AAA TEXAS BACKED ROBERT HIGHT No. 1 AT AAA TEXAS NHRA FALL NATIONALS
ENNIS, TX (Sept. 21, 2013) – With half of the qualifying sessions lost to a rainout on Friday the NHRA Funny Car and Top Fuel teams had to hunker down and bring their best to the track with only two shots at qualifying for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals. For Robert Hight and the AAA Texas Ford Mustang Funny Car team their best was good enough for the No. 1 spot in qualifying and a Texas Motorplex track record elapsed time of 4.052 seconds.
“How is that for showing off for the sponsor? Maybe Governor Perry brought us good luck. If that is the case I don’t want him to leave tomorrow. This Auto Club Ford is flying ad my guys have a really good handle on it. We have Worsham first round and that is a tough first round match-up. We have to get past qualifying and do our job tomorrow,” said Hight from the top end after his AAA Texas Ford Mustang took the No. 1 spot from veteran Cruz Pedregon.
Texas Governor Rick Perry was a guest of AAA Texas today at the Texas Motorplex. He spent the morning touring the John Force Racing pit area and spent quality time with all the JFR drivers. For Hight it was obvious the governor was really excited to be at an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
“It was great having Governor Perry here today. He was really into it. He was not just out here going through the motions. He filmed my warm up. He was right there in the middle of the fumes. He kept coming to the staging lanes and he was taking pictures. He was totally into this. It was really cool. Someone texted him that we went to No. 1 and I got a call from him congratulating me. I wish I could bring him back tomorrow,” said Hight in the Texas Motorplex media center.
Hight was the provisional No. 4 qualifier after the first session today. His elapsed time of 4.135 seconds was the quickest run in the right lane. It was quick enough to put Hight and his Mike Neff tuned AAA Texas Ford Mustang Funny Car at the very back of the second and final qualifying session tonight.
“Going up there (for the second run) I was thinking it might run around 4.09. Mike Neff is not one of these guys that goes up there and just throws up a Hail Mary. He does not do that. We went up there in the first round and we made the quickest run in the right lane. We thought the left lane was a little better,” said Hight. “It was only a few degrees cooler for the second run and you didn’t see Top Fuel stepping up. It did help us being at the back of the pack. I figured it would run 4.07 to 4.09 if it made it. It really ran through the middle. That 4.05 was pretty awesome.”
“Mike Neff does not go up there to try and get away with something. He sets the car up to run the best it can and it is showing. It is a lot of fun right now and it couldn’t have come at a better time than my sponsor’s race. Qualifying is over. It was shortened to begin with so you always feel fortunate to be able to go down the track twice when you only have two runs. Tomorrow is a new day and it is the Countdown.”
Hight will race veteran Del Worsham in the first round. Hight holds a 13-10 record against Worsham.
“It would be devastating to lose the first round tomorrow. (Points leader Matt) Hagan is still way out there on us. We have to make the most of this. Del is a tough opponent. He is one of the last guys that I would pick from the sixteen out there to race in the first round. We have to stay focused and make another real good run the first round to have a chance to go on.”
The other two JFR Funny Cars will square off in a father daughter first round match-up. Courtney Force made the third quickest run of the first session, a strong 4.115 second pass, but in the second session she slipped back to the No. 5 spot. She will face John Force and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang for the fourth time this season. The last time the pair met in the first round John Force defeated his daughter and went on to win the Ford Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals in Bristol, Tennessee on Father’s Day.
John Force will enter Sunday’s first round as the No. 12 qualifier with a 4.174 second elapsed time as his best effort.
Courtney Force the No. 5 qualifier picked up one bonus point to help move the team forward, but will match-up against her father, John Force, in the opening round on Sunday.
“It was unfortunate that we only got two qualifying passes this weekend because of the rain yesterday. It took away two sessions for Top Fuel and Funny Car and that’s never a good thing, but it was nice to come out today and see the sun at the Texas Motorplex. It ended up being a great day for racing,” said Force.
In the first qualifying session for the Funny Car class, Force made a clean pass beside her father and ran 4.115 at 309.13 mph in her Traxxas Ford Mustang. She was third-quickest of the round and gained one bonus point.
“Our first qualifying pass was beside my dad and it was really surreal. It was strange being in that left lane and having my dad next to me. You can’t help but have those flashbacks of when he crashed here in 2007,” said Force. “We went out there and made two safe passes. We both got down the race track. I ran a 4.11 and went to No. 3 and picked up a point so we were excited to have had that first solid pass down the track.”
The Traxxas Ford Mustang team was hoping for improvement going up to the starting line for their second run of the day, but Force’s hotrod had a cylinder out and posted a 4.156 ET at 300.00 mph.
“In the second session, we were obviously going after a better run that the 4.11 that we had. We were going for a 4.0, but our Traxxas Ford Mustang dropped a cylinder down there and couldn’t get it down as quick as we wanted to, but we still ended up in the No. 5 spot, which is the top half of the field. We only had two shots out there so I’m excited about where we ended up going into race day. I feel good,” said Force.
This will be the sixth time the father/daughter combo have raced each other in the 25-year-old’s short two season career. She has had a total of four wins over the veteran driver and has suffered only two losses beside him.
“It is unfortunate that I have to run my dad tomorrow, but I think it was bound to happen and we’re going to do the best we can. We have lane choice over him and I think we have a good shot at winning. Hopefully tomorrow we can go some rounds and move up in points,” said Force.
Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award nominee Brittany Force continued her strong qualifying efforts as she raced to the No. 10 qualifying position Saturday.
Force’s first time out was strong as she ran a 3.925 elapsed time at 298.80 mph, which put her No. 11 out of 20 cars. As the air temperature began to cool down, so did the track temperature. The second time out, she and the team improved with a 3.871 ET at 312.06 mph, ultimately landing her No. 10 on the ladder.
“We had two qualifying passes today after losing two runs,” Force said. “First run out today we got down the track and ended up running a 3.92 ET. Second run out we always try to improve and we did. The Castrol EDGE team worked their butts off in between the two runs. We got back up there and ended up improving on the run with a 3.87 pass, which bumped us up to No. 10. I’m happy about that. It’s difficult coming out to an event and only having two runs. I’m excited about it and we’re ready for Sunday.”
It’s never easy for a new team to come to a race track that they had never competed on before and dominate. Every qualifying pass is important and the 27-year-old Cal State-Fullerton graduate understands the difficulty of missing out on a chance to learn something new about a track.
“Obviously losing the two passes makes it tougher on the team because we’re only working off of two runs instead of four,” Force said. “We don’t have any info
rmation to build off of from last year because this is our first time out here in Dallas in a Top Fuel car, so we only have two runs to work with. Hoping that weather doesn’t change dramatically tomorrow, we’re hoping everything will stay pretty close to the same so we can try and keep the car as consistent as we can. That’s how the game works. Our team wasn’t the only one that got two runs, it was everybody.”
Heading into Sunday’s elimination rounds, Force will square off against veteran David Grubnic. They met in the first round earlier in the season at Phoenix, but unfortunately Force fell short of the win.
“He’s an awesome competitor. I’m excited to be going up against him. I haven’t run him in a while, so as long as we have some safe racing tomorrow and put on a good show for the fans, I’m hoping this Castrol EDGE team will go some rounds.”