TEAM CASTROL MUSTANGS STRUGGLE IN ST. LOUIS HEAT The Team Castrol Fords got hot Sunday at Gateway International Raceway during the ninth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals, but it wasn't necessarily a good thing. On a 130 degree racetrack, John ...
TEAM CASTROL MUSTANGS STRUGGLE IN ST. LOUIS HEAT
The Team Castrol Fords got hot Sunday at Gateway International Raceway during the ninth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals, but it wasn't necessarily a good thing. On a 130 degree racetrack, John Force and the Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang weren't able to survive a round before being ousted by eventual champion Ron Capps at the Brut Dodge Stratus and Robert Hight lasted just one round longer in the Automobile Club of Southern California Mustang.
Nevertheless, it was hottest of all for second year driver Eric Medlen, whose Castrol SYNTEC Ford suffered a catastrophic engine explosion in a round one meeting with Gary Densham's Chevy the sent it through the quarter mile timers in a ball of flame.
All-in-all, it was a lost weekend for the Castrol Fords which, nevertheless, managed to get out of town with the points lead. Force, whose crew chiefs chased gremlins all weekend long, got to the mid-point in the 23-race POWERade Series 55 points ahead of Gary Scelzi and 62 ahead of Hight.
After winning the season's first back-to-back-to-back races (Atlanta, Columbus and Topeka), Force went 1-3 in the next set contested at Joliet, Ill., Englishtown, N.J., and Madison, Ill. (St. Louis).
"It wasn't pretty," said the 118-time tour winner. "We obviously have a lot of work to do. I'm just glad that Eric got out of the fire without any injuries. We can fix the car; we can't fix Eric. We'll run the wheels of these cars at Norwalk (Ohio, site this week of an eight-car Funny Car race that is not part of the POWERade Series). We all need to get better because those Dodges are breathing down our necks."
Medlen, the No. 5 qualifier, was victimized by a fuel nozzle that came off inside the engine, filling the pan with fuel. Then, when the car suffered a burned piston, it ignited the accumulated fuel, touching off a spectacular explosion that inflicted severe damage on both the chassis and body.
"Lucky we were headed for Murf's (Murf McKinney's chassis shop) to pick up a new car," Medlen said. "It was pretty ugly. I new something wasn't right on the burnout, but it left the line and I could see Gary. As long as I was right there with him, I had to stick with it.....then, boom, it was over."
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 56, Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 15th at 4.931 seconds, 309.98 mph.
Race results: Lost to Ron Capps.
Notable: Extended qualifying streak to 358 consecutive races and retained POWERade points lead.
ERIC MEDLEN, 31, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.842 seconds 316.40 mph.
Race results: Lost to Gary Densham.
Notable: Rare first round engine explosion and fire cost him one position in the point standings.
ROBERT HIGHT, 35, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 3rd at 4.808 seconds, 316.82 mph.
Race results: Beat Phil Burkart Jr.; lost to Tony Pedregon.
Notable: Held onto No. 3 position in POWERade points.
July 15-17 Mopar Mile-High Nationals Denver, Colo.