FORCE EXTENDS LEAD TO 71 POINTS IN BID FOR 14TH FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP John Force moved to within one round win of a record 14th NHRA Funny Car Championship Sunday even though he couldn't get his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the winners' circle...
FORCE EXTENDS LEAD TO 71 POINTS IN BID FOR 14TH FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
John Force moved to within one round win of a record 14th NHRA Funny Car Championship Sunday even though he couldn't get his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the winners' circle in the sixth annual ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
After qualifying second in a 1-2-3 sweep for Team Castrol, Force beat Jim Head in round one while his closest pursuers, Ron Capps and Robert Hight, were unable to advance. As a result, the 57-year-old icon will move on to Pomona, Calif., for the season-ending Auto Club Finals leading Capps by 71 points and Hight by 73.
Hight, who drove the Team Castrol/Auto Club Mustang to track records of 4.677 seconds and 333.08 miles per hour during qualifying, was victimized in the first round by a mechanical failure that allowed Tony Bartone to advance from the No. 16 qualifying position.
After beating Head, Force's Mustang lost traction in a second round duel with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo of eventual runner-up Tommy Johnson Jr.
Ironically, the most successful of the Team Castrol entries was the one with no chance to win the season championship. Eric Medlen, driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford, continued his second half surge by reaching the semifinals and solidifying his hold on fourth place in season points.
The 33-year-old Californian goes into the last of the season's 23 races 74 points behind Hight and 76 behind Capps.
"That was a heartbreaker," Medlen said of his .002 of a second loss to Johnson. "No matter how you lose them, it's never easy. When they're that close it makes it even tougher. Maybe I'm saying that because that's how we lost today (but) I'm real proud of our guys. We have come a long way and they are doing a great job."
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 57, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.711 seconds, 329.34 mph.
Race results: Beat Jim Head; lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Notable: Extended lead to 71 points in bid for record 14th NHRA Championship.
Quotable: "I hated losing. We could have gotten pretty close to wrapping up this championship. I was pretty emotional (after the first round) because Capps went out and then Robert, but now they're all back in, so the fans will get what they wanted at Pomona and that's a showdown."
ERIC MEDLEN, 33, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 4.712 seconds, 320.81 mph.
Race results: Beat Bob Gilbertson, Scott Kalitta; lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Notable: Solidified hold on fourth place in points.
Quotable: "I'm real proud of all our Mustangs. They're really marchin' (and) we're looking for big things going into Pomona. We secured fourth place this weekend and hopefully we can even get to third place."
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.677 seconds, 333.08 mph.
Race results: Lost to Tony Bartone.
Notable: Became first Funny Car driver to officially break the 4.70 and 330 mph barriers at LVMS with track record run of 4.677 at 333.08 mph.
Quotable: "You've gotta move on. This isn't the first time something like this (a broken component) has happened and it probably won't be the last. It's like (Auto Club president) Tom McKernan said, being able to overcome adversity is part of being a champion."
Nov. 9-12 Auto Club of Southern California Finals Pomona, Calif.