Charlotte: John Force Racing Saturday report

HIGHT GRABS 34TH CAREER NO. 1 AT 4-WIDE NATIONALS CONCORD, NC --- Robert Hight will lead John Force Racing into Sunday's historic elimination round at the Inaugural NHRA 4-Wide Nationals from the No. 1 qualifying spot for the 34th time in his ...

HIGHT GRABS 34TH CAREER NO. 1 AT 4-WIDE NATIONALS

CONCORD, NC --- Robert Hight will lead John Force Racing into Sunday's historic elimination round at the Inaugural NHRA 4-Wide Nationals from the No. 1 qualifying spot for the 34th time in his career. This will be the first time that Hight has had the top spot at Bruton Smith's zMax Dragway making it the 17th different track he has achieved this feat. He is still in position to set a national record based on his 4.024 second qualifying run. The conditions today were ideal for a run at the record but a delay in the first qualifying session pushed Hight's run back into the warmer part of Saturday.

"The first run today we were honestly trying to run like we did last night and try to set a national record. It was such a delay that it just didn't happen. We were too far into the day. If we could have run on time there might have been a chance. I am excited about tomorrow. Tonight we had a fairly decent run. It still hurt the engine but this whole deal about the four wide I don't even want to know who I am racing tomorrow," said Hight.

"I told my guys that is something I don't even want to think about. When you are staging you don't want to think about who is in what lane. All it is; is go up there and see the amber and step. I don't want to know who I am racing and be thinking, 'Well is this guy coming in or what?' Forget that. Conditions are supposed to be good tomorrow. It will be cool and that national record is still out there. Of course it is still out there for everybody else. There are a lot of good cars here. Ashley (Force Hood) did a great job running 4.06 that last session being low."

With four lanes to pick from Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock will have some discussions about where to start their race day. Hight has a favorite lane but he will defer to the brain trust.

"Probably that far right lane. We ran 4.02 last night in it. It is putting up some good numbers. (Jack) Beckman just ran good in the left (lane No. 1). Ashley ran good in the third lane (Lane No. 3). I don't think it matters. One thing about it is we do have lane choice so hopefully you don't get confused picking which lane you want," said Hight. "Jimmy Prock will pick. We also have (track specialist) Lanny Miglizzi with us now. We'll leave that up to him. He is sharp and he has been out here for the last four or five days working on getting to know this race track. He'll help Jimmy pick the correct lane."

The first qualifying session was delayed after a spectacular pair of explosions in first quartet of Funny Cars. In lane No. 3 Jeff Diehl's Rimz One Monte Carlo blew the body off at half track sending the carbon fiber shell soaring. Less than a second later at ¾ track Matt Hagan's DieHard Charger shattered into multiple pieces in a fiery explosion. Hagan battled for control of his crippled chassis maintaining control and coming to a stop past the finish line. Hagan and Diehl both exited their Funny Cars under their own power. Hagan took the brunt of abuse on his hands and a few scrapes on his face. He rallied to make a run in the final session.

"Like I said yesterday NHRA has done