CHARLOTTE, NC – Robert Hight and the Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS team will start the chase for their second Mello Yello championship racing Shane Westerfield, the 49th different Funny Car opponent for Hight, in the first round of the 8th annual Carolina Nationals. As the No. 5 qualifier Hight, a two-time Carolina Nationals winner, will have lane choice by virtue of his 4.004 second time on Friday night. Hight is followed by No. 6 qualifier John Force and No. 9 qualifier Courtney Force.

Hight grabbed the No. 5 spot on the strength of his Friday night run. More important than that run was the final run of the day which was the quickest of the session in Funny Car. Hight tripped the finish line timers with an elapsed time of 4.051 and picked up three qualifying bonus points.

“We were close to making it on the first run and (crew chief Mike) Neff made some changes and he wasn’t happy with how the clutch was wearing. We took it apart after we warmed it up before Q4 and we went up there and it responded,” said Hight at the end of the day. “I am proud of these guys. They know they are making changes and this Auto Club Chevrolet is responding. It is not going to be easy tomorrow. We are going to have more of the same conditions and it will probably be hotter. If you win this one you will have earned it.”

Hight has a 12-5 round win record at the NHRA Carolina Nationals which includes a semi-final finish last season and a win in 2013.

Hight and teammate John Force both ran 4.004 seconds on Friday night but Hight had a faster speed and therefor grabbed the No. 5 qualifying spot and the 16-time Funny Car champion and his teammate settled for No. 6. Force will face veteran driver John Hale in the opening session. The pair have raced three times this season with Force holding the advantage 2-1 and a two race win streak heading into Sunday.

In the first session today Force drove the Jeff Gordon Tribute Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to the third quickest run of the session, 4.13 seconds, picking up one qualifying bonus point.

There has been a lot of media attention the livery of Force’s Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car but for the 143-time winner tomorrow is about round wins not celebrating the career of Jeff Gordon starting tomorrow.

“It is an honor to race this Jeff Gordon Tribute Chevrolet Camaro. This is about one champion honoring another champion. Right now I want to keep proving I have the right stuff to keep winning,” said Force, who has one win at zMax Dragway. “He is going to be racing in the Chase tomorrow and I’ll be racing in the Countdown. I have a good hot rod and (crew chief) Jon Schaffer and this team are doing their job. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow. I am excited to get the Countdown started.”

John Force started his day early at the track and in the midst of his team unloading his Jeff Gordon Tribute Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car the 16-time champ gathered his fans for an impromptu photo op. As the car was coming out of the hauler fans immediately gathered around snapping photos and Force immediately asked them all gather around the car for a group photo for the JFR social media sites.

“I just saw all those people taking pictures of this Jeff Gordon Funny Car and I wanted them to be in the photo. I had my guys stop lowering the car and we all gathered around. My PR guy took a couple photos and it was really a cool deal. The fans have been joking around calling me ‘Jeff’ and I just laugh. I don’t know Jeff that well so this is just a thank you to him and his family from my team, the NHRA and all these fans,” said Force.

Courtney Force and the Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car team improved on their qualifying position today despite the heat that zMax Dragway has seen so far this weekend. Force entered the second day of qualifying in the No. 10 position and stepped up in the fourth and final session with a 4.062 ET at 307 mph to take over the No. 9 spot going into race day.

“Our Traxxas team came out and made an improvement on our fourth qualifying pass. We were trying to push the car hard to see if we would be able to improve. It was a little risky since the conditions weren’t as good as they were yesterday when we ran a 4.08, but we were able to make a solid pass down the race track in this Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro and run 4.06. That improvement it put us in the No. 9 spot,” Force said.

Force will line up beside Jack Beckman in the opening round tomorrow. This will be the twelfth time they have met in eliminations and the fifth time they have met this year. They have never raced at Charlotte. Force is 5-6 to Beckman, but she has lost the last four match ups.

“We’re looking forward to tomorrow. We have a tough matchup with Beckman, but we think we have a pretty good race car for eliminations. I think this Traxxas team is really excited. We’re hoping we can play the spoiler role starting tomorrow and we’re just looking forward to race day. We’re sporting the No. 24 on all the JFR cars in honor of Jeff Gordon and the great career he has had,” Force said.

Brittany Force will start her second Countdown from the No. 5 position in the Mello Yello points. The Monster Energy Top Fuel team qualified No. 12 and will face three-time world champion Larry Dixon in the first round. Both of these teams are in the top half of the point standings based on the strength of their season long consistency. Force’s Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster made its best runs today in the heat so the third year driver is optimistic heading into the first round.

“We definitely qualified in a tricky spot. We are right there in the middle so the guy that we are running is very close to us on performance. I am very confident in this Monster Energy Top Fuel team. We made some changes that we tested in Indy and I think that will give us the extra push. It will be tough to get past the first round but I think we can do that. It won’t be easy,” said Force, who is looking for her first round win at the Carolina Nationals.

Force, who has the most round wins (five) of any Top Fuel driver over the past two races, is heading into Sunday on the strength of a semi-final finish at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and a runner-up finished at the Lucas Oil Nationals.