BURBANK, Calif. –- John Force, driver of the Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang, has been named by the membership of the American Auto Racing Writers, Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) to the Auto Racing All-America Team for an unprecedented 10th consecutive time and for the 11th time overall.
Force, who last month won a head-to-head duel with teammate Tony Pedregon to win the NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship for a remarkable tenth straight year, was named to the first team along with fellow drag racers Larry Dixon, who held off Kenny Bernstein to win the NHRA Top Fuel title, and Frank Manzo, who won his eighth series championship in the Top Alcohol Funny Car class.
Others on the 2002 team include NASCAR Winston Cup Champion Tony Stewart, IRL Champion Sam Hornish Jr., CART Champion Cristiano de Matta and Winston Cup veteran Mark Martin.
Rounding out the 13-member team (increased by one this season because of a tie for one of the At-Large positions) were Ron Fellows and Boris Said from road racing; Steve Kinser and J.J. Yeley from short track racing and A.J. Foyt IV and Bryan Sellers who, like Manzo, made the team in the At-Large category.
"It's always an honor," Force said of his selection. "Bottom line, I'm just happy to still be competitive at this point in my career. I've got Tony and everybody else breathing down my neck for the championship, but as long as I have Austin Coil, Bernie Fedderly and sponsors like Castrol and Ford, I think we can give ‘em a run."
Force, who last season became the first drag racer ever to win 100 tour events (finishing the season with 106), is one of three drivers in contention for the prestigious Jerry Titus Memorial Award presented each year to the All-America team member who attracts the largest number of votes.
The 53-year-old veteran has won the Titus Award three times previously (1996, 1999 and 2000). The only other driver to have led the All-America voting three different years was Mario Andretti, who won the Titus Award in 1977, 1978 and 1984.
Second team selections included IHRA Top Fuel Champion Clay Millican and Bernstein, who won four times during his "Forever Red" farewell tour. Among those earning Honorable Mention recognition was Pedregon, who drove the Castrol SYNTEC™ Ford to a career-high six tour victories before settling for second place for the fourth time in the last eight years.
Force, who has won more major races than anyone in history with the exception of Winston Cup legend Richard Petty, now owns the distinction of having earned All-America recognition more often than any other driver in history. He previously had shared that honor with "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, who was a first team member 10 times in the 1970s and 1980s.
Team members will be feted at the 33rd annual AARWBA All-America Banquest to be held Jan. 11, 2003, in Pomona, Calif. A reception will be held in the NHRA Motorsports Museum beginning at 6:15 p.m. (Pacific time) followed by the black tie optional dinner starting at 8 p.m. at the Sheraton Suites-Fairplex on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Fairplex.
In addition to the All-America team members, the banquet will recognize racing pioneers Hershel McGriff and Parnelli Jones.
BY THE NUMBERS.... 1 number of times named Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing (1996). 3 number of times he has earned the Jerry Titus Memorial Award as the driver receiving the most overall votes for the All-America Team, a record shared with Mario Andretti. 10 straight appearances on the All-America Team., a record. 11 times named to the first team in his career, a record. 78 points, the margin by which he beat teammate Tony Pedregon for the 2002 championship, narrowest margin since 1990. 106 career victories, a drag racing record, second all-time behind only Winston Cup legend Richard Petty 300 Consecutive NHRA series starts, the longest active streak 805 rounds won in 25 seasons on the NHRA POWERade tour
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