Force, Wallace ready to end streaks

JOHNSON CITY - Superstar drivers John Force and Rusty Wallace, who were at the same place signing autographs at NASCAR Café, will be racing in opposite parts of the nation this weekend. However, the two will share a common goal. That is to end uncharacteristic losing streaks that neither driver is accustomed to.
   Force, the 12-time NHRA Funny Car champion, hasn't won since the last race of the 2002 season at Pomona. In the meantime, his teammates Tony Pedregon and Gary Densham rank 1-2 in the 2003 NHRA standings.
   "I don't like it naturally," said Force, who is looking for his first ever NHRA points event win at Bristol. "Nobody does. But, we are fighting to get back on top and we have good race cars obviously. Densham and Tony Pedregon are doing excellent. We're struggling after 12 years and 10 straight (championships), but we will fix it."
   For Wallace, the eighth winningest driver in NASCAR Winston Cup history, his recent past is even more dubious. His return to California Speedway this weekend marks the second anniversary of his most recent win at that same race track.
   "We're running really, really good," said Wallace. "We are just down on our luck when it comes to winning these races. We make a normal pit stop and the caution flag comes out. Dumb things like happened at Bristol. We had a great race car and lost it in the pit area. Rockingham, the car ran great that day and not to win was frustrating."
   Both drivers insist the trophies are soon to return to their respective efforts.
   "A lot of people have talked to me about if I have medical problems or if I have don't all I can do," said Force, driver of the Castrol Ford Mustang. "I'm like no. We've had so many years of being good and right now we are struggling. We will be back in the hunt and I'm ready for it to start right here at Bristol. It's the only event I haven't won, but remember I won in the Funny Car vs. dragsters series here."
   Wallace, who lives at Lake Norman, NC, has been battling through the second major team change in as many seasons. Last year, the team replaced long-time crew chief Robin Pemberton with Billy Wilburn and this season the No. 2 Miller team switched car makes from Ford to Dodge.
   Losing is not a word usually associated with either of these Hall of Famers.
   Force's 106 career wins ranks only second behind Richard Petty in major American motorsports. On the other hand, Wallace is the only active driver to win titles for three major stock car racing sanctioning bodies.
   In an effort to get back to victory lane, both have been taking every testing opportunity available.
   "We stayed over at Houston last week and tested on Monday," said Force, who hails from Yorba Linda, California. "My car runs real good on Monday. It seems every time we have tested, we were quickest of the whole event. But, Monday doesn't count. (Crew chief) Austin Coil and the group have been working to get this car out of the cellar and we will."
   Wallace was even running late for this appearance as he had to fly in from a test session earlier in the day at Memphis in preparation for an upcoming event at the similarly shaped Richmond Raceway.
   "I was there all day just trying to learn something for the race at
   Richmond," commented the 1989 Winston Cup champ. "It was a single-day test, but we learned four or five things. Whether they will work at Richmond or not, I don't know."
   The two combined recently for some very popular promotional spot for this weekend's NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals and talked of how much they enjoy being each other is.
   "It's great for me to get to come to NASCAR Café and sign autographs with Rusty Wallace. It's fun for me. This ain't sucking up. He's a great guy and I have become good friends with him. When you get him away from the race track, there's a whole different personality."
   Added nine-time Bristol Speedway winner Wallace, "He's always fun to hang out with. He's one of my good friends. Every time we get to do an appearance, it's exciting. If I didn't have to go to California this week, I would love to be here and watch this race. I'm a big time NHRA fan. I love it."