39th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals
Gainesville Raceway, Gainesville, Fla.
March 14-16, 2008
* * * *
Castrol/JFR Highlights: Robert Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang retained Funny Car points lead… John Force secured highest qualifying position of 2008 season with No. 2 start… Ashley Force moved to the second round for the second Gatornationals in a row.
* * * *
(GAINESVILLE) --- Everyone involved with John Force Racing knew that the 39th annual ACDelco Gatornationals would be an emotional weekend. All four drivers expressed a serious desire to win this race in honor of their fallen teammate Eric Medlen who crashed during a post race testing accident following the 2007 installment of this historic event. Unfortunately, a variety of issues conspired against one of the most successful dynasties in sports.
Robert Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang team wanted to stamp their names on the list of Gatornationals winners but he quest was derailed when a dropped cylinder pushed his Mustang towards the centerline and as he was gathering control he was forced to lift, opening the door just enough for Del Worsham to get the win.
“It had a cylinder out by 100 feet. It is a little light on the front end which makes it hard to steer. Having the cylinder out pulled me over but it never spun so I just horsed it over and blew off the tires but I couldn’t just get back onto the throttle since I didn’t have the car back under control yet and then he went by me.”
Hight pointed out that losing qualifying sessions and the many changes to the chassis that all the teams have made have set the team back as far as gather much needed data.
“We are still testing. We are going to change some things. I wish we could test here tomorrow but we aren’t going to and I understand why,” said the 2005 Rookie of the Year. “Maybe in Houston we’ll get four qualifying runs. We’ll get her.”
Hight was able to hold onto his points lead and is hopeful for a rebound of sorts as he heads to Houston, the site of his first professional win.
“I like to race everywhere but the fans in Texas are great. I’ll be representing AAA of Texas there. It is like Dale Armstrong told me you will always remember the first win and he was right. I am ready to go back and do it again. We’ll be better prepared to win when we get to Houston.”
Inclement weather on Friday forced the cancellation of a full day of qualifying effectively cutting in half the opportunity for the teams to gather valuable data. Faced with only two opportunities to qualify for the sixteen spots in the elimination rounds the entire team pulled together and achieved the first goal of the weekend when John Force grabbed his highest qualifying position of the season with a solid No.2 effort during Saturday’s final qualifying session. Following the Castrol GTX High Mileage team were Auto Club’s Robert Hight, No. 7, Ashley Force, No. 8 and Mike Neff, No. 14.
* * * *
Race Winners At-A-Glance:
FUNNY CAR: Tony Pedregon, Brownsburg, Ind., Q Power ‘08 Chevy Impala, 4.921, 315.27 mph, def. Gary Densham, Bellflower, Calif., Racebricks ‘08 Chevy Impala, 4.924, 309.13 mph.
TOP FUEL: Tony Schumacher, Pittsboro, Ind., 4.603, 325.37 mph, def. Brandon Bernstein, Fairview, Tex., 4.665, 323.27 mph.
PRO STOCK: Jeg Coughlin, Delaware, Ohio, ‘08 Cobalt, 6.652, 208.07 mph, def. Jason Line, Mooresville, N.C., ‘08 GXP, 6.656, 209.10 mph.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Matt Guidera, Loomis, Calif., ’05 Buell, 6.949, 191.54 mph, def. Andrew Hines, Brownsburg, Ind., 07 V-Rod, 6.985, 189.55 mph.
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER: John Finke, Selkirk NY, 5.489, 254.71 mph, def. Ken Perry, Richmond Hill ON, 5.694, 185.05 mph.
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR: Frank Manzo, Morganville NJ, '06 Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.502, 264.03 mph, def. Marc White, Glendale Hts. IL, '08 Ford Mustang, 5.645, 264.03 mph.
* * * *
NHRA POWERade Points (unofficial standings after three of twenty-four POWERade National events):
1. Robert Hight, Auto Club 2008 Ford Mustang, 222; 2. Jack Beckman, 216; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 202; 4. Tony Pedregon, 182; 5. Gary Densham, 175; 6. Jim Head, 156; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 152; 8. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage 2008 Ford Mustang, 147; 9. Ashley Force, Castrol GTX 2008 Ford Mustang, 137; 10. Scott Kalitta, 118; 12. Mike Neff, Old Spice 2008 Ford Mustang, 100.
TOP FUEL – 1. Tony Schumacher, 305; 2. Larry Dixon, 253; 3. Brandon Bernstein, 183; 4. Rod Fuller, 180; 5. David Grubnic, 167; 5. Antron Brown, 167; 7. Hillary Will, 162; 8. Cory McClenathan, 159; 9. Morgan Lucas, 117; 10. Doug Herbert, 116.
PRO STOCK – 1. Jeg Coughlin, 287; 2. Jason Line, 241; 3. Greg Anderson, 229; 4. Allen Johnson, 186; 5. Warren Johnson, 179; 5. Mike Edwards, 179; 7. V Gaines, 175; 8. Kurt Johnson, 168; 9. Justin Humphreys, 137; 10. Johnny Gray, 133;
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE - 1. Matt Guidera, 118; 2. Andrew Hines, 96; 3. Matt Smith, 77; 4. Chip Ellis, 74; 5. Ed Krawiec, 55; 6. Angie McBride, 54; 7. Angelle Sampey, 53; 8. Chris Rivas, 52; 9. Karen Stoffer, 33; 10. Shawn Gann, 32; 10. Wesley Wells, 32; 10. Paul Gast, 32.
* * * *
ROBERT HIGHT, 38, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying position and performance: 7th at 4.863 seconds, 318.39 mph.
Race results: Lost to Del Worsham.
Notable: Maintained No, 1 position in Funny Car POWERade points standings…. second consecutive loss to Worsham (last time at 2007, Pomona2)…first time in 2008 season he has not advanced to the final.
Quotable: “I said it before this weekend started and I still believe it when we get it I believe we’ll dominate. I see what these other guys are running out here and we can run that dropping cylinders and backing it down. If we get it right I still believe we dominate.” – ROBERT HIGHT.
* * * *
Mar. 28-30 21st annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals, Houston
April 10-13, 9th annual SummitRacing.com Nationals, Las Vegas, Nev.
April 24-27 28th Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, Atlanta, Ga.