CHEVROLET RACING IN NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION
AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS
AUTO CLUB RACEWAY IN POMONA, CALIFORNIA
RACE RECAP AND DRIVER QUOTES
NOVEMBER 17, 2019
Chevrolet Drivers Clinch Funny Car, Pro Stock Titles
Robert Hight earns third Funny Car title, second in three years
Erica Enders records third Pro Stock championship
Jeg Coughlin Jr. wins Pro Stock race, place second in standings
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 17, 2019) – Robert Hight and Erica Enders took different paths to the National Hot Rod association (NHRA) Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, though both reached their desired destination.
Hight earned his second Funny Car world championship in the past three years and third overall, while Enders claimed her third Pro Stock title since 2014 in the Auto Club Finals.
Hight, driving the Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, capped race day at Auto Club Raceway with a runner-up finish. Hight, who previously won Funny Car championships in 2009 and ’17, and was runner-up in 2018, closed the season with a 50-18 elimination round record.
Since the 2015 season, the John Force Racing Funny Car and Top Fuel lineup with Chevrolet has produced 43 total wins – led by Hight’s 17. JFR has won an unprecedented 21 NHRA world championships.
Hight registered a career-high six wins, including at Charlotte in the Countdown, and three runner-up finishes as he sat atop the Funny Car standings after all but one event. In 352 career Funny Car events, Hight has more than 500 round wins and on July 28 at Sonoma Raceway joined teammate John Force and Ron Capps as the only Funny Car drivers with more than 50 career victories. That win broke a tie with Don Prudhomme for 13th on the all-time list in professional categories.
“We’ve been good all year long. Basically, all but one race we led the points, so that’s just a tribute to the guys (crew),” he said. “What’s amazing is not that you win more than two championships that puts you in a real elite group, and it’s hard to believe that Robert Hight’s name is with that group.”
Enders tied Shirley Muldowney (Top Fuel) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) with the most NHRA professional category titles by a female.
Enders recorded two victories and valuable bonus points with three No. 1 qualifier honors in the six-race Countdown in the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS. She posted three runner-up and a trio of semifinal finishes in the 12-race regular season.
“The first (championship) was epic in the fashion that we did it. The second one we knocked them out before Vegas was over. This one means a lot because of what we’ve been through as a team, what I’ve been through personally, what my family has been through,” said Enders, who also registered title wins in 2014 and ’15 in a Chevrolet. “This one is going to sit proud. I’m so proud of my Chevy Camaro and my entire team, every man that touches that car and every guy who works at the shop every single day.”
Enders teammate, five-time Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., won the race in the JEGS.com/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS. He finished second in the standings for the second consecutive year.
Brittany Force’s aspirations for a second Top Fuel championship in the past three years ended in the quarterfinals with a close loss to eventual champion Steve Torrence. The No. 8 qualifier in the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet dragster finished third in the standings after a consistent season in which she recorded two victories and two runner-up finishes in addition to eight No. 1 qualifier honors.
“It was an amazing season with (crew chiefs) David Grubnic, Mac Savage and the entire Advance Auto Parts team,” Force said. “To be here in the hunt for a championship today is all I could ask for. I have to give it up to every single one of my guys. We didn’t get it done but we’ll be back next year.”
Rookie of the year favorite Austin Prock, the No. 10 qualifier, fell in the first round. Prock, driver of the Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist Chevrolet dragster won his maiden race and advanced to five semifinals in the 24-race season. Sixteen-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, the No. 12 qualifier in the PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS, lost in the first round to Hight. Force placed fourth in the Funny Car standings and Prock was eighth.
Jeff Taylor of Sellersburg, Indiana, earned his 48th national event victory, driving his Chevrolet COPO Camaro to the Stock Eliminator win over Kyle Rizzolli in his ’69 Camaro.
An interview with Funny Car champion ROBERT HIGHT, JOHN FORCE RACING, AUTOMOBILE CLUB OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 8 qualifier; third career class title and second in past three years; was runner-up in 2018):
WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE BURNOUT?
“I have no idea; I did not shut the car off because that’s actually dangerous leaving a car out there. I wanted to do a big burnout for the fans and I was going to back up fast so I wouldn’t hold (Jack) Beckman up, and I’m backing up and it dies. Kind of a crazy deal.”
WHAT DOES YOUR THIRD CHAMPIONSHIP REPRESENT TO YOU?
“It’s unbelievable. I’ve always dreamed in the Countdown era of winning a championship from start to finish because I’ve had spurts in the past where you’re good in the beginning and you fail at the end or vice versa. We’ve been good all year long. Basically, all but one race we led the points, so that’s just a tribute to the guys (crew). What’s amazing is not that you win more than two championships that puts you in a real elite group, and it’s hard to believe that Robert Hight’s name is with that group.”
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RACE DAY.
