HIGHT DOMINATES IN MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS' VICTORY With boss and teammate John Force on the sidelines after a first round foul start, Robert Hight drove the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to victory in...
HIGHT DOMINATES IN MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS' VICTORY
With boss and teammate John Force on the sidelines after a first round foul start, Robert Hight drove the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to victory in Monday's 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park.
In winning for the second time this season and for the fourth time in his brief career, the 2005 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year drove his way back into contention for the NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship and minimized the damage to Force's bid for the same title.
The No. 2 qualifier behind Force, who set an ORP track record by pushing the Castrol GTX Ford through the quarter mile in 4.691 seconds, Hight was the quickest in every round of competition, beating Whit Bazemore in a classic final round after beating points leader Ron Capps in a crucial semifinal.
As a result, Capps will lead Force by just 19 points when the series moves to Reading, Pa., in two weeks. For his part, Hight leapfrogged from fifth to third place in the driver standings, just 159 points back of Capps with five races remaining in the series.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," Hight said after giving crew chief Jimmy Prock his second win in three years at Indy. "The pressure of this race is unbelievable. You come in telling yourself that it is just another race and then you get here and you see that that is not the case.
"Winning this race gives us a lot of momentum," Hight continued. "Tony Schumacher was talking about winning five races in-a-row. We have one in-a-row now (and) if we get on a streak, we can (still) get a championship. If we can get past the stupid stuff that has been happening to us and get to more finals, we can win this championship."
Eric Medlen suffered his first opening round loss in the last at races when he wasn't able top chase down Cruz Pedregon on a run which ended with his Castrol SYNTEC Ford in the sand pit at the end of the track.
Ashley Force's bid to reprise her 2004 victory in the Top Alcohol Dragster category also ended in the first round.
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TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 57, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.691 seconds, 328.54 mph.
Race results: Lost to Jim Head.
Notable: Claimed his 131st No. 1 qualifying award by lowering the ORP record to 4.691 seconds; won the Skoal Showdown for a record sixth time.
Quotable: "Bottom line, driver error. I amped up (because I) didn't want to be late. My guys gave me a great race car and I screwed it up." JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 33, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.728 seconds, 324.12 mph.
Race results: Lost to Cruz Pedregon.
Notable: Fell from fourth to fifth in points after suffering rare first round loss.
Quotable: "After it blew up, there was oil all over the place and you couldn't see. The chute didn't feel right, so I got back on the brake again. It blew up again and there was some more fire and I couldn't see anything. I was just trying to steer it. I saw the sand trap coming up and I really got on the brakes and (finally) got it stopped." ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.692 seconds, 326.56 mph.
Race results: Beat Bob Gilbertson, Phil Burkart Jr., Ron Capps and Whit Bazemore.
Notable: Earned his second win of the season, fourth of his career, set a track speed record and moved into third place in points, just 159 points behind Ron Capps.
Quotable: "I told myself to just have fun today. I knew how hard all the guys on the team had worked and if I could (just) concentrate for five seconds and go another round, that would be the least I could do for the team." ROBERT HIGHT.
ASHLEY FORCE, 23, Castrol Top Alcohol Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 5.296 seconds, 269.56 mph.
Race results: Lost to Noah Condo.
Notable: Narrow first round loss denied an opportunity to repeat her 2004 victory as a Top Alcohol rookie.
Quotable: "The car slowed down a little and so did the driver and that was all it took." ASHLEY FORCE