JOHN FORCE DRIVES HIS WAY INTO THE COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP A resurgent John Force drove his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang final round for the second time in the last three races and moved around Cruz Pedregon to claim, at least...
JOHN FORCE DRIVES HIS WAY INTO THE COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP
A resurgent John Force drove his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang final round for the second time in the last three races and moved around Cruz Pedregon to claim, at least temporarily, one of the eight positions in the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship.
Force kept alive his hopes of repeating as POWERade Funny Car champion by stopping No. 4 qualifier Tony Bartone in round one, dispatching former protege Tony Pedregon and the Q Chevrolet in round two and turning back Mike Ashley in the semifinals.
His bid for a record eighth victory at Pacific Raceways came to an abrupt end in the finals when the engine failed at halftrack while he was leading Jack Beckman in the 20th annual Schuck's Auto Supply Nationals.
It's the first time this season that Force has been in the Top 8 in points and it put him in position to repeat as NHRA Funny Car champion. The No. 13 qualifier in a rain-plagued event that featured a single qualifying session, Force went to the final round for the 197th time in his storied career.
Daughter Ashley also made up ground in the point standings, reclaiming a Top 10 position despite a second round crash that destroyed her Castrol GTX Ford.
The 24-year-old contender for Rookie of the Year honors suffered nothing more than a sprained thumb when her car hit the guardwall and hung the throttle open. That incident will put the graduate of Cal State-Fullerton in a backup car when racing begins this week in the 20th FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.
As for Robert Hight, he couldn't capitalize on his 21st No. 1 qualifying performance in the Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Mustang. After setting the preliminary pace at 4.800 seconds, the third year pro was ousted in round one by Gary Scelzi.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 58, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 13th at 6.038 seconds, 156.95 mph.
Race results: Beat Tony Bartone, Tony Pedregon, Mike Ashley; lost to Jack Beckman.
Notable: Moved into Top 8 for the first time this season by reaching the final round for the second time in three races.
Quotable: "My 'ol hot rod's back. Austin Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) have got it acting like its old self. I'm really excited, not just for my team but for Castrol and Ford and all the sponsors. We had a good race car, but Beckman was very deserving."
ASHLEY FORCE, 24, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 10th at 4.923 seconds, 286.13 mph.
Race results: Beat Ron Capps; lost to Kenny Bernstein.
Notable: Moved back into the Top 10 in points despite a second round crash.
Quotable: "I didn't go for the parachutes (after her second round crash). I just went for the brake, because I didn't know where the parachutes were at that time. I figured if I deployed them, I'd probably see them blossom in front of me and that would be a little embarrassing to come to a standstill and then have my parachutes come out."
ROBERT HIGHT, 37, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 1st at 4.800 seconds, 300.53 mph.
Race results: Lost to Gary Scelzi.
Notable: Qualified No. 1 for the 21st time in 60 career races and remained second in POWERade points behind Ron Capps.
Quotable: "When it accelerated, it went up on the wheelie bar and unloaded the chassis. It's disappointing but with a new car you know you're going to have some things go wrong. We'll just get it ready for Sonoma."