FORCE DOMINATES, WINS MEMPHIS, TAKES N.H.R.A. POINTS LEAD John Force surged into the POWERade points lead for the first time this season Sunday by humbling former protege Tony Pedregon in the final round of the 19th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts...
FORCE DOMINATES, WINS MEMPHIS, TAKES N.H.R.A. POINTS LEAD
John Force surged into the POWERade points lead for the first time this season Sunday by humbling former protege Tony Pedregon in the final round of the 19th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Force took a big step toward securing an unprecedented 14th Funny Car championship by winning for the second time this season, for the fifth time at Memphis and for the 121st time in his career. He applied an exclamation point in the final round by pushing his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang through the quarter mile timers in 4.786 seconds, breaking his own track record.
By beating Pedregon for the 50th time in his career, Force moved 17 points ahead of Ron Capps in the race for the $400,000 POWERade championship. The tour now moves to O'Reilly Motorsports Park in Indianapolis for the Labor Day running of the 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.
The No. 3 qualifier behind teammates Robert Hight and Eric Medlen, Force beat Tim Wilkerson in round one, turned back Whit Bazemore in round two and stopped Medlen in round three to earn a final round berth for the 194th time in his career.
"I tend to caught up in too many other things," said the star of the real-life TV series Driving Force. "When I show up at the races after shooting TV shows until midnight, catch the red eye and then tell the guys I have to go to my bus to sleep so I can get caught up, that doesn't motivate them. They don't care about movies; they care about winning.
"So I came here with a new attitude. I came here to focus on my job, which is to win races and win championships. We came back after (winning) the semi finals and you could see the energy. Everything else I do, I lost sight of what I really love and that is driving this car. I love it. It's what I do best."
Force's victory was the team's first when its drivers qualify 1-2-3. Neither of the three Team Castrol drivers reached the winners' circle on the six previous occasions on which the team went 1-2-3.
Medlen, driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford, remained fourth in points and Hight, the 2005 Rookie of the Year in the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford, strengthened his hold on the No. 5 spot after qualifying No. 1 for the 13th time in his 40-race career.
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TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 57, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 4.876 seconds, 303.43 mph.
Race results: Beat Tim Wilkerson, Whit Bazemore, Eric Medlen; lost to Tony Pedregon.
Notable: Won for the 121st time in his career and moved into the POWERade points lead for the first time this season. Also extended to 386 the number of consecutive events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car.
Quotable: -- "The crew chiefs were even excited. There's been years we won 12-13 races. This year it's been so bad this that (crew chief Austin) Coil was whining when he thought there wasn't going to be any winners' circle (ceremonies). I said, 'Coil, you always told me you hated the winners' circle.' You just look at it different after you haven't been there for awhile." -- JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 33, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd. at 4.862 seconds, 308.00 mph
Race results: Beat Gary Densham, Phil Burkart Jr.; lost to John Force.
Notable: Winning streak at Memphis ended at six rounds in loss to boss and teammate John Force.
Quotable: "It wasn't the weekend we wanted but we learned some things about ourselves and about our race car that hopefully will help us over the next six races. And we did stay fourth in points, so that's good." -- ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.849 seconds, 297.75 mph.
Race results: Beat Bob Gilbertson, Mike Ashley; lost to Tony Pedregon.
Notable: Qualified No. 1 for the seventh time this season and for the second consecutive year at Memphis Motorsports Park thereby securing the No. 1 seed for the Skoal Showdown Funny Car bonus race to be contested next month in Indianapolis.
Quotable: "The engine was hurt on the burnout (before a semifinal race with Tony Pedregon). The good thing is we earned the No. 1 seed for the Skoal Showdown and we didn't lose a lot of ground in the points." -- ROBERT HIGHT.