SECOND ROUND WOES KNOCK TEAM CASTROL OUT OF GATORNATIONALS For the third consecutive event, Team Castrol qualified all four John Force Racing Ford Mustangs for the 16-car starting lineup and, for the first time, three of the four advanced to...
SECOND ROUND WOES KNOCK TEAM CASTROL OUT OF GATORNATIONALS
For the third consecutive event, Team Castrol qualified all four John Force Racing Ford Mustangs for the 16-car starting lineup and, for the first time, three of the four advanced to the second round including rookie Ashley Force who recorded her first round win in eliminations.
"We have a great team with Castrol, Ford, and Auto Club," said Ms. Force. " My guys were so pumped up, we were doing all kinds of hand shakes and everything before the round. We just need to go out there and do the things we were trained to do and that is to make good laps down the track -- and (in the first round) we did it."
The round win moved Ashley into the Countdown to Eight where she joined teammates Eric Medlen and NHRA points leader Robert Hight.
Unfortunately, the second round proved to be the team's undoing. Hight lost traction shortly after his Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford Mustang launched but, thanks to runner-up finishes in the season's first two races and his strong No. 1 qualifying performance, the third year pro did manage to hang onto the Funny Car points lead.
"We've got to fine tune (this race car)," Hight said. "We have an idea of what to do under those same situations. It is not like we are totally lost. The good thing is we are leaving with the points lead. That is how I look at it. Every race you leave with the points lead is one less race you have to go to and you still have the lead."
After Hight went up in smoke, both Ashley Force and Eric Medlen lost traction and made contact with the guardwall on back-to-back runs. Ashley was ahead and appeared to be heading to the semi-finals before her Castrol GTX Mustang got out of the groove.
Team leader Force took an early exit but was looking for the silver lining after Ashley and Eric's second round experiences.
"The number one (thing) is that nobody got hurt," Force said. "Eric and Ashley winning rounds moved them up the points with Robert. My hot rod is still struggling. (Both) cars will have to back to Metalcrafters to be worked on, but that's why we have back-ups. We'll be out here (Monday) to test and get ready for Houston (and the March 30-April 1 O'Reilly Spring Nationals). Thank God for the funding that I have with Castrol because a couple hundred thousand went down on just two runs right there. We haven't sized up the real cost, but that is what the game is all about."
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TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 57, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 10th at 4.802 seconds, 316.97 mph.
Race results: Lost to Eric Medlen.
Notable: Extended qualifying streak to 395 consecutive events.
Quotable: " My hot rod is still struggling, but we're going to test here (Monday) and we'll be back on our game by the time we get to Houston." -- JOHN FORCE.
ASHLEY FORCE, 24, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 13th at 4.822 seconds, 307.09 mph.
Race results: Beat Jeff Arend; lost to Phil Burkart Jr. Notable: Won her first round of racing and moved into Top 10 in POWERade points.
Quotable: "(Our day) started out promising. We were really excited to get past the first round. That was our main focus. We were getting down both lanes. Then going up for that run it was just a crazy session. Eric hit the wall. You don't know what to expect. When I pedaled it, the car hooked back up straight and I remember thinking 'Yes!' (but) once it did hook up, it just took me into the wall. It is frustrating, because if I wouldn't have pedaled it, I might have won because (Burkhart) smoked the tires." -- ASHLEY FORCE.
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.686 seconds, 331.94 mph.
Race results: Del Worsham.
Notable: Set Gainesville Raceway track records for Funny Car time and speed and the track speed record for all categories.
Quotable: "(Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) said that (smoking the tires) was the furthest thing from his mind. We ran the same set-up we had for the 4.80 yesterday and as it turns out it looks like one of those learning curve deals with this new clutch. It didn't quit act the same that is did yesterday. We've got to fine tune it which we have an idea of what to do under those same situations. It is not like we are totally lost. I guess the good thing is we are leaving with the points lead. That is how I look at it." -- ROBERT HIGHT.
ERIC MEDLEN, 33, Team Castrol/Auto Club Pleasant Holidays Ford
Qualifying position and performance: 7th at 4.788 seconds, 324.20 mph.
Race results: Beat John Force; lost to Kenny Bernstein.
Notable: Won a round for the third straight race and retained hold on No. 5.
Quotable: "Everything seemed fine. It was going straight and then all of a sudden it drifted to the left a little bit and I mean it just drove right over there (into the right side wall). Actually I thought it might miss it or graze it, but the rear end came around and it hit it pretty good. It just goes to show you, you have to be on your toes at all times in these Nitro cars. They are vicious." -- ERIC MEDLEN.