TEAM CASTROL HEADLINE: HIGHT WINS FIRST RACE; FORCE TAKES OVER POINTS LEAD Appearing in just his fourth race as a professional driver, rookie Robert Hight sped to victory Sunday in the 18th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals at Houston...
HEADLINE: HIGHT WINS FIRST RACE; FORCE TAKES OVER POINTS LEAD
Appearing in just his fourth race as a professional driver, rookie Robert Hight sped to victory Sunday in the 18th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park, beating boss and teammate John Force, the 13-time NHRA Funny Car Champion, in the semifinals and 1992 NHRA Champion Cruz Pedregon in the final.
Although he was unable to claim his eighth individual victory at Houston, Force did manage to move around Whit Bazemore and into the points lead in his bid for an unprecedented 14th series championship.
Force, who trailed Bazemore by nine points entering the event, drove his national record-holding Castrol GTX Start Up Ford past Bazemore's Dodge in a heads-up race in round two, 4.781-4.818 seconds, to become the fourth different Funny Car leader in as many 2005 races.
Second year driver Eric Medlen recorded quick time of the event (4.764 seconds) in a round one victory over Tim Wilkerson before he and the Castrol SYNTEC Mustang dropped a narrow 4.820-4.850 decision to Pedregon.
Nevertheless, the weekend belonged to the 35-year-old Hight, a former Force crewman and world class trapshooter who qualified No. 1 for the second straight event in the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang and then chopped down an impressive field to become the fifth different driver to win in a Team Castrol/John Force Racing Ford Funny Car.
In addition to claiming the Skoal Showdown No. 1 qualifying bonus, Hight's team also won the Full Throttle pit crew challenge (which rewards qualifying consistency) and came away with a track speed record of 326.16 miles per hour.
Ashley Force, driver of the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster, qualified third in the Top Alcohol Dragster class and reached the semifinals before losing to Duane Shields. It was the fourth time in as many appearances at the Houston track that the 22-year-old phenom got as far as the semifinals -- and the fourth time she got no further.
Despite the setback, Ms. Force remains atop the national standings in the Lucas Sportsman Series.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 55, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.816 seconds, 323.27 mph.
Race results: Beat Frank Pedregon, Whit Bazemore; lost to Robert Hight.
Notable: Extended his record setting qualifying streak to 350 consecutive races and took over the POWERade points lead, becoming the fourth different winner in as many 2005 events.
Quotable: "I was so happy for Robert. To be where I could give him his chance and then watch him make me look like I know what I'm doing, it was very emotional. And I got to take the points lead away from Bazemore, too." -- JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 31, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 6th at 4.841 seconds, 311.70 mph
Race results: Beat Tim Wilkerson; lost to C. Pedregon.
Notable: Posted quick time (4.764 seconds) and top speed (325.61 mph) of the meet in a first round victory over Tim Wilkerson.
Quotable: "It was a great weekend for Team Castrol. Sure we would have liked to go a little further but we know we've got a good race car and I can't wait to get to Vegas." -- ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 35, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.767, 323.27 mph.
Race results: Beat Bob Gilbertson, Tommy Johnson Jr., John Force and Cruz Pedregon.
Notable: Second consecutive Skoal Showdown No. 1 qualifying award and first victory of his career.
Quotable: "I can't believe it. I couldn't believe it when I was doing the clutch on John's car. I thought I'd made it then, but to have an opportunity to drive a car of this caliber for a crew chief like Jimmy Prock, I'm just very lucky." -- ROBERT HIGHT.
ASHLEY FORCE, 22, Castrol/Hot Wheels A/Fuel dragster (Top Alcohol Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 5.377 seconds, 267.48 mph.
Race results: Beat Carl Magee, Karl Brounkowski; lost to Duane Shields.
Notable: Ousted in the semifinals for the fourth time in four appearances at Houston Raceway Park.
Quotable: "We just can't seem to get past the semifinals here, but we're still happy. Like dad says, there's always another race." -- ASHLEY FORCE.