MEDLEN BEATS HIGHT TO WIN CARQUEST NATIONALS A resurgent Eric Medlen beat teammate and POWERade points leader Robert Hight in an all-Castrol Funny Car final Sunday to win the 18th annual CARQUEST Northwest Nationals at Pacific...
MEDLEN BEATS HIGHT TO WIN CARQUEST NATIONALS
A resurgent Eric Medlen beat teammate and POWERade points leader Robert Hight in an all-Castrol Funny Car final Sunday to win the 18th annual CARQUEST Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.
Medlen, the second year driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang, won wire-to-wire, qualifying No. 1 at a track record 4.735 seconds before beating Gary Densham, Phil Burkart Jr., Tommy Johnson Jr. and, finally, Hight, to earn his second tour victory.
The victory lifted the 31-year-old former crewman from eighth to sixth in points, keeping alive his hopes for a 2005 championship.
"We had some bad races in the beginning of the season (while we were) changing over to this new combination and we got a lot farther behind than we wanted," said the former high school rodeo champion. "Then the car started to run, but we just couldn't get a break. We'd run 4.81 and the other guy would run 4.80. Just stuff that happens. Hopefully that's all behind us.
"Really, I don't think we're too far out of this thing to at least give them a run (for the championship), so that's what we're going to try to do right now.
"I can't say enough about Robert's car," Medlen said, "because he's been on the leader board for this team all year and if it wasn't for him running so strong, we might not have been able to get our own combination sorted out.
"My dad (crew chief John Medlen) and Jason (Morton) work with Jimmy Prock a lot and finally we've got both our cars kind of the same and they're starting to run the same. And that's important. Believe it or not, all the Funny Car crew chiefs and their assistants (also) talk to Jerry Darien (crew chief on Ashley Force's Castrol/Hof Wheels A/Fuel dragster)."
Medlen, runner-up this year at Joliet, Ill., but a non-winner since earning a breakthrough victory at last year's Lucas Nationals at Brainerd, Minn., extended Team Castrol's dominance of the Western Swing which concludes with this week's 18th annual FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.
By reaching the final round, Hight was able to extend to 85 his lead over Force and to 96 his advantage over Gary Scelzi. After qualifying third, the driver of the Team Castrol/Auto Club Mustang beat Jeff Arend, Cruz Pedregon and the last of the surviving Dodge drivers, Whit Bazemore, to reach the money round for the fourth time in his rookie season.
As for Force, after extending his qualifying streak to 350 consecutive races dating back to 1988, he was beaten by .001 of a second by Cruz Pedregon in round one, his third straight first round defeat and his seventh in a 2005 season in which he also has won four races.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 55, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 6th at 4.793 seconds, 306.74 mph.
Race results: Lost to Cruz Pedregon.
Notable: Extended to 350 the number of consecutive events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car.
Quotable: "Right now, I have to put everything in perspective. We won the race. I stayed No. 2, Robert stayed No. 1 and Eric is starting to gather up what it takes to win a championship. So, I guess I really can't complain. I' m just a little mad at myself (because) I could have been a little bit better on the Christmas Tree." -- JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 31, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.735 seconds, 323.12 mph.
Race results: Beat Gary Densham, Phil Burkart Jr., Tommy Johnson Jr. and Robert Hight.
Notable: Second No. 1 start of the season and fourth of his career; lowered Pacific Raceways track record to 4.735 seconds and won the second race of his career to move from eighth to sixth in points.
Quotable: "Hopefully it doesn't stop here. For me, this was important because John has won four races this year, Robert has won two and you like to feel like you can contribute, too." -- ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 35, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 4.776 seconds, 322.65 mph.
Race results: Beat Jeff Arend, Cruz Pedregon, Whit Bazemore; lost to Eric Medlen.
Notable: Extended points lead to 84 over teammate John Force by reaching the finals for the fourth time this year.
Quotable: "This was great for Eric. We're not disappointed at all. Our car ran great and we can wait to get to Sonoma (for this week's FRAM/Autolite Nationals)." -- ROBERT HIGHT
ASHLEY FORCE, 22, Castrol/Hot Wheels A/Fuel dragster (Top Alcohol Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 5.405 seconds, 267.11 mph.
Race results: Lost to Aaron Olivarez.
Notable: Despite loss, retained track record for speed at 271.84 mph.
Quotable: "It was bad timing because this was the last race we could take for points. Hopefully, though, it'll be like last year when we didn't really start running well until after we had run out of races for points." -- ASHLEY FORCE.