HIGHT JOINS BATTLE FOR POWERADE FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
Robert "Top Gun" Hight became the first Funny Car driver in more than a full season to win from the No. 1 qualifying position, beating Mike Ashley in the final to win the 21st annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Fall Nationals at Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex.
In winning his second consecutive race in the NHRA P"OWERade Drag Racing Series, Hight moved to within 56 points of teammate, boss and father-in law John Force and to within 93 points of pacesetting Ron Capps with just four races remaining.
The 2005 winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, Hight beat Del Worsham, Cruz Pedregon, Tony Pedregon and first time finalist Mike Ashley to earn his fifth career championship.
Hight's victory provided a measure of solace for Force, who lost in the first round for the second straight race. Fortunately for Force, Capps was beaten a round later, making it impossible for him to extend his advantage to more than the current 37 points.
"When you have a crew chief like Jimmy Prock beating on your hood and he tells you it's time to stage, it gives you a lot of confidence as a driver knowing there is a team like that and crew chief like that, that's given you the best race car on the property. You know you have a good shot at winning. It is up to you to go up there and do your job."
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TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 57, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 6th at 4.825 seconds, 317.72 mph.
Race results: Lost to Ron Capps.
Notable: Lost first round race with points leader and fell 37 points off the pace in battle for 14th NHRA championship.
Quotable: "It wasn't a good day for (Capps and) it wasn't a good day for us, (but) I feel positive about this team and I feel positive about this car because it's running quick enough to win this championship. (My crew chiefs) made the right decision and it just didn't go our way." -- JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 33, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 4.822 seconds, 318.39 mph.
Race results: Lost to Tony Bartone.
Notable: Maintained hold on fifth place in points despite second straight first round loss.
Quotable: "From the time they ran the seventh pair of dragsters to when we ran (in the second pair of Funny Cars), the track warmed up ten degrees. It's nobody's fault but our own (and) all we can do is try to learn from what happened and get better."-- ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.742 seconds, 324.75 mph.
Race results: Beat Del Worsham, Cruz Pedregon, Tony Pedregon and Mike Ashley.
Notable: Won his second straight NHRA tour event, becoming the first Funny Car driver in 26 races to win from th No. 1 qualifying posion. Started from the No. 1 position a category-best eighth time.
Quotable: "To win one race is a big deal. To win two in-a-row is pretty awesome. It put us back into contention for this championship." -- ROBERT HIGHT.
ASHLEY FORCE, 23, Castrol Top Alcohol Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 14th at 5.659 seconds, 252.99 mph.
Race results: Beat James Thompson; lost to Spencer Massey.
Notable: Overcame worst starting position this season, improving by more than .3 of a second.
Quotable: "(Even though we lost in the second round, I can tell we are going in the right direction. One big thing I am starting to learn is how important the weather can be. IToday the cool air came in and that's how we were able to step it up. It's a very competitive class. " -- ASHLEY FORCE.