FAST FORDS FALTER IN FLORIDA; ASHLEY RUNNER-UP The Team Castrol Fords weren't able to capitalize on a 1-2-3 start in the 36th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals and Ashley Force wasn't able to close the deal in her bid for the Top Alcohol Dragster...
FAST FORDS FALTER IN FLORIDA; ASHLEY RUNNER-UP
The Team Castrol Fords weren't able to capitalize on a 1-2-3 start in the 36th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals and Ashley Force wasn't able to close the deal in her bid for the Top Alcohol Dragster championship at Gainesville Raceway.
A hotter track surface that made the transition from concrete to asphalt far more troublesome was the undoing of the two cars that led the qualifying -- the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford driven by rookie Robert Hight and the Castrol SYNTEC Mustang driven by Eric Medlen.
After posting the quickest times in round one (4.809 and 4.824, respectively), Hight and Medlen found themselves tractionless at virtually the same spot on the racetrack in round two. The result? Hight slowed to 5.253 and Medlen to 5.260 in losing to Whit Bazemore and Bob Gilbertson, respectively.
As for team leader John Force, he appeared on his way to a record 182nd final round when an input shaft broke in the semifinals, making it impossible for the 13-time series champion to chase down Gilbertson after his car erupted in flames from a blown engine.
The upshot was that Bazemore got a free pass to his first win of the season and to the POWERade points lead when an obviously flustered Gilbertson was guilty of a foul start in the final round.
As for Ms. Force, she took the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster all the way to the final round before losing a heartbreaking .001 of second decision to Aaron Olivares. Despite the loss, the 22-year-old took the national points lead in the Lucas Sportsman Series in which she finished fourth a year ago.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 55, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 4.775 seconds, 329.42 mph.
Race results: Beat Jim Head, Jeff Arend; lost to Bob Gilbertson.
Notable: Set track speed record at 329.42 mph.
Quotable: "We broke an input shaft (in the semifinals). Until that, I thought we were going to win it all. I was feeling good, driving good." -- JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 31, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.773 seconds, 326.08 mph.
Race results: Beat Tim Wilkerson; lost to Bob Gilbertson.
Notable: Another solid performance keeps him sixth in points.
Quotable: "It's kinda frustrating after the way we qualified, not to come away with a win. But that's drag racing. The good thing is we have another chance in two weeks." -- ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 35, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.749 seconds, 325.96 mph.
Race results: Beat Dale Creasy Jr.; lost to Whit Bazemore.
Notable: Earned first Skoal Showdown No. 1 qualifying bonus of his career.
Quotable: "I'm still learning how to drive this car, but it was exciting qualifying No. 1. Jimmy (crew chief Jimmy Prock) and the crew did such a great job. I just wish we could have done a little better (on Sunday)." -- ROBERT HIGHT.
ASHLEY FORCE, 22, Castrol/Hot Wheels A/Fuel dragster (Top Alcohol Dragster division)
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 5.295 seconds, 270.67 mph.
Race results: Beat Dave Hirata, Ken Perry, Michael Gunderson; lost to Aaron Olivarez.
Notable: First final round of the season and first in the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster propelled her into the national Lucas Sportsman Series points lead.