LAS VEGAS, Nevada. – In Vegas, you can’t bet on John Force. Well, actually, you CAN bet on the 15-time NHRA drag racing champion, but you probably shouldn’t.
The first eight times that Vegas oddsmakers tapped the 62-year-old icon as the Funny Car favorite in the SummitRacing.com Nationals, an event contested this week for the lucky 13th time, Force took his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang beyond the second round just once and never raced for the title.
Although he regularly dominated other events in the NHRA Full Throttle Series, once racing in nine straight finals at the Summit Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Ga., Force was just 7-8 in his first 10 tries at the SummitRacing.com Nationals. In no other event did it take the 15-time Auto Racing All-American so long to win for the first time.
To add insult, it was at the 2007 race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that Force’s record streak of 395 consecutive starts came to an abrupt end when he failed to qualify. A year later, he inexplicably DNQed once again, only the second time in history he had failed to make the field for a race two years in-a-row.
Furthermore, it is the same LVMS track on which first round opponent Bob Bode left the starting line before the system was activated at the inaugural fall event, the Las Vegas Nationals, and, when a startled Force set out after him, he also was caught up in a rare double disqualification that since has been addressed in new regulations.
The sum of his difficulties at LVMS might lead one to surmise that drag racing’s biggest winner is just another loser when he comes to Las Vegas.
Au contraire. It’s not like Force has had no success in Sin City. It’s just that it hasn’t come in waves like it has elsewhere. In fact, fall victories at LVMS provided a springboard to both his 2002 and 2010 world championships and his 2010 spring win ended 10 years of futility in the SummitRacing.com Nationals.
The reality is that while you probably shouldn’t bet on the former truck driver, if you consider his overall record, one that includes 134 event victories and 1,110 rounds won, it also would be ludicrous to bet against him.
Just bet that Force still will be on everyone’s radar this week when he tries to duplicate his winning performance in the season-opening O’Reilly Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., that gave him at least one win in almost 25 consecutive pro seasons.
Ironically, while Force has been one of the most vocal champions of NHRA’s diversity program, two of the sport’s most celebrated young female drivers were directly responsible for his fall from first place to fifth in the current Full Throttle standings.
After winning the season-opener, the man who this year will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, lost consecutive first round races to his 23-year-old daughter Courtney and to fellow rookie Alexis DeJoria.
Nevertheless, after losing, Force followed the advice he has given all three of his racing daughters.
“I told Courtney, just like I told Ashley (Force Hood) and Brittany: when you’re in the dumps, get out to the ropes and (start) signing autographs because half the people out there don’t even know you got beat.
“Get out there and they’ll make you feel better,” he said. “They love us, they love our products and, more important, they buy ‘em – Castrol oil, Ford cars and trucks, Traxxas R/C vehicles, Auto Club insurance, all of it.”
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