Saturday, September 13, 2008

John Force should be in the show on Sunday

CONCORD - John Force said he's sorry.

"I would like to just say I am sorry," Force said Saturday after failing to qualify for eliminations at the inaugural National Hot Rod Association Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway @ Concord.

"I apologize to Bruton Smith and to the NHRA fans, because when they give you an arena like this - the greatest facility in the history of our sport - that brings in all these people and I don't get to be a part of it."

Saturday was a big day for drag racing. The capacity of Smith's new $60 million facility is listed at 30,000 and it was a sellout. Smith had workers cut openings in a fence in front of the east grandstand so he could sell more standing room tickets, and there were - conservatively - 35,000 on the property.

Sunday will be a big day, too. And Force said he'll still be part of it.

Three other cars owned by his team did make the Funny Car field. Ashley Force, Robert Hight and Mike Neff will race. Force will be here, too. He'll ride his scooter hither and yon and stop to sign as many autographs as he can. But he won't be in his 8,000-horsepower car, and that hurts him.

It also hurts the sport.

Force made no excuses. He said he has been struggling this year and the facts bear that out. He's now failed to make four races, more than he's ever missed before. He's missed two straight. He hadn't missed two straight in one season since 1979 and last missed two in a row overall in the final race of 1981 and the first race of 1982. He's only failed to qualify 16 times in 513 tries.

"We got off on our tune-up," Force said. "But I believe in our people."

Force is 59. He's won a record 126 races and a record 14 championships. The west grandstand at this new track is named in his honor. He's done nearly as much for drag racing as the sport has done for him, and that's saying a lot.

I think that should mean something. I think he should be racing Sunday. NASCAR takes grief for exempting the top 35 in points and setting up provisionals for former champioins, but those rules put stock car racing's stars in the show every week. Fans know when they buy tickets that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are going to compete.

Sunday's show will be a good one, but it should have Force in it.

"I don't make the rules," he said. "They're fair for everybody. I am too old to cry. I will go home and closet cry. But I am the one who's out here and I need to put it in the show. ...The show will be better next week when I am in it."

Force said he feels bad because racing here in the heart of NASCAR country is big for the NHRA.

"In my life I've handled everything," Force said. "But this hurts. ...I've fought my life to catch up to the NASCAR boys and I sure ain't helping. I'm not doing my part of the job.

"But we'll fix it. ...We'll take our whipping. It's real easy to be a champion when you're winning.

Ron Capps saw Force at the end of the track when Force was officially out of the show.

"It's hard to feel sorry for a guy who has won that many championships," Capps said. "But I feel bad for him."

Don't, Force said.

"This will only make me stronger," he said. "When Dale Earnhardt wasn't winning, he worked harder. And that's what we will do."


Anonymous said...

OK David, let's try this again...No provisionals in the NHRA. Only the fastest race. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

For gosh sakes I hope know one with the NHRA ever hires anyone from Nascar to change stuff around. Even though they did start there own playoff system but it doesn't suck like the chase does, matter of fact the only driver that has been screwed so far is Ron Capps a couple year's ago after dominating the regular season lost it all in the countdown.
But word is Bruton Smith may buy the NHRA if that happen's I know know one from Nascrap will be hired.

Anonymous said...

This is what's wrong with the NASCAR world - media thinking just because you're a popular driver you deserve to be in the show. If John Force was fast enough, he'd be in the show.

NASCAR has decided, wrongly I might add, that qualifying is no longer an important element of the weekend. They decided that being high in the points should automatically lock you in. The NHRA model is the best, by far. If you want to race, you need to go fast no matter who you are.

John Force has John Force to blame for not being in the show. The NHRA has maintained the integrity of their sport by maintaining only the fastest 16 race. NASCAR lost integrity when it started sending home drivers that qualified among the top 15 from their races because they aren't high enough in the points. Two provisionals is fine in a 42 car field; 35 is inexcusable.

This is competition. The competition isn't just a 500-mile race or eliminations. It's earning your right to compete in the 500-mile race or in final eliminations by being fast enough to qualify. That's how it worked from the time of the first automobile race through 2005, but suddenly the motorsports socialists have decided that's no longer fair because Scott Riggs got sent home in a sponsored car while a no-name unsponsored driver took his place.

Good for the NHRA for allowing the fastest 16 race. Shame on NASCAR for mucking up the rules and losing sight of what competition is all about.

Anonymous said...

NO NO NO....As much as I love John Force, he would be the first one to say...I wasn't fast enough I don't deserve to get in. The fastest 16 get in. Would it be great to see Force run on Sunday....absolutely but to allow that would go against the whole point of the NHRA Pro divisions...go fast ..get in ..if you don't get it done, pack up and get ready for the next event. Sorry Dave don't have this one right

Anonymous said...

And just for the reasons that the other commenters listed.
He wasn't good enough this weekend.
He knows that.
He understands that.
As someone who works in racing, I will tell you that the only way you get better is to get your head handed to you once in a while.
This is great.
No wonder the built-in mediocracy of NASCAR is beginning to show up in the form of empty stands.

Anonymous said...

Im not sure how I should respond to Davids comments....for some reason I feel like I am trying to remember details on political campaigns. Does Poole believe the fastest 43 deserves to be in the race or does he think the most popular drivers should be in the race to promote the sport that he writes about and talks about on Sirius? If John Force wasnt a 14 time champion, would he say he deserves to be there? Of course he wouldnt....because, based on his own words, he believes what a driver has done in the past should put him in the show in the present. Doesnt matter how fast he is today, he was once faster than everyone else, so he should be in the race. Poole is to racing what the Clintons are to politics.

Anonymous said...

Going fast is the main focus of DRAG racing:"GO FAST, OR GO HOME!". It SHOULD be the focus of any form of racing. You may not coast along in the NHRA as you can in NASCAR. THAT'S RACIN', after all....

Anonymous said...

This point of view describes why the media thinks the 'chase' format is so wonderful...and the fans (dwindling at the track and on TV) don't. They just don't understand that race fans expect the fastest drivers to make the race, and the rest don't. That's why pretending that drivers so far behind in the points should contend for a title just doesn't make the grade. Past glory doesn't make you cometitive today.

Anonymous said...

thank the lord nhra races like they do be fast or go home nascar should learn from this it would get rid of some crybaby high dollar drivers who are about as interesting as watching the wind blow please nhra do not change the qualifing

Anonymous said...

Sorry, with David on this one, if I had paid money for tickets, travel, and lodging, I would want to see John Force in the show.

Anonymous said...

David, you are wrong, but you're not seeing quite why. NHRA drivers get several opportunities to qualify for a race (weather permitting). If Dale Earnhardt Jr. cut a tire in a qualifying run and didn't get to race, that would be wrong. A cut tire's a fluky thing and NASCAR only gives you one shot. But Force got his chances. And as a fan, those qualifying runs on Saturday are just as suspenseful as Elimination Sundays -- even more so if you're on the bubble for that last run. So give NHRA credit for not only having it's "go fast or go home" methods, but also for having that method inject some excitement into days other than race day. NASCAR has massively failed to do that, and in fact has taken more and more excitement OUT of qualifying in recent years (see next year's Bud Shootout).

Paul Stagg said...

No, he shouldn't be in the race.

The mentality that he should is an example of not only what's wrong with NASCAR, but what's wrong with the people in this country, who somehow think that they deserve something they didn't earn.

For Force to get in, someone faster would have to be out. One of the reasons I'm becoming an NHRA fan is that he's not in.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, with David on this one, if I had paid money for tickets, travel, and lodging, I would want to see John Force in the show.

If your a big fan of NHRA you should know that drag racing is chance, go fast or go home. I'm a huge Force fan but frankly I think that John is slowing down now his car's are still competitive but he's not. And I think his bad wreck at Texas last year has got him gun shy and with the death's of Medlin and Calitta, just my thought's.

Anonymous said...

This is the difference between RACING and SHOWBIZ.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, David, I hear you, but it's "go hard or go home." It's not as though fans couldn't see Force down on the strip waving to fans and cheering on his teammates.

And, of course, they could visit him in the pits without paying any more money, either. :)

Thanks for covering the race, and nice to see you blogging!

Anonymous said...

No, not having Force in the show doesn't hurt. It helps because it lets the fans know their sport is on the up and up.

What helps it even more is the Force is man enough to stick around and sign autographs while telling the fans he's sorry and not making excuses.

I'd like to see one of the big name NASCAR drivers to the same. Ha. They'd be off the property quicker than their qualifying times.

Monkeesfan said...

Get over this "fastest start only" crap. ALL entries should start; settle the issue in the race, not in qualifying. There is no reason not to start all entries.

Anonymous said...

Poole should be a politician....he is following the same guidelines.(different rules for different folks) Only the fastest in Nascar should race, even though they get one chance to qualify and one chance only...he states on Sirius more times than I care to remember, how if you arent fast enough to get in, you should go home. Petty went home once, when he failed to qualify...sad yes, un fair no.
Why is it that now that poole is learning a little bit about NHRA, does he feel this is different? The biggest name in drag racing is slower than he needed to be. Poole could learn from John fast, or be out. Force has nothing to prove...he has done that 14 times before. He is a class act that admits his a way..he is the common mans idol...hard working, honest, a little cocky, but admits shortcomings. He will be be back on top.
Poole (like John Force) should be consistent or be out)

Anonymous said...

Start all entries? Have you ever been to the U.S. Nationals? Obviously not because you'd know that you'll have 25-30 trying to make the show in the fuel classes and 40 or more in Pro Stock.

Go fast or go home.

Anonymous said...

Monkeesfan is a NASCAR fan and this blog's regular you-know-what stirrer. Please ignore him. He knows nothing about Force or the NHRA. He's just trying to start an argument and hope that someone will argue back.

Anonymous said...

John Force is the ultimate "FAN" Racing Champion. He wins with class. He loses with class. He doesn't run and hide from the media or fans when he has a bad day. Some NASCAR drivers could learn a lesson from him.

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