FORCE BEATS HIGHT TO WIN SUMMIT RACING SOUTHERN NATIONALS On a day on which his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang was not its usual dominant self, the irrepressible John Force still found a way to reach the winners' circle at the 25th annual ...
FORCE BEATS HIGHT TO WIN SUMMIT RACING SOUTHERN NATIONALS
On a day on which his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang was not its usual dominant self, the irrepressible John Force still found a way to reach the winners' circle at the 25th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals and, in the process, move back into the points lead in the race for the 2005 NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship.
The No. 5 qualifier, Force made a statement in round one when he took out then points leader Whit Bazemore, improving his overall record against the Dodge driver and defending Southern Nationals champ to 39-9 with his seventh straight win.
In round two, without the choice of lanes, he nevertheless managed to squeeze past No. 3 qualifier and former teammate Tony Pedregon and the Quaker State Chevrolet, 4.839-4.843. A round later, he turned back Cruz Pedregon in another squeaker, 4.842-4.856, to set up a final round meeting with his son-in-law, teammate Robert Hight.
Again without the choice of lanes and opposing a Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford that had been superior all weekend, Force managed to eke out a 4.772-4.796 second victory. It was the best performance of the weekend for the 116-time tour winner who, as a result, moved back around Bazemore in points.
The victory, Force's seventh in 13 final rounds at Atlanta Dragway, enabled Force to finally get his 900th round win -- along with 901, 902 and 903. It was Force's second win of the season.
As for Hight, he moved up to third in points and, had he beaten Force in the final, would have taken over the lead in just his seventh race as a pro. Certainly the performance did nothing to hurt his standing as the leading candidate for the 2005 Auto Club Road to the Future Award which identifies the top NHRA rookie.
Last year's top Funny Car rookie, Eric Medlen, was ousted in round two by Ron Capps but still managed to keep his Castrol SYNTEC Ford in the Top 10 while his crew chief and father, John Medlen, continues to work with a new engine-clutch combination.
Despite a disappointing No. 10 starting position, national points leader Ashley Force reached the semifinals in the Top Alcohol Dragster class at the controls of the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster she is driving for car owners Jerry Darien and Ken Meadows.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 55, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.817 seconds, 324.28 mph.
Race results: Beat Whit Bazemore, Tony Pedregon, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight.
Notable: Extended to 353 the number of consecutive events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car; won his 900th, 901st, 902nd and 903rd rounds; claimed his 116th NHRA tour victory; regained the POWERade points lead.
Quotable: "In the first race of three-in-a-row it was important for us to make a statement." -- JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 31, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 10th at 4.893 seconds, 319.29 mph.
Race results: Beat Phil Burkart Jr.; lost to Ron Capps.
Notable: Retained spot in the POWERade Top 10.
Quotable: "We're getting better every race. This is just the third race with this combination and my dad (crew chief John Medlen) is feeling better with every run."
ROBERT HIGHT, 35, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 6th at 4.830 seconds, 321.65 mph.
Race results: Beat Jeff Arend, Tommy Johnson Jr., Ron Capps; lost to John Force.
Notable: Reached the final round for the second time in his career and moved up to third in POWERade points.
Quotable: "I still can't believe I'm in this car and to have this kind of success, well, that's just a tribute to (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and this crew." -- ROBERT HIGHT.
ASHLEY FORCE, 22, Castrol/Hot Wheels A/Fuel dragster (Top Alcohol
Qualifying position and performance: 10th at 5.705 seconds, 252.28 mph.
Race results: Beat Jared Dreher, Jeff Bohr; lost to Karen Benkovich.
Notable: From the worst qualifying position of her career, managed to win two rounds and retain her lead in the national point standings.