TEAM CASTROL ENDURES FORGETTABLE WEEKEND IN CHICAGO John Force's troubles continued Sunday at Route 66 Raceway where, for the sixth time in seven appearances this season, he failed to get his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang out of the...
TEAM CASTROL ENDURES FORGETTABLE WEEKEND IN CHICAGO
John Force's troubles continued Sunday at Route 66 Raceway where, for the sixth time in seven appearances this season, he failed to get his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang out of the first round.
Force, drag racing's biggest winner, squandered a No. 5 starting spot when his green-and-white Ford suffered a loss of traction against Tony Pedregon in the opening round of the 10th annual TORCO Racing Fuels Nationals.
The result left the 122-time tour winner in 17th place in the POWERade point standings with only eight races remaining in which to drive his way into the Top Eight and salvage at least a shot at a 15th series championship.
"Every race (from now on) is critical," Force said, "but I've been saying that for the last month. We've always played the consistency game and, right now, we're just not consistent and we're not going to start winning until we get that back.
"That's why we're staying over to test these Castrol Mustangs. We've got to find some answers and get back in the game."
For the first time in 54 races, not a single Castrol Ford advanced to the second round and, for the first time ever, Robert Hight's usually dominant Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford wasn't even in the starting lineup.
Hight, who had qualified either No. 1 or No. 2 in 10 consecutive races, wound up on the outside, looking in, after his final qualifying attempt ended with a broken supercharger drive belt that left him .014 of a second shy of the No. 16 position.
It was a particularly disappointing result considering the fact that Hight was in a back-up car assembled during the week after an engine explosion and fire destroyed its predecessor the previous week at Topeka, Kan.
Hight joined Force, points leader Ron Capps, Topeka winner Mike Ashley and veterans Jim Head, Tony and Cruz Pedregon and Del Worsham as non-qualifiers in this, the most competitive Funny Car season in the history of the NHRA series.
Among the few thus far able to avoid the qualifying jinx is rookie Ashley Force who, even though she was beaten in the first round by Tommy Johnson Jr., had another solid outing in the Castrol GTX Mustang.
The 24-year-old daughter of the 14-time champion was ahead of Johnson at 1,000 feet when the engine quit, slowing her to just 271 miles per hour and allowing the Chevy driver to sneak by for the win. It was the first time Ashley had been ousted in the first round since the CSK Nationals at Phoenix, Ariz.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 58, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.759 seconds, 320.89 mph.
Race results: Lost to Tony Pedregon.
Notable: Was unable to move up from 17th place and is running out of time in his bid to earn one of the starting spots in the NHRA's new Countdown to Eight format.
Quotable: "I believe you make your own luck, but it seems like you'd win a round every now and then just be accident. It's all about consistency. When you have it, you win championships. When you don't, you don't. We're going to stay over and run these Castrol Fords until we learn something. It's embarrassing for a team as good as this one to be struggling like this, but we' re gonna fix it."
ASHLEY FORCE, 24, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 9th at 4.783 seconds, 294.37 mph.
Race results: Lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Notable: Remained in the hunt for one of the berths in the Countdown to Eight despite suffering a first round loss for the first time since February.
Quotable: "The car just died at the top end. My foot was to the floor and it was going. Then it just died and that's when I saw Tommy go right around me. Everyone has first round losses. It just happens, (but) we want to get back on the roll we were on earlier."
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford
Qualifying position and performance: Did not qualify.
Race results: Did not participate.
Notable: Although he suffered the first qualifying failure of his career, he stayed second in POWERade points behind Ron Capps. Quotable: "It's a terrible feeling but hopefully that will provide all the motivation we need to make sure it doesn't happen again. I'm still really proud of the guys on this team. They've really worked since we had the fire in Topeka, but we'll be back. This is just a bump in the road."