HIGHT LEADS WAY FOR TEAM CASTROL WITH RUNNER-UP FINISH AT 53RD U.S. NATIONALS Robert Hight and his Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford Mustang were denied a second consecutive victory in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Monday when a supercharger drive...
HIGHT LEADS WAY FOR TEAM CASTROL WITH RUNNER-UP FINISH AT 53RD U.S. NATIONALS
Robert Hight and his Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford Mustang were denied a second consecutive victory in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Monday when a supercharger drive broke in the final round at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.
Nevertheless, the runner-up effort was good enough to propel the 2005 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner (NHRA Rookie of the Year) to the top of the Funny Car point standings after the first of six races in the Countdown to the Championship.
"I'm excited to be leaving with the points lead. If we keep going to final rounds we'll have this thing wrapped up," said Hight, "but that is easier said than done. My confidence level is really high. The car is good and the team is good and we'll just keep doing what we know how to do. I want to get in a roll like we did last year."
Hight defeated two former Funny Car champions (Tony Pedregon and Kenny Bernstein) in route to his fifth final round appearance of the season. He took out fellow Countdown competitor Jim Head in their first round match-up, freezing Head behind team leader John Force, a non-qualifier at Indy, in the standings.
"We learned a ton this weekend about running on a hot track that is going to help us. Honestly, I have always hoped for cool conditions because this thing thunders when it is cool," added Hight. "Now that we have a little bit of a handle on the heat it doesn't matter where we are. We can beat anybody."
Rookie-of-the-year candidate Ashley Force reached the second round before a loss of traction cost her against veteran Del Worsham.
"We went up in smoke because we were trying. Sometimes you try a little too hard," said the 24-year-old. "It is just like people who red-light. They say if you never red-light, you aren't trying. Del has been out here a lot of years and he is a lot more experienced than me -- just like dad."
Earlier in the day, voting closed on the AOL hottest athlete contest and the former high school cheerleader and Cal State Fullerton graduate outdistanced NFL quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots to win the overall title with 86% of the vote.
"I felt very in control when it smoked the tires, even pedaling it and getting a little sideways," Ashley said. "I never felt that is was doing anything I didn't want it to. That is a good feeling to have in these cars. The tough part is getting experience pedaling."
Despite his DNQ, John Force and his Castrol GTX High Mileage sponsored Ford Mustang will leave the first race of the Countdown to Eight in sixth place only 26 points behind Jack Beckman and 44 points behind Ron Capps for fifth and fourth place, respectively. Only the top four competitors will advance their championship aspirations following the next three races.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 58, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 17th at 4.856, 318.99 mph Race results: Did not qualify
Notable: Maintained position in Top Eight (6th position) in the Countdown to the Championship...only the second time John Force has not qualified for Mac Tools US Nationals, previously 1984.
Quotable: "If someone from our team had to miss this US Nationals I am glad it was me. I've got two young drivers, my daughter Ashley and son-in-law Robert (Hight) and they are the future. Both those kids have really good hot rods and really good teams. I've won the championships and the US Nationals before now it is their turn."
ASHLEY FORCE, 24, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.754, 309.70 mph
Race results: Beat Tim Wilkerson. Lost to Del Worsham
Notable: Moved up to 13th place in the NHRA POWERade point standings.... In the first round Ashley made the quickest pass of the round, 4.784... Qualifying elapsed time of 4.754 was equal to the quickest pass of weekend.
Quotable: "We can't really complain. We went up in smoke because we were trying. Sometimes you try a little too hard. I know Guido and Ron are trying and we were fighting the weather so it wasn't our day."
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.764, 323.89 mph
Race results: Beat Jim Head, Kenny Bernstein, Tony Pedregon. Lost to Mike Ashley.
Notable: His Final round appearance moved Hight into the POWERade points lead ...Prior to this event the Auto Club team replaced the front end of its Ford Mustang and for the fifth time this season Hight drove that chassis into the Finals.
Quotable: "This is a great car. This car knows how to get to the final round. This is its fifth final round this year. I haven't been to a final round with another car this season."