FORCE WINS THIRD STRAIGHT RACE; HIGHT MOVES TO SECOND John Force beat Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round of the 17th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Summer Nationals Sunday and, in the process, opened up a 127-point lead in his bid for a record...
FORCE WINS THIRD STRAIGHT RACE; HIGHT MOVES TO SECOND
John Force beat Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round of the 17th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Summer Nationals Sunday and, in the process, opened up a 127-point lead in his bid for a record 14th NHRA Funny Car Championship.
In winning for the third consecutive week, Force put together a solid series of 4.80 second quarter miles -- 4.858, 4.806, 4.839 and 4.809.
The victory was the 118th of Force's spectacular career and his eighth at Heartland Park-Topeka and, like the last two, it came after only a so-so qualifying performance. Starting his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang only seventh in the 16-car lineup, the 12-time Auto Racing All-America selection took out Jeff Arend in round one, teammate Eric Medlen in round two and Ron Capps in the semifinals.
The race with Medlen was the only one that gave the veteran a scare. He won with a time of 4.806 seconds, the best of eliminations. Medlen, who had qualified second in the Castrol SYNTEC Mustang, trailed in 4.818 seconds.
It was the second time in his career that Force has won three races in three weeks; the 14th time he has won three consecutive NHRA tour events.
Robert Hight, who led the qualifying in the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford, reached the semifinals before a loss of traction and a supercharger malfunction put him out against Johnson. Nevertheless, the runaway leader in the 2005 rookie-of-the-year race moved up to No. 2 in points behind his teammate, boss and father-in-law.
"Robert and Eric both had stronger cars than me today," Force said, "but me and Coil and Bernie (crew chiefs Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly) have been doing this a long time. Against Eric, that was a close race. I was on oxygen before the round 'cause these young kids, they go after you. We just barely beat him."
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 55, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 7th at 4.821 seconds, 322.11 mph.
Race results: Beat Jeff Arend, Eric Medlen, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Notable: Won his third race in three weeks and extended his points lead to 127 over teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight.
Quotable: "Three-in-a-row. With the competition, it's hard anymore, but our hot rod seems to be good in the cold air and good in the heat. Austin Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) made all the right calls. The whole braintrust got us through today -- Coil, Bernie, Jimmy Prock and John Medlen."-- JOHN FORCE.
JERIC MEDLEN, 31, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.772 seconds, 324.59 mph.
Race results: Beat Cruz Pedregon; lost to John Force.
Notable: Lost to boss and teammate John Force in the second round, 4.806-4.818.
Quotable: "It was a great race with John. He's just hard to beat, but we had a good race. The car ran great. We were good. He was just a little better."-- ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 35, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.729 seconds, 324.75 mph.
Race results: Beat Bob Gilbertson, Tony Pedregon; lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Notable: Moved up to second place in POWERade points behind boss, teammate and father-in-law John Force.
Quotable: "It was very disappointing. We blew out the burst panels (out of the supercharger) and it was dead. I know Tommy was in trouble, but it seemed like it took him forever to come by us. It would've been great to get a rematch with John (in the final), but hopefully we'll have some other chances." -- ROBERT HIGHT
ASHLEY FORCE, 22, Castrol/Hot Wheels A/Fuel dragster (Top Alcohol Dragster division)
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 5.424 seconds, 264.23 mph.
Race results: Lost to Gene Snow.
Notable: Car slowed to 6.059 in the first round, enabling Gene Snow to avenge a loss administered by Ashley in the 2004 Summer Nationals.