the interesting tale of the tires and all that went into the memorable photo of Force that was sent around the world. As you can imagine, getting "the shot" is often the result of good planning and anticipation. Such is the case here as well.
Obviously, with Force sitting on 992 wins entering this year, we all knew that if he was healthy enough to drive (and we all knew he’d be behind the wheel one way or another, right?), eight wins was light lifting for him. One thousand was just around the corner.
Force put in two right out of the gate in Pomona and two more in Houston to put him at 996 and within an event’s win of 1,000
“There was some concern about the trophy/plaque being done in time for the Las Vegas NHRA event, the first race where he had a shot at 1,000, so we went into contingency mode. How could we illustrate this remarkable milestone – and this was important – and do it in a way that would represent the sport of NHRA POWERade Series Drag Racing?
“The idea of the three tires representing the zeros just sort of jumped off the page.”
NHRA’s Don Taylor came up with a quick sketch that would become the blueprint that everyone would work toward.
But then Force didn't qualify in Las Vegas, so, plans were reset for the photo-shoot in Atlanta.
Not only did Force qualify in Atlanta, but he won his first three rounds to push his total to 999 and set up a final-round date with none other than his daughter Ashley, who also was gunning for a piece of history, the first Funny Car win by a female racer. Ashley made history by defeating her father. And plans were delayed again.
Force qualified for the O’Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals and was pitted against Ron Capps in the first round. NHRA Senior Vice President-Racing Operations Graham Light gave the green light to a short stoppage in the racing schedule should Force win the round, but with just 75 minutes between rounds, everyone wanted to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
At the top end, an actual line was painted on the return road to mark where Force's Castrol Mustang should stop. “X” literally marked the spot.
Force was finally brought up to speed on what he needed to do should he win. His role is simple: Come out of the car, do his ESPN2 interview, then pose for the photo.
Force beat Capps, and everyone rolled into motion. But as the green Ford was rolled toward the spot, the turn was made too wide, and his Mustang came to rest 30 feet from assigned spot.
Then the transmission locked up.
A mad dash was made to move the tires, signage, and photographers into the new location.
Force does his thing with ESPN, but instead of moving to the setup area, he wants to talk with Capps. As he’s doing that, Force’s newest protégé, Mike Neff, wins his first round of racing, so Force wants to congratulate him, much to the dismay of the assembled group
Force is finally corralled and photos are taken.