Castrol Highlight: Ashley Force and Eric Medlen took their Castrol-backed race cars to the semifinals of the 19th annual Schuck's Auto Parts Nationals at Pacific Raceways and John Force extended to 383 the number of consecutive races for which he...
Castrol Highlight: Ashley Force and Eric Medlen took their Castrol-backed race cars to the semifinals of the 19th annual Schuck's Auto Parts Nationals at Pacific Raceways and John Force extended to 383 the number of consecutive races for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car.
CASTROL FORDS STUMBLE IN THE HEAT AT 19TH SCHUCK'S NATIONALS
John Force got help from a most unlikely source in Sunday's 19th annual Schuck's Auto Parts Nationals at Pacific Raceways, Inc. when Whit Bazemore beat Ron Capps in the Funny Car final, denying Capps a triple digit lead in the race for the 2006 NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship.
Force, the 13-time NHRA champion, struggled from the outset of the season's 14th event and lost in the very first round to reigning series champion Gary Scelzi.
Nevertheless, instead of leaving Seattle with a 108-point deficit, drag racing's most prolific winner will move to Sonoma, Calif., for this week's 19th annual FRAM/Autolite Nationals trailing by only 88 points in what is becoming a two-person battle for the championship.
For Force, who had won seven times previously at Seattle, Sunday's loss followed a recent "feast of famine" trend in which he has either driven his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to victory at Pacific Raceways, as he did in 2003 and 2004, or to a first round loss, as he did in 2002, 2005 and again this year.
While Force was suffering just his second first round loss this season, Eric Medlen appeared fully capable of repeating his 2005 victory until the engine in his Castrol SYNTEC Ford inexplicably failed in the semifinals against Capps.
"That's one of the challenges of the Western Swing (back-to-back-to-back races at Denver, Seattle and Sonoma)," Medlen said. "You have to kinda conserve your parts inventory and we've been real good about that lately. Unfortunately, (this time) it threw the rods out."
Despite his problems, Medlen moved back into fifth place in points, the highest-ranking non-winner in the Funny Car standings.
Robert Hight, driver of the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Mustang, was the No. 1 qualifier for a category-best fifth time this season, posted the quickest time during eliminations (4.902 seconds) and sped to the top speed of the event at 318.17 mph.
Unfortunately, he couldn't get past Tony Pedregon in round two, losing traction at half track. Despite his fate, the 2005 NHRA Rookie of the Year was able to hold onto third place in points behind Capps and Force.
Brittany and Courtney Force won first round races in Super Comp before losing in the second round and Ashley Force took the Castrol Top Alcohol Dragster to the semifinals before losing to event champion Sean O'Bannon.
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TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 57, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 6th at 4.903 seconds, 316.52 mph.
Race results: Lost to Gary Scelzi.
Notable: Extended to 383 the number of consecutive events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car.
Quotable: "Scelzi did his job and I got a spanking. One of those days. We'll just have to make it up next week (at Sonoma, Calif.)." - JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 32, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.854 seconds, 312.64 mph.
Race results: Beat Scott Kalitta, Gary Densham; lost to Ron Capps.
Notable: Won Full Throttle award for qualifying performance and consistency and moved back up to fifth place in points.
Quotable: "It was pretty disapponting. I thought we had a car good enough to win but it did some weird stuff in the second round and then it blew up in the semifinals. We have some work to do, but we'll be back." - ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 36, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.840 seconds, 318.17 mph.
Race results: Beat Tim Wilkerson; lost to Tony Pedregon.
Notable: Qualified No. 1 for a category-best fifth time this season and 11th time in his two-year professional career. Posted quick time and top speed of the meet.
Quotable: "I thought we had the car to win. It spun the tires (in the second round) and there was no catching Tony." - ROBERT HIGHT.
ASHLEY FORCE, 23, Castrol Top Alcohol Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 5.535 seconds, 259.76 mph.
Race results: Beat Bill Edwards Jr., Mark Hentges
Notable: Reached the semifinals for the third consecutive event and for (the second straight year at Pacific Raceways, Inc.
Quotable: "It was good weekend for me, really. Our car doesn't really run well in the heat, but we were able to get to the semifinals and because we went some rounds, I was able to get my reaction times back to where they need to be." - ASHLEY FORCE.