DESPITE DISMAL DAY, HIGHT RETAINS POWERADE POINTS LEAD After losing in the first round of Sunday's FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway, then watching Gary Scelzi beat Dodge teammate Ron Capps to win the Funny Car championship, John...
DESPITE DISMAL DAY, HIGHT RETAINS POWERADE POINTS LEAD
After losing in the first round of Sunday's FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway, then watching Gary Scelzi beat Dodge teammate Ron Capps to win the Funny Car championship, John Force acknowledged that he has his rivals right where he wants them.
"I said at Pomona that I thought this was going to be one of the toughest years because of that three-car team (assembled by rival Don Schumacher). I know all those kids. They're good drivers: (Whit) Bazemore, Capps and Scelzi. And now they've got good hot rods, so they're on their game and, obviously, we're not.
"I'm getting trounced on, but that's good for me because that motivates me. Now they've given me the fight that I needed to get back in this ball game. If they kick my butt, which they could, well God bless 'em, but they're going to go down with my nose bleeding. This is exactly what I needed. I wish I had a race next week.
"I told my guys, 'let's quit racing scared.' When you're after the championship, you always back it off a little bit and stay safe. But now, I ain't got nothing to lose. So you want to play hard ball? Let's play hard ball."
Force wasn't the only Team Castrol member to make an early exit Sunday although his fourth consecutive first round loss and record eighth of the season attracted more attention than any other.
Points leader Robert Hight also was ousted in round one in the Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford, and Eric Medlen lost a 4.880-4.885 showdown to Capps in round two. Only Ashley Force, driving the Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster was able to get as far as the semifinals, but no further.
Although he still leads Scelzi by 16 points, Hight took the setback particularly hard.
"I sat with Robert in the trailer," Force said. "I said 'what do you think?' He took a breath. He goes, 'I think I'm sick at my stomach.' I said, 'well, welcome to the party. I've had a gutache for 14 years and, well, now you finally got it. Now is the test. Because if you can take that gutache and turn it into an ET slip, you can win like I have.' Me, I need to have that gutache and, buddy, I got it today."
Scelzi's victory was only one of the highlights at the final race in the 2005 Western Swing. In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta's victory enabled him to take over the points lead. In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson's win was the first ever for the Pontiac GTO. And, finally, Andrew Hines set a national record of 6.968 seconds astride a Harley-Davidson in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
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TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 56, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 7th at 4.844 seconds, 307.58 mph.
Race results: Lost to Ron Capps.
Notable: Extended to 361 consecutive races the sport's longest qualifying streak.
Quotable: "Even my kid's feeling bad for me. She walked over, she said, ' Dad, I hope I can win for you.' I said, 'Ashley, go win for you, don't win for me.' We'll be fine." -- JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 31, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.783 seconds, 323.12 mph.
Race results: Beat Tommy Johnson Jr.; lost to Ron Capps.
Notable: Gained ground on points leader Robert Hight even though he lost a position in the standings.
Quotable: "It wasn't a good day, by any means, but it wasn't a terrible day. The car's responding to the changes we make and that's the most important thing. It's going down the track every run." -- ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 35, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.789 seconds, 317.87 mph.
Race results: Lost to Phil Burkart Jr.
Notable: Kept points lead despite first round loss, only his third of the year.
Quotable: "The only good thing is that we still have the points lead. We' ll just have to work a lot harder to stay there. It just wasn't our day." -- ROBERT HIGHT.
ASHLEY FORCE, 22, Castrol/Hot Wheels A/Fuel dragster (Top Alcohol Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 5.381 seconds, 265.74 mph.
Race results: Beat Ben Harper, Darryl Hitchman; lost to Duane Shields.
Notable: Reached semifinals for the second time in as many appearances in the FRAM/Autolite Nationals.
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NEXT EVENTS: Aug. 12-14 Lucas Oil Nationals Brainerd, Minn.