Indianiapolis: Team Castrol race report

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana - John Force increased his lead in the Winston point standings and took home the biggest paycheck from the 46th annual U.S. Nationals, but neither accomplishment was able to mollify the nine-time champion's ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana - John Force increased his lead in the Winston point standings and took home the biggest paycheck from the 46th annual U.S. Nationals, but neither accomplishment was able to mollify the nine-time champion's disappointment at losing to Jim Epler in the second round at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Force claimed the $100,000 top prize as the winner of Sunday's Big Bud Shootout bonus race but couldn't sustain they momentum in the Labor Day Classic in which Epler was able to gain a measure of revenge by beating Force for the first time in seven years.

Force's final round victory over Epler on Sunday secured his fifth Big Bud Shootout win and briefly extended his latest winning streak to 15 competitive rounds. He won his 16th straight round on Monday when he turned back Del Worsham in the first round of the Nationals.

Epler ended the streak with a second round 4.986 second effort on Monday while Force's Castrol GTX Ford suggered a clutch failure that slowed it to 5.048 seconds.

Despite Force's heroics in the bonus race, Team Castrol's best effort at the Nationals was turned in by Pro Stock Truck driver Steve Johns, who took his Castrol Super Clean Chevy S-10 to the semifinals before losing to reigning Winston Champion Bob Panella Jr.

BIG BUD SHOOTOUT FINAL: John Force, 4.996 seconds, 307.72 mph, def. Jim Epler, 8.075 seconds, 105.05 mph.

U.S. NATIONALS WINNERS: Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher beat Gary Clapshaw; Funny Car, Jim Epler beat Whit Bazemore; Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin Jr. beat Ron Krisher; Pro Stock Motorcycle, Antron Brown def. John Smith; Pro Stock Truck, Bob Panella beat John Coughlin. NEXT EVENT: Rerun of the Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, N.J., Saturday, Sept. 9. NEXT TRUCK EVENT: Advance Auto Parts Nationals, Heartland Park, Topeka, Kansas, Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

JOHN FORCE, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position: 2nd at 4.967 seconds, 307.72 miles per hour. Race Results: Beat Del Worsham; lost to Jim Epler. Notable: Despite the loss, Force increased his lead over second place Jerry Toliver by 26 points with only second races remaining. Quotable: "We had a chance to really move out in the points so that's kind of disappointing. But, bottom line, we increased our lead over Toliver and Tony's still third ahead of (Ron) Capps and (Jim) Epler." - John Force

TONY PEDREGON, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position: 4th at 4.977 seconds, 303.98 mph Race Results: Beat Jerry Toliver; lost to Cruz Pedregon. Notable: Pedregon's first round victory over Jerry Toliver enabled teammate John Force to increase his lead in the Winston Championship chase to more than nine competitive rounds. Quotable: "In the second round, our car just didn't perform and his (brother Cruz Pedregon's) did. Taking out Toliver (in both the Big Bud Shootout and the U.S. Nationals) was the highlight of the race for us." - Tony Pedregon.

STEVE JOHNS, Castrol Super Clean Chevy S-10 Truck
Qualifying position: 5th at 7.623 seconds, 176.53 mph. Race Results: Beat Arnie Martel, Mark Whisnant; lost to Bob Panella. Notable: By reaching the semifinals for the first time in the last seven races, Johns moved from sixth to fifth in season points.

ROB SLAVINSKI, Castrol Super Clean Chevy S-10 Truck
Qualifying position: 18th at 7.669 seconds, 175.66 mph. Race Results: DNQ Notable: Despite his failure to qualify, Slavinski posted far more competitive performances than in earlier events. He missed the 16-car lineup by only .006 of a second and was only .061 off the time posted by the No. 1 qualifier.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Cruz Pedregon , Mark Whisnant , Jerry Toliver , Steve J