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Apr 03, 2013 - 07:57 AM
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2013 NHRA: John Force Racing Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals Pre-Race Releases
Posted by: newsla on Apr 03, 2013 - 07:55 AM
NHRA
2013 NHRA: John Force Racing Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals Pre-Race Releases


John Force will be the first to admit that he’s never had much luck in Las Vegas.

 

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Still, it would be ludicrous to bet against the 134-time NHRA tour winner this week when he sends his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang after the Funny Car title in the 14th annual SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

At The Strip at LVMS, a track on which his record streak of 395 consecutive starts ended in 2007 and on which he was eliminated in one of the most bizarre racing rounds in history in 2001, Force once again is attracting attention for all the right reasons.

The 63-year-old icon is one of the pre-race favorites, a status he owes to the off-season return of Mike Neff as crew chief on his 10,000 horsepower Ford. With Neff, Force never has lost at LVMS. Without him, he’s rarely won.

In fact, in 22 Las Vegas appearances with someone other than Neff making the tune-up decisions, Force has won just once – at the 2002 Las Vegas Nationals. With Neff, he’s 8-0 in elimination rounds; without him, he’s 19-19 with a pair of DNQs

“I can’t explain it,” Force said of his uncharacteristically poor showing in the desert. “It’s a great track, a Bruton Smith track, and we’ve run some good numbers there, but we haven’t had the results.”

His first round exit at the inaugural fall race at LVMS is one example of the kind of luck he’s had.

After qualifying No. 2, Force rolled to the starting line against former boat racer Bob Bode who, inexplicably, left the starting line long before the timing system was activated. Reacting to his rival’s action, Force, too, sped down what then was a quarter mile course.

Unfortunately, by rule, even though Bode clearly was the first violator and even though Force vehemently protested, both drivers were disqualified. The NHRA has since rewritten the rule to penalize on the first offender.

As for Neff, he’s back with the boss after chasing his own championship in 2011 and 2012 in the dual role of driver and crew chief on the Castrol Mustang vacated by Ashley Force Hood when she left the tour to start a family.

However, that grind ultimately proved too much for the one-time motocross rider.

“I never had time to relax and just think,” Neff said. “It just got to be too much. The mechanical side has always been the challenge for me anyway. I’m glad to be out of the spotlight and back doing what I really enjoy.”

Force shares that enthusiasm although the reunion has yet to pay dividends. In three starts this season, Force has directed his Mustang out of the first round just once, losing in the first round last month to youngest daughter, Courtney, against who he is just 1-3 in his career.

“I’m excited to be back racing with Mike Neff instead of racing against him,” Force said, “but nobody’s cutting us any slack. It’s just like being an ol’ gunfighter. Somebody’s always wanting to prove they’re quicker than you. That’s what keeps me motivated.”


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