HIGHT, FORCES READY TO MAKE MOVE AT NHRA NORTHWEST NATIONALS
KENT, WA (August 3, 2013) — Tomorrow’s elimination rounds of the 26th annual NHRA O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals will be a critical day for Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car. The four drivers that are battling for the last few spots in the Mello Yello point standings are all on the same side of the elimination ladder. Del Worsham, Tim Wilkerson, Hight and Bob Tasca III sit 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th separated by 24 points which is just four points over one round of racing. Hight could face Wilkerson and Worsham would race Tasca in the second round.
As the No. 2 qualifier Hight will be looking to move up solidly into the Top Ten but first he has to outrun rookie John Hale of Addison, Texas. Hight posted his best qualifying run in the first of the only two sessions, covering the 1000 foot racing surface in 4.056 seconds tying his track elapsed time record. Jack Beckman took the top qualifying spot and track record elapsed time a few minutes later when he crossed the finish line in 4.049 seconds at 303.64 mph. Beckman will race teammate Johnny Gray in the first round tomorrow.
In the second qualifying session Hight was on another strong run when his Ford Mustang Funny Car lost power just past half track. The 2009 Funny Car champion was disappointed he did not post another quick time but he knows he will have a good race car for Sunday especially with the possibility of changing weather conditions and a shortened qualifying effort. Yesterday’s qualifying sessions were rained out.
“Only getting two runs doesn’t really matter. I guess it would matter if you messed up the first run and it put you down to one run to get in. Everybody is in the same boat. It would have been nice to get some runs yesterday. Tomorrow it looks like it might be a whole new ballgame,” said Hight. “It is supposed to be sunny and we haven’t run in those conditions here. There is a new section of asphalt out there that is tricky even when it was cooler today. This is going to be challenging. Nobody has had a run at this track in the heat yet and I have the confidence in my people. We were on a good run that last run but this Auto Club Mustang just lost power. We caught a break it happened today and not tomorrow.”
While Hight was blazing a path to the No. 2 spot team leader and 15-time Funny car champion John Force was right behind him qualifying No. 5. The two drivers swapped crew chiefs and teams at the start of the Western Swing and Force is coming off a final round appearance last weekend in Sonoma, California. Force will race Canadian Todd Lesenko in the first round and he is looking forward to moving up in the points with some round wins.
“If you get four (qualifying) runs (it) gives you the chance to try different stuff. You have the same chance as everybody else. Everybody is equal. It is only how you approach it. If you want to be aggressive you could be on top but you could be out too. If you want to just get in and be ready for race day you can do that. I have no complaints. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) and I are doing good and we’ll be ready tomorrow,” said Force.
Courtney Force had a bit of bad luck in the first round of qualifying when a cable broke on her Traxxas Ford Mustang. Force went up in smoke right at the hit and clicked it off.
“On our first run in qualifying we had a problem with a cable breaking. We missed out on the run and it was unfortunate that something like that happened, especially after we got rained out on Friday and missed both of those shots to qualify. We only had one chance in Q4 to get our Traxxas Ford Mustang down there and into the show. There’s nothing like a little extra pressure to make it into the field,” said Force.
The 2012 O’Reilly Auto Parts Northwest Nationals winner posted a 4.085 elapsed time at 304.74 mph with no prior time on the board and went up to the No. 4 spot.
“I pulled up for the last session and I could see from my car what I needed to run to get in. I knew that I needed to be prepared in case I had to pedal it, but luckily, I have a great team and crew chief who are on top of their game. Ron Douglas and Dan Hood lead this team and they were able to send my Traxxas Ford straight down to the end of the track and even get lane choice secured for tomorrow,” said Force.
After some shuffling in the field Force and the Traxxas Ford were bumped down to the No. 8 spot.
“My guys work really hard. It’s a lot of pressure on them and me as a driver to get this car qualified with only one shot. Things happen and we missed our first run, but I’m happy that we made a run, a pretty good run with a 4.08, so we can be up there in the top half with the rest of my teammates. I’m very proud and I’m happy for my team and I’m excited for race day tomorrow,” said Force.
Last year, the now 25-year-old driver won the race from the No. 14 spot on race day and took home her first NHRA Funny Car Wally.
“This is one of my favorite race tracks here in Seattle, so I’m glad we were able to get in the show and I’m excited to get paired up tomorrow. I’ll be racing my good friend Alexis. We’ll both go out there and do the best we can and we’ll see what happens,” said Force.
Force is 4-1 to DeJoria in previous matchups.
After losing two qualifying sessions on Friday due to inclement weather at Pacific Raceways, it was go hard or go home for every single race team. This gave Castrol EDGE Top Fuel driver Brittany Force and her team the opportunity to really go after it. With a 3.846 second pass at 297.81 mph her time was good enough to land her in the No. 11 position after the first session. However, after having to shut it off early in the second session, Force got bumped down to the No. 13 position at the end of the day.
“We only got two qualifying passes because we got rained out on Friday, but we’re in the same boat as everybody,” Force said. “With only getting two runs, it makes it a little more difficult for us. After the first pass, it put us in the 11th position. We ran a 3.84 on the first run and that was lifting early. That being our first pass this weekend, I felt good about that. We had a second run that bumped us down to 13th. Both runs we didn’t quite make it down the track, but my Castrol EDGE dragster still ran pretty good. I’m hoping we’ll be able to get it all the way down tomorrow and step it up.”
In the opening round of eliminations, the Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award nominee will face fellow competitor Khalid alBalooshi out of Al-Anabi Racing.
“I’m excited to be running Khalid alBalooshi in the first round tomorrow,” Force said. “He’s an awesome driver. I talk to him all the time up in the staging lanes and around the track about the car, the runs and the track. He’s just a great driver and I’m excited to go up against him.”