“The most important run of my life was the semifinal against Matt Hagan. I’ve thought about this before, that when it comes down to one run to win a championship – how will you perform? Will you choke or will you get the job done? My heart was beating out of my chest when I was staging the car, but we got it done. I look at it as it would have been a real shame if we lost the championship after the season we’ve had. We had our work cut out for us today. We had to race the boss, John Force, who’s had the best car since the Western Swing and then Shawn Langdon, who’s a great leaver with a good car and then Matt. This has just been the most steady year I’ve ever had. It’s a real tribute to Jimmy Prock, Chris Cunningham and the whole Auto Club team. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to drive this Funny Car.”
IT PUT YOU IN AN ELITE GROUP OF WINNING THREE TIMES.
“When you can count on one hand the guys who have won more than two Funny Car world championships, and there are some pretty big names, when you add my name to that list it’s almost like it doesn’t belong.”
TELL US THE EMOTIONAL JOURNEY OF GOING FROM CREW MEMBER TO THREE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION.
“Back when I wanted to be a crew member, it wasn’t very easy to be a crew member. It was hard to get on a good team. To get on a team like Kenny Bernstein, John Force, that was my goal. Those are the elite teams and you’re going to learn something and go somewhere. But it took a while. Then, it was like the first day I got to drive, I thought I had made the big time. I’m working on John Force’s Funny Car, this is the coolest thing in the world because I really thought that would be my career path is a crew chief and learning about these things. I just love nitro cars; I love to be around them. Then John Force gave me the opportunity to drive and here I am today. It’s been like a blur.”
CAN YOU COMPARE THIS SEASON TO YOUR OTHER CHAMPIONSHIPS?
“We’ve lost championships because of the Countdown and then my first championship I won because of the Countdown. Barely got in at Indy and got on fire, won three races out of six, and went on to win the championship. That was a lot of fun that year because I was racing my teammate for it. In ’17, we got on a roll starting the Western Swing, setting records, and once the Western Swing started, we were on our way. With the competition level in Funny Car today, you’re not going to see the days of John Force winning 12 and 13 races. It’s not going to happen. To win six races from start to finish, lead the points start to finish with the competition level in Funny Car, I’m going to cherish this championship the most because we earned it. We did our job.”
An interview with Pro Stock champion ERICA ENDERS, ELITE MOTORSPORTS, MELLING PERFORMANCE/ELITE MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (third Pro Stock title – all with Chevrolet; tied for most titles by a female):
HOW DOES THIS CHAMPIONSHIP COMPARE TO THE OTHERS?
“The first (championship) was epic in the fashion that we did it. The second one we knocked them out before Vegas was over. This one means a lot because of what we’ve been through as a team, what I’ve been through personally, what my family has been through. This one is going to sit proud. I give God all the glory. I continue to struggle and He continues to pick me up. I’m so proud of my Chevy Camaro and my entire team, every man that touches that car and every guy who works at the shop every single day.”
WALK US THROUGH THE EVENTS THAT OCCURRED HERE TODAY.
“Today ended up being a great day with us locking up my third championship and my teammate Jeg Coughlin winning the race and solidifying the second position, so for everyone at Elite Motorsports to be able to take back the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in the world in Pro Stock is a huge thrill for us. We take a lot of pride in what we do. We spend a lot of time on the road away from our friends and family. It paid off this year. I’m just really proud. You mentioned the Greg Anderson thing. Friday, I found it a bit interesting but not surprised at all because they’ve done it for many years before. I’ve said before that I would rather race somebody like him in first round than going out and racing someone that I have covered by a tenth. Not because of how we race, but just as far as setting up for the rest of the day. We went out there, they gave us all they had and we gave them what we had. So, today ended in our favor. It was a great drag race and our Melling Performance car was able to take the win. And going against Chris McGaha in the second round, it’s two of my favorite guys to beat in the same day back to back. I was just thrilled for our entire organization.”
REFLECT ON WINNING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP NUMBER THREE.
“It’s pretty awesome to join the winningest female, Angelle (Sampey), and Shirley (Muldowney), who is one of my heroes and paved the way for all of the girls nowadays and a tough woman who has offered a lot of solid advice for me even through text messaging this morning. I’m really proud to put a 3X by our name. The first one was winner take all and was just amazing. And in 2015 we locked it up before we left Las Vegas, so coming to Pomona was no weight on our shoulders. This one means a lot because of the valleys that we’ve bene through, switching manufacturers, switching the rules to electronic fuel injection. It was a challenge for us and I am thrilled. ON a personal level, I’ve struggled mentally in the race car, I’ve struggled with my personal life. It’s an awesome feeling to be back on top and to know that all of those struggles and all of those hardships is the reason you don’t ever give up.”
TAKE US THROUGH THE EMOTIONS OF WINNING THREE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS.
“There’s a lot of emotion that plays into it, and I reflect back on our first championship in 2014. To give your whole life to something from the time I was 8 years old and all of the things my parents sacrificed for my sister and I to chase our dreams while sacrificing their own. It’s been a tough road. There have been a lot more valleys than there have been peaks. I feel that story is just so important. You persevere. There are so many people that stab you in the back and pull the rug from underneath you. That’s not about gender; it’s just how this world works. It’s very challenging, but I love what I do and I love the guys I get to do it with every week. I’m honored to be a three-time champion and represent a sport that I’m so passionate about.”
WAS THERE ANYTHING YOU SAID AS A KID LIKE IF THERE WAS ONE WISH WHAT WOULD IT BE?
“I always wanted to be a professional race car driver. As a kid growing up, watching our dad race Sportsman, (sister) Courtney and I were at the track with him. We had the red shop rags. Spending eight years in the junior dragsters and five years in the Lucas Oil series and now this being my 15th year in Pro Stock, it’s hard to believe I’m old enough to say that and talk about that. I am so proud. It’s been a challenge but a journey I’m so proud of. We’ve learned a lot of lessons and one of the biggest is winning and losing with grace. It’s not something we had to do today.”
CHEVROLET FROM THE COCKPIT
BRITTANY FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, ADVANCE AUTO PARTS CHEVROLET DRAGSTER (No. 8 qualifier; fell in quarterfinals): “It’s been an absolutely incredible season looking back from the start with this team. New crew chiefs with David Grubnic and Mac Savage, and the Advance Auto Parts team. We had a lot of change coming into this season to adjust to and get in the playing field, and we found it pretty quickly. Five races out in Houston, we got our first win together and you know, we fell off and struggled a little bit but then, when it mattered most, once we got locked in that Countdown, we really stepped up our game. We won in Vegas, went to the semis a few times and had some success out here this weekend. We came up short of the championship, but to have been here in the hunt for the Top Fuel title today is all I can ask for. I’ve got to give it up for every single one of my guys. They are the hardest workers. They’ve had my back throughout this thing; this entire season, especially during the end. I wouldn’t want to go into this fight with anybody else. We didn’t get it done, but we will be back next season.”
AUSTIN PROCK, JOHN FORCE RACING, MONTANA BRAND/ROCKY MOUNTAIN TWIST CHEVROLET DRAGSTER (No. 10 qualifier; fell in first round): “This wasn’t the day we wanted, you know, to end our season off but we had a great season. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished in the short amount of time we’ve been together so, hats off to all the guys for busting their butts all year long and giving me a shot to compete for wins and turn on win lights. I’m extremely proud of these guys. There’s nothing to hang our heads about after today. Its drag racing. You’re going to get beat sometimes and it’s all about how you rebound. We’re going to have a good, long off season to work on our race cars and come into Phoenix test with a fair shot. I think this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist car will be one to beat next year.”
JOHN FORCE, JOHN FORCE RACING, PEAK LIGHTING CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 12 qualifier; fell in first round): “Today didn’t go my way as a driver to try and win another championship but as a team owner, of all these teams, I’m really proud. Brittany finishing third in the points and Austin, we’re going to live with Austin’s program for months to come because its right there and that team will turn a corner and we’ll have two great Top Fuel cars. Robert winning the championship, that’s why we came. We can’t win them all. I can’t win them all but we win some. I’m really excited. Chevrolet and Auto Club, all our sponsors have to be really proud of Robert. He did a burnout that was world famous there at the end, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
JEG COUGHLIN JR., ELITE MOTORSPORTS, JEGS.COM/ELITE PERFORMANCE CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 1 qualifier; won second race of season, 63rd of Pro Stock career; finished second in points for second year in a row): “It feels great to get in the winner’s circle here. To end the season with a big win, obviously it it’s great for Team Elite to finish 1-2 in the points. I’ll always have a love affair with Pomona, and to get a win out here to close out the year feels fantastic. Rickie (Jones, crew chief) has been very aggressive, really since the start of the Countdown. He’s not afraid to make the moves to get us better and it’s been another great season with him. I’m proud of all the guys wearing yellow and black and the rest of our extended family at Elite Motorsports. What a great exclamation point to the season.”
JASON LINE, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 3 qualifier; fell in quarterfinals): “There have certainly been good moments this season – from Seattle on, my car was badass, aside from a couple of hiccups here and there. We won Brainerd, so I can cross that off my list. We’ve got a busy off-season coming up with a few projects we’re working on, so there is no shortage of things to do. I’m looking forward to a fresh start next year.”
BO BUTNER, JIM BUTNER AUTO GROUP, JIM BUTNER AUTO SALES CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 4 qualifier; fell in semifinals): “I’m not disappointed. Greg (Anderson) did an absolutely perfect job qualifying. He hit the tree and made a good run, so what more could you ask for. I had an awesome car every run. I can’t complain. But in the off season I need to figure out how to get out of the .030-zone (on the tree). I’ve got to do something. I don’t know what – maybe get three inches taken off my leg or something. I need to be in the teens, then we’ll have a very, very good chance.”
GREG ANDERSON, KB RACING, SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT CHEVROLET CAMARO SS (No. 15 qualifier; fell in first round to eventual champion Erica Enders): “It was a great drag race, no question about it. We just made a bad run. We didn’t compensate enough for the lane. Even if we’d just made a respectable run, we would have beat her. We gave it all we had, we set the table, and we did our jobs – we just missed a little bit on the car setup and it spun the tires real bad. I’m still proud of the team effort. We achieved a lot this weekend. We drew up a plan, carried it out, and just came up .004 short.”