DESPITE EARLY EXIT AT RICHMOND, HIGHT ADVANCES TO FINAL FOUR A clutch malfunction ended Robert Hight's hopes of succeeding the late Eric Medlen as Funny Car champion of the TORCO Racing Fuels Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park Sunday but...
DESPITE EARLY EXIT AT RICHMOND, HIGHT ADVANCES TO FINAL FOUR
A clutch malfunction ended Robert Hight's hopes of succeeding the late Eric Medlen as Funny Car champion of the TORCO Racing Fuels Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park Sunday but the driver of the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang still managed to lock up a starting spot in the Countdown to One which will crown the 2007 POWERade World Champion.
After dominating the preliminaries and earning the Full Throttle Pit Crew Challenge bonus money for qualifying consistency, Hight fell to Ron Capps when the clutch activated prematurely, causing his 8,000 horspower Mustang to inexplicably lose traction several hundred feet into the run.
The upshot was a quarter mile time of 7.447 seconds at only 107 miles per hour, far off the 4.790, 4.814, 4.822 qualifying pace that had stamped him as the pre-race favorite.
"It was really a surprise," Hight said. "The clutch just came in quicker than it had all weekend. We don't know why, but we're going to test tomorrow and then we're going to Vegas and test next week. We've got good sponsors and a good team and (the championship is) still ours to win."
Hight, the 2005 winner of the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, now will vie with Tony Pedregon, Ron Capps and Gary Scelzi for the $500,000 championship, trying to become the third different Team Castrol driver to win the title in the last six years.
"Our job was to get one of these Ford Mustangs in the Countdown to One for Auto Club, Castrol and Ford," team owner John Force said from Baylor University Medical Center where he is recovering from injuries suffered in a Sept. 23rd crash. "Robert will carry that banner for us in the last two races. He and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock earned the right to race for the championship."
John Force, the 14-time NHRA Funny Car Champion, continues to recover from injuries suffered in a Sept. 23rd crash during the O'Reilly Fall Nationals at Dallas, Texas. Force, who was in fourth place in points when his Castrol SYNTEC Ford broke in two pieces and crashed into Kenny Bernstein's Dodge, is on an accelerated physical therapy program designed to put him back behind the wheel in time for winter testing of his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford. Castrol collected more than 2,500 get well messages for the 125-time tour winner during the TORCO Nationals.