John Force drove the Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang to a convincing victory over the Chevrolet of old rival Cruz Pedregon to win the CARQUEST Nationals at Pacific Raceways for the second straight year and extend his lead in the race for the...
John Force drove the Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang to a convincing victory over the Chevrolet of old rival Cruz Pedregon to win the CARQUEST Nationals at Pacific Raceways for the second straight year and extend his lead in the race for the 2004 NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship.
In winning for the 112th time in his career, Force beat Terry Haddock, Del Worsham, Gary Scelzi and Pedregon. The second round victory over Worsham, his closest pursuer in the points race, was critical. It enabled the 12-time series champion to boost his advantage to 93 points with nine races remaining.
Force, who now has won at least three tour events for a record 15 consecutive seasons, got a assist from Mother Nature when, after the first two rounds, the cloud cover burned off and put heat and sunshine back on a brand new track surface.
"We knew we had a car that worked in the heat," Force said, "but when it turned off cool with cloud cover in the first two rounds, we thought we might be in trouble. So, when the sun came out, (crew chief Austin) Coil said, 'we're right back in the game.'"
Indeed, Force dispatched three-time former NHRA Top Fuel Champion Gary Scelzi in the semifinals and then posted his quickest time of the entire weekend (4.896 seconds) to easily beat an up-in-smoke Pedregon in the final.
Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Eric Medlen continued to impress at the wheel of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford which he drove to a track speed record of 318.62 miles per hour after beating his predecessory, Tony Pedregon, on a first round holeshot. Medlen was clocked in 4.948 seconds at 314.75 mph to win. His former teammate lost in 4.891 seconds at 316.97 mph.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, 55, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang Funny Car
Qualifying position and performance: First at 4.923 seconds, 306.67 mph.
Race results: Beat Terry Haddock, Del Worsham, Gary Scelzi and Cruz Pedregon.
Notable: Repeated as Funny Car Champion at Seattle, earning his 112th career victory and extending to 15 the number of consecutive seasons in which he has won at least three NHRA national events.
Quotable: "When it got cool first and second round, we thought we could be in trouble because everybody could step up. But after two rounds the sun came out and we knew that was going to hurt the other teams because they hadn't found a way to run (in the heat). We knew our Start Up Mustang worked in the heat."
ERIC MEDLEN, 30, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.947 seconds, 303.84 mph.
Race results: Beat Tony Pedregon; lost to Whit Bazemore.
Notable: For the second straight week, drove the SYNTEC Ford to a track speed record, boosting the Pacific Raceways standard to 318.62 mph in his bid to catch Whit Bazemore in round two..
Quotable: "You live by the sword; you die by the sword. We beat Tony in round one on a hole shot and we lost to Whit the next round the same way. But I think I'm getting better and I know we've got a great car. I can't wait for the next race."
GARY DENSHAM, 57, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford
Mustang Funny Car
Qualifying position and performance: 5th at 5.015 seconds, 304.67 mph.
Race results: Beat Jeff Arend; lost to Gary Scelzi.
Notable: Ended a two-race stretch during which he was upset in the first round.
Quotable: "We had a chance to make up some ground and we didn't, but at least we got past our first round curse. The car just got out of the groove in the second round and by the time I muscled it back (Gary Scelzi) was gone."