FORCE MAKES A STATEMENT, BUT HIGHT WINS SEASON-OPENER Team Castrol Highlight: John Force drove the 2006 Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the quickest quarter mile time in NHRA Funny Car history -- 4.664 seconds -- to qualify No. 1 for the 126th time...
FORCE MAKES A STATEMENT, BUT HIGHT WINS SEASON-OPENER
Team Castrol Highlight: John Force drove the 2006 Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the quickest quarter mile time in NHRA Funny Car history -- 4.664 seconds -- to qualify No. 1 for the 126th time in his career.
Robert Hight overcame adversity and the quickest field in Funny Car drag racing history Sunday to win the 46th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals for Team Castrol, the Automobile Club of Southern California and John Force Racing, Inc.
Hight, last year's Rookie-of-the-Year, wasn't even in the 16-car field entering the last of four qualifying sessions. Once in the field, though, the 36-year-old beat teammate Eric Medlen and the Castrol SYNTEC Ford, Del Worsham, Phil Burkart Jr. and, finally, Ron Capps to earn his third -- and most dramatic -- tour victory.
Hight's .011 of a second final round victory was almost anticlimactic after a second round engine explosion left his car so badly damaged that he was in danger of not even making it to the starting line for his semifinal match with Phil Burkart Jr.
However, in a pit drama featured in ESPN TV coverage of the event, the Hight team, with help from Force's Castrol GTX crew and Medlen's SYNTEC crew, managed to replace the carbon fiber body (borrowing one from a trackside display for the Auto Club), re-plumb and re-wire the chassis, swap engines and, finally, overcome the premature activation of the fire bottles, in time to make the call.
Despite the problems, Hight was quickest in every round of competition and posted the best race day run of 4.733 seconds. JOther winners included Melanie Troxel, who earned her first career victory in the Top Fuel dragster division, and Greg Anderson, the three-time reigning NHRA Pro Stock Champion.
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TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 56, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.664 seconds, 329.91 mph.
Race results: Beat Cruz Pedregon; lost to Phil Burkart Jr.
Notable: Made the quickest quarter mile run in NHRA Funny Car history.
Quotable: "Even though we stumbled in the second round, we know we've got a really fast hot rod and when we went down, Robert stepped right up. I was really proud of that team." -- JOHN FORCE.
ERIC MEDLEN, 32, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 4.752 seconds, 320.74 mph.
Race results: Lost to Robert Hight.
Notable: Third time in as many appearances at the Winternationals that the SYNTEC Ford driver has failed to advance to the second round.
Quotable: "You don't want to meet one of your teammates in the first round, but Robert and those guys did a great job. Our car was gonna run but then it spun the tire and it was over. The big thing is that we've got a good race car. It's gonna be one bad hombre." -- ERIC MEDLEN.
ROBERT HIGHT, 36, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford
Qualifying position and performance: 12th at 4.793 seconds, 323.35 mph.
Race results: Beat Eric Medlen, Del Worsham, Phil Burkart Jr. and Ron Capps.
Notable: Overcame adversity on first three qualifying runs and a second round engine explosion to win his third race as a pro and move into the POWERade points lead for the second time in his brief career.
Quotable: "We have five new guys on the team who've only been together since we started testing, but they came through for us in a big way. Really, it was lucky for us that John and Eric lost early because their crew guys came over and helped us." -- ROBERT HIGHT.
ASHLEY FORCE, 23, Castrol Top Alcohol Dragster
Qualifying position and performance: 11th at 5.447 seconds, 259.71 mph.
Race results: Beat Joe Windham; lost to Sean O'Bannon.
Notable: New Castrol-branded dragster showed promise in debut.
Quotable: "We have a brand new McKinney (Corporation) car that I've been trying to adjust to. We made a lot of progress (at Pomona) and I feel really good about the season." -- ASHLEY FORCE.