Gatornationals success: Auto Club driver Robert Hight reaches season-best No. 2 qualifying spot
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 18) – Defending NHRA Gatornationals Funny Car winner Robert Hight is in a terrific spot to retain his race title and return to winner’s circle in the 48th edition of one of NHRA’s most prestigious races.
Hight set a mark of 3.844 seconds at 331.61 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, strong enough for the No. 2 spot in Sunday’s race. He also had passes of 3.885 and 3.868 seconds, and all three of those passes reached speeds in excess of 330 mph.
His qualifying sessions – which earned him five bonus points – are easily his best of this young NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, which bodes well for the three-time Gatornationals winner and 2009 Funny Car champion.
“It was a great start for all three of our Funny Car teams, especially after the changes we made over the past few weeks,” said Hight, also the 2012 and 2014 race winner. “I am back in familiar territory over here with Jimmy Prock. He and I have won this race before and actually we have won a lot of races. This is the best weekend that this Auto Club Chevy has had in a long time.”
Hight was referring to the reunification with Prock, who returned to the John Force Racing team this season and served as the crew chief for team owner John Force’s car for the first two races. But a switch last week put Prock, co-crew chief Chris Cunningham and their team with Hight, while crew chief Mike Neff and his team moved to Force’s machine.
The end result: two fast cars, with Hight trailing only Force, who claimed the 155th Funny Car No. 1 of his career with a pass of 3.832 seconds at 333.25 mph.
The No. 2 qualifying spot pits Hight against No. 15 qualifier Bob Tasca. Hight has a 14-6 career record against Tasca, winning five of the last six matchups.
“We are right up at the top and looking forward to race day more than I have in a long time,” Hight said. “I cannot wait for 11 am to get here tomorrow.”