HIGHT RACES TO SECOND STRAIGHT WIN FOR TEAM CASTROL Third time was a charm Sunday for Robert "Top Gun" Hight who, on his third straight trip to the final round of the Summit Southern Nationals, finally put his Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford ...
HIGHT RACES TO SECOND STRAIGHT WIN FOR TEAM CASTROL
Third time was a charm Sunday for Robert "Top Gun" Hight who, on his third straight trip to the final round of the Summit Southern Nationals, finally put his Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford Mustang in the Funny Car winners' circle with an easy victory over No. 1 qualifier Mike Ashley.
In winning his second consecutive NHRA POWERade tour event, Hight closed to within 45 points of pacesetting Ron Capps, whom he defeated in a crucial semifinal at Atlanta Dragway.
Hight, son-in-law of reigning and 14-time Funny Car Champ John Force, qualified No. 2 behind Ashley and then mowed down Tony Bartone, Del Worsham and Capps to reach the final round for the seventh time in the last 10 races in which he has competed.
It was an historic event for Team Castrol whose female member, 24-year-old Ashley Force, became just the second woman in Funny Car history to reach the semifinal round of an NHRA event. The only other woman to do so was Della Woods, who lost in the semifinals of the 1985 Keystone Nationals at Reading, Pa.
Ashley, who made history when she beat her dad in an all-Castrol GTX first round, moved into eighth place in POWERade points with the best performance of her pro career.
After qualifying fifth in the second quickest field in Funny Car history and after beating her dad, she stopped Tony Pedregon and the Q Chevrolet in round two. In the semifinals, with a chance to race her brother-in-law for the championship, the graduate of California State University-Fullerton was victimized by a loss of traction in the less favored left lane.
"Being the first woman to beat dad? I think it's the funniest thing I've ever heard," she said. "He's got all these daughters and he's been racing all these years and no woman has ever beaten him before.
"It was a good weekend for our Castrol GTX team. My crew chief, Dean Antonelli, gave me a great race car. It just went right down the lane (but) I knew one of these times we were going to have some tire smoke and that's what happened in the semifinals against Mike Ashley. It lost traction and I tried pedaling it (feathering the throttle), but it got sideways and I had to shut it off."
For Hight, it was a spectacular end to an unusual weekend.
"I'm still getting used to all the additional safety stuff," Hight said. " I changed my belts this weekend, re-routed them, and while it was better for my comfort level, it wasn't good for tying me down and keeping my head steady. So there was a lot of vibration (and) I drove it out of the groove on three of four qualifying runs.
"As a result, I didn't sleep very good last night. Even though you know it 's just (a vision issue), your confidence goes downhill (when you don't go down the track). But we made some adjustments last night to it and it was perfect. Right down the middle, every run today."
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 57, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 12th at 4.786 seconds, 314.09 mph.
Race results: Lost to Ashley Force.
Notable: Lost the first father-versus-daughter match-up in professional sports history.
Quotable: "I was so proud of Ashley. She beat two world champions (Force and Tony Pedregon) and got to the semifinals. We're gonna fix my 'ol heap now and see if we can't get back in the hunt for the championship."
ASHLEY FORCE, 24, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.746 seconds, 316.60 mph.
Race results: Beat John Force, Tony Pedregon; lost to Mike Ashley.
Notable: Became the first woman driver to beat her father, John Force, and became just the second woman in Funny Car drag racing history to reach the semifinals.
Quotable: "Every round you could see our team getting a little more excited and a little more confident. We had a problem in the pits before the second round but we still got it back together in plenty of time, so I feel like we' re definitely going in the right direction."
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.710 seconds, 320.05 mph.
Race results: Beat Tony Bartone, Del Worsham, Ron Capps and Mike Ashley.
Notable: Reached the final round for the fourth time in five races this season and for the seventh time in the last 10 events dating back to last season; reached the finals at Atlanta for the third straight year.
Quotable: "Last year, we'd qualify well and then we'd go out and beat ourselves, but Jimmy Prock has learned a lot since then and so have I. We bought a clutch dyno and (Jimmy's) on that thing every week. He's making little adjustments to this race car and it responds. He has a great handle on this thing."