSS 500 blocks and the team's proprietary cylinder heads shared a single CNC machine, creating a frustrating bottleneck in the manufacturing process. Now, there is a dedicated MAG Giddings and Lewis unit for each application.
As for Force's new black-and-gold Castrol EDGE paint scheme, it will be in place for this weekend's even and one more race (the March 12-15 ACDelco Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.) before the 126-time tour winner reverts to the more familiar green-and-white of Castrol GTX High Mileage.
"Castrol has been with me for all my wins and all my championships," Force said, "and it's exciting for me to be able to help them launch a new brand, Castrol EDGE, and to take it to the Super Bowl where we signed autographs for a couple hours and had the car on display. That was great, but what we really want to do is to get it into the winners' circle along with the BOSS 500 motor."
Fully recovered from injuries suffered 15 months ago in a crash at Dallas, Texas, the 14-time Auto Racing All-America selection is anxious to prove that he not only still can win races, but also win championships.
"I'm in better shape now than I was before the accident," Force said. "I've got my weight back up around 200, but I've got more muscle. Since I got out of rehab, I go to the gym every day and work out. When I miss a day, I can tell (the difference)."
Winner of the last Winston Championship and the first POWERade title (2002), Force now is focused on becoming the first NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Champion.
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At Firebird International Raceway:
– Although John has won eight of the last 15 races contested at Firebird, he hasn't won a round since 2006, losing in the first round the last two years.
– John was beaten in the first round by Scott Kalitta. It was the last meeting between the two former NHRA champions before Scott lost his life in a crash at Englishtown, N.J. It was Kalitta's only victory in 10 meetings with John.
Did You Know?
– John hasn't qualified No. 1 since Sept. 1, 2006. That's a span of 53 races, the longest he's gone without starting No. 1 since beginning his career with a 59-race drought. He hasn't qualified No. 1 at Firebird since 2002.
– John is trying to extend to a record-setting 23 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least one NHRA tour event. He currently shares the record with Warren Johnson.
Force and Coil:
– Over the 25 years that they have been together, John Force and Austin Coil have
gone to the final round in 42.4 per cent of ALL the races they've run (198 of 466).
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Overall NHRA records (and Funny Car division records)
Most career victories (126)
Most series championships (14)
Most career final rounds (202)
Most career rounds won (1014)
Most consecutive series championships (10, 1993-2002)
Most consecutive seasons with one or more victories (22)*
Most consecutive seasons with at least one final round appearance (26)*
Most consecutive seasons with multiple tour victories (18, 1990-2007)
Most consecutive national events without a DNQ (395, 1988-2007)
Most consecutive Top 10 seasons (24)
Highest winning percentage, one season (91.5%, 65-6)
Biggest cash payday, one event ($210,000, Winston Showdown, Bristol, Tenn., July
Most rounds won, one racetrack (101 at Auto Club Raceway, Pomona, Calif.)
*tied with Warren Johnson, Pro Stock
Other NHRA Funny Car division records
Most final rounds, one season (16, 1996)
Most victories, one season (13, 1996)
Most rounds won, one season (65, 1996)
Most career No. 1 starts (131)
Most No. 1 starts, one season (11, 1996)
Most consecutive final round appearances, one event (nine, 1992-2000, Atlanta, Ga.)
Career starts (503)
Driver of the Year (1996)
Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (2008 inductee)
AARWBA Auto Racing All-America Team (14 times, 1990, 1993-2002, 2004-2006)
Jerry Titus Memorial Award (most AARWBA votes, 4 times, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002)
AARWBA Comeback Award (2008)
Speed TV Comeback Award (2008)
SAE Motorsports Achievement Award (2008)
AutoSport Magazine's John Bolster Award for lifetime achievement (2005)
First round win, over Tom McEwen, June 1, 1979, Cajun Nationals, Baton Rouge, La.
First No. 1 qualifier, May 25, 1986, Cajun Nationals, Baton Rouge, La.
First tour victory, June 28, 1987, Le Grandnational Molson, Montreal, Canada
First Funny Car driver to break 4.90 second barrier, July 6, 1996, Topeka, Kan.
First drag racer to win Driver of the Year award for all of American motor sports (1996)
First Funny Car driver to break 4.80 second barrier, Oct. 24, 1998, Dallas, Texas
First (and only) drag racer to win 100 events, April 14, 2002, Houston, Texas
First Funny Car driver to break 4.70 second barrier, Oct. 2, 2004, Joliet, Ill.
No. 2 (behind Don Garlits) in balloting to determine Top 50 drivers in NHRA's first 50
First (and only) drag racer to win 1,000 racing rounds, May 4, 2008, Madison, Ill.
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JOHN FORCE By the Numbers
1 position from which he has won 55 of his 126 career races
2 straight years without a championship, first such stretch since 1988-1989)
3 or more wins in 18 straight seasons (1990-2007)
4 straight wins in the Lucas Slick Mist Nationals (1994-1997), another record
5 races won in first 12 NHRA seasons (1978-1989)
6 different race winners in John Force Racing Mustangs (John Force, Ashley Force, Robert Hight, Tony Pedregon, Gary Densham, Eric Medlen).
7 wins in one eight-year stretch (1994-2001 interrupted by first round loss in 1998)
8 wins at Firebird International Raceway, more than any other pro driver
9 runner-up finishes before winning first tour event in June, 1987, at Montreal
10 straight Funny Car titles (1993-2002