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Making Some Hearts Race

February 01, 1996|LAURIE K. SCHENDEN

They call him Brute Force, and who would expect anything less for a five-time, reigning NHRA Winston Funny Car champion named John Force?

But Force, a Yorba Linda resident, will face some serious challenges on the drag strip this weekend at the 1996 NHRA Chief Auto Parts Winternationals at the Pomona Fairplex.

Cruz Pedregon, another former champion, is hot on Force's trail--along with a couple of other hungry racers. Force hopes his new strategy will keep him burning rubber far ahead of his competition: For the first time this season, he will field a second team, with a second Pontiac Firebird.

"I'm under pressure to always win rounds, so we've got the second car just to go out there and turn it loose and learn things," Force says.

Drivers often try new technology and challenge their cars on the track, says Denny Darnell of the National Hot Rod Assn., but a top competitor such as Force can't afford to take chances in his position. The second car will allow him to do that.

The other part of Force's strategy has to do with his crew--he recently hired test driver Tony Pedregon, Cruz Pedregon's brother. "Cruz [will be tough]," says Force dryly, "so I've got his brother over here to get me some inside information."

Pro qualifying begins at 2 p.m. today and Friday, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday. Final eliminations begin at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Sportsman competition starts at 8 a.m. today. Gates open at 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 6 a.m. Sunday at the Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona. Today, $15; Friday, $25; Saturday, $41; Sunday, $46; ages 6-15, $10 each day; 5 and younger (up to two children), free with paying adult. Reserved seats with pit passes $33-$58; ages 6-15, $18-$22; 5 and younger, $8-$12. Tickets at the gate or through Ticketmaster, (213) 480-3232.

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