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Sun, 30 Oct 2005, 05:13 PM

Funny Car Championship Quick Notes
Courtesy of Dave Densmore

John Force has gone to the final round seven times this year and has won two more races (five) than anyone else in the Funny Car division. However, that performance has been offset by ten (10) first round losses. Until this season, John never had lost more than seven times in the first round in one season and never had won the championship after losing more than five.

Following his latest first round loss, to Del Worsham in last Sunday's ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals, Force tested for three days, a marathon that ultimately resulted in a best of 4.728 seconds, quicker even than Scelzi's current track record of 4.746 seconds.

The last time John was in a points race this tight was 1990 when he beat Ed "the Ace" McCulloch by today's equivalent of 43 points, slightly more than two rounds. Ironically, McCulloch now is the crew chief on the Brut Dodge Capps drives for Don Schumacher Racing.

Another irony is that when Force won the 1998 championship, he did so by winning just three races -- two fewer than Ron Capps, who finished second. Those roles could be completely reversed this year insomuch as Capps has won just three times; Force five.

Force's goal at the season-ending Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif., is (1) to break his own NHRA national record of 4.665 seconds; and (2) to repeat as Funny Car champion. If he can do that, he'll win an unprecedented 14th championship. If the conditions won't support a national record run, he'll have to count on some help in early rounds since, without the record, he must advance two rounds further than both Scelzi and Capps.

Force is encouraged by the national record possibility because he has broken the 4.70 second barrier at each event contested at Pomona Raceway. He ran 4.698 on the way to winning last year's Auto Club Finals and 4.697 in qualifying for this year's Winternationals. He has won more NHRA tour events at Pomona Raceway (11) than on any other track in the POWERade Series.

Force Racing has won the NHRA Funny Car championship 12 straight years.


Gary Scelzi, 45, Fresno, Calif., current points leader (by two over Ron Capps; 28 over John Force), Oakley Hemi Dodge Stratus. Crew chief is Mike "Zippy" Neff. Best numbers: 4.697 seconds (Joliet, Ill., Oct. 2005), 331.53 mph (Pomona, Calif., Feb. 2005). Funny Car record: 12 final rounds, seven wins, No. 3 in points in 2004. Other: Three-time NHRA Top Fuel Champion (1997-98, 2000) while driving for Alan Johnson; 25 Top Fuel wins; 1997 Rookie of the Year.

Ron Capps, 40, Carlsbad, Calif., has earned more second half points than either Scelzi or Force (700-676-593), Brut Dodge Stratus. Crew chief is Ed "the Ace" McCulloch, former tour winner as driver in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Best numbers: 4.732, 329.02 mph (Joliet, Ill., Oct., 2005). Funny Car record: 35 final rounds, 12 wins, No. 2 in points in 1998 and 2000. Other: Also an event winner in Top Fuel; first season with Don Schumacher Racing after eight years with Don Prudhomme; two-time winner of Skoal Showdown Funny Car bonus race.

John Force, 56, Yorba Linda, Calif., bidding for 14th individual championship, 15th for his team, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang. Crew chiefs are Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly. Best numbers: NHRA national records of 4.665, 333.58 mph (Joliet, Ill., Oct., 2004). Funny Car record: 187 final rounds, 119 wins, 13 championships in the last 15 seasons. Other: Has qualified for a record 368 consecutive NHRA tour events dating back to the 1987 Finals; 12-time Auto Racing All-America selection; 1996 Driver of the Year for all American motor racing.

                         1st Rd.
     Finals Wins  No. 1  Losses  W-L    
Scelzi   5    3    5     6       34-19
Capps    7    3    1     8       36-19
Force    7    5    1     10      34-17

                       Force    Capps   Scelzi
Scelzi Career          9-8      5-5      --
Scelzi 2005            0-2      2-2      --
Scelzi Career Finals   3-1      1-1      --
Scelzi 2005 Finals     0-1      1-1      --
Capps Career         11-36      --       5-5
Capps 2005            4-3       --       2-2
Capps Career Finals   2-7       --       1-1
Capps 2005 Finals     0-1       --       1-1
Force Career          --       36-11     8-9
Force 2005            --        3-4      2-0
Force Career Finals   --        7-2      1-3
Force 2005 Finals     --        1-0      1-0

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