FORCE FALLS SHORT IN BID FOR 14TH FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP John Force's second round loss to former protoge Tony Pedregon in Sunday's 41st annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals sealed his fate and delivered the 2005 NHRA POWERade...
FORCE FALLS SHORT IN BID FOR 14TH FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
John Force's second round loss to former protoge Tony Pedregon in Sunday's 41st annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals sealed his fate and delivered the 2005 NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship to Gary Scelzi.
After watching Scelzi and Ron Capps lose just ahead of him, Force a window of opportunity opened up for the 119-time tour winner. Unfortunately, it slammed shut when Pedregon's 4.778 at 316.75 mph was just good enough to cover Force's slightly quicker 4.752 at 323.27 mph in the Castrol GTX Start Up Ford.
For Force, it was a terribly disappointing day climaxed by teammate Eric Medlen's loss to Pedregon in the final round.
"They tried to give (the championship) to us but, bottom line, we couldn't take advantage. We had a shot but the driver just didn't get the job done," Force said. "My guys are all trying to make me feel better, but it is what it is. We just got whupped. That's all.
"I'll live with it over the winter -- losing my championship. It'll be a long off season, but I definitely want it back. The biggest thing I can take out of here, since we didn't win the championship, is that my Next Generation drivers, Eric, Robert (Hight), Ashley, my youngest girls, Brittany and Courtney, they all made me proud this season.
"Other than that, all I can say is that tomorrow we'll go to work getting ready for next year. Our race cars are good. The stuff we've learned in the last two weeks since Vegas, I'm really excited about. We've got a new Mustang coming. My sponsors have been rallying around me. We'll be back."
For Medlen, who moved around Hight and into fourth place in the final standings, just making it to the starting line for the final round was a moral victory. Just as his Castrol SYNTEC Ford crossed the finish line after beating Tommy Johnson Jr.'s Chevrolet in the semifinals, an engine explosion blew the visor up on his helmet and temporarily disoriented him. But the time he got his bearings and got the parachutes deployed, he was into the sand pit at the end of the track.
That little excursion broke the chassis in four places and destroyed the body but, with the help of Force's crew, Hight's crew and a handful of other volunteers, including chassis builder Steve Plueger and Funny Car rival Tim Wilkerson, Medlen at least made an attempt in the final.
JOHN FORCE, 56, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 6th at 4.716 seconds, 325.53 mph.
Race results: Beat Whit Bazemore; lost to Tony Pedregon.
Notable: Second round loss ended his bid for a record 14th series championship.
Quotable: "We lost. Gary Scelzi won. I tip my hat to Ron Capps and Gary Scelzi for a great effort and I want to congratulate Jim Jannard of Oakley for the championship." -- JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 32, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.715 seconds, 328.06 mph.
Race results: Beat Tony Bartone, Robert Hight, Tommy Johnson Jr.; lost to Tony Pedregon.
Notable: Fifth final round of the season propelled him into a career best fourth place in the final POWERade point standings.
Quotable: "I'm so proud of my guys and John's guys and Robert's guys and everybody else who worked to get our car to the line for the final. Even though we didn't win, I think we showed them something about this team and its heart." -- ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 36, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.716 seconds, 330.80 mph.
Race results: Beat Bob Gilbertson; lost to Eric Medlen.
Notable: Finished fifth as a Funny Car rookie and probably locked up the 2005 Auto Club Road to the Future Award that identifies the NHRA Rookie of the Year.
Quotable: "It wasn't the weekend we wanted, that's for sure. But we're pretty pumped up about next season. This new car worked really well and I can' t wait to get it back out there." -- ROBERT HIGHT.
ASHLEY FORCE, 22, Castrol/Hot Wheels A/Fuel dragster (Top Alcohol Dragster division)
Qualifying position and performance: .4th at 5.302 seconds, 270.65 mph.
Race results: Beat Duane Shields, Joe Windham; lost to Steve Torrence.
Notable: Strong comeback from mid-season performance woes insured a second consecutive Top 10 finish.
Quotable: "It's good to have our race car back. We didn't win today, but we ran really well for the first time in quite awhile." -- ASHLEY FORCE.