MEDIA DARLINGS EXIT IN FIRST ROUND AT WINTERNATIONALS Heading into the weekend, all the media and fan attention was trained on Team Castrol drivers John and Ashley Force. They capped one of the most dramatic final qualifying sessions in drag ...
MEDIA DARLINGS EXIT IN FIRST ROUND AT WINTERNATIONALS
Heading into the weekend, all the media and fan attention was trained on Team Castrol drivers John and Ashley Force. They capped one of the most dramatic final qualifying sessions in drag racing history by qualifying in the 4th and 15th positions, respectively. On Sunday at the 47th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway, they made a less than dramatic early exit after a rain delayed start of eliminations. John Force lost to nemesis Cruz Pedregon when the supercharger drive belt failed on his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang and Ashley was ousted by brother-in-law and teammate Robert Hight, both in the first round.
"This was the top Funny Car field in history as far as ET qualifying," said John Force, the 14-time NHRA Funny Car Champ. "We put four cars in (the field) and it is just really exciting for all of us that I made the right decisions as the owner when I took on these youngsters. They are the next generation. Eric and Robert have both proved themselves. Ashley has a lot to learn, but I think she showed that under pressure she can qualify and race with the big boys out there."
The elimination results capped an emotional weekend for the Castrol drivers that saw the elder Force qualify for eliminations during the last session on Saturday, bumping Ashley out of the show momentarily in the process. Ashley regained a spot in the race on her last pass but was forced to face Hight in the first round of eliminations.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 57, Castrol High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 4th at 4.709 seconds, 326.40 mph.
Race results: Lost to Cruz Pedregon.
Notable: Extended record NHRA national event qualifying streak to 393 events.
Quotable: "Unveiling this weekend with me driving the Castrol High MileageFord Mustang and Ashley driving the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, I wanted all four cars in. That was really the goal that we had. When the media frenzy went out it was unbelievable. I mean hits across the nation, every major magazine and people wanting to know what was going on here especially with Ashley. A man couldn't ask for more than that, four cars in a sixteen car field." - JOHN FORCE.
ASHLEY FORCE, 23, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 15th at 4.790 seconds, 312.42 mph.
Race results: Lost to Robert Hight
Notable: Qualified for first NHRA national event in Funny Car class before being defeated by brother-in-law Robert Hight in first round.
Quotable: "This has been a whirlwind weekend My Castrol team was just so excited to get through today. I didn't get to be a part of the driver introductions and I was bummed about that. We got up there and we got to race. It was an exciting race, a little strange. I got the experience. Dad was proud that I didn't get in over my head and cross over the center line or slam into the wall or do something dramatic. He told me, 'You might have lost but at least you were safe about it.'" - ASHLEY FORCE.
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.693 seconds, 326.79 mph.
Race results: Beat Ashley Force, Tony Pedregon, Jeff Arend. Lost to Gary Scelzi.
Notable: 4.646 second pass in semi-final round the quickest Funny Car pass in NHRA history.
Quotable: "It left nice. It was going straight. I think I was in pretty good shape until half track. Then it started drifting in on me. It wasn't that I couldn't see. I was aware of what it was doing. I just could not get it back. If I hadn't crossed the center line I beat him. I got the win light. I got to the finish line first. Over the winter I predicted a 4.64 in Funny Car. To do it at the first race in front of all our fans and sponsors was pretty cool." - ROBERT HIGHT.
ERIC MEDLEN, 33, Auto Club of Southern California/Pleasant Holiday Ford
Qualifying position and performance: 8th at 4.744 seconds, 325.22 mph.
Race results: Beat Tommy Johnson Jr.; lost to Gary Scelzi.
Quotable: "I think more than anything seat time is important at this time of the year. You get back in the swing of things. We went out not early, but in the second round. The car is responding the way we want and you can always take that to the bank. We've just got to go back to the shop tear up some things and head to Phoenix." - ERIC MEDLEN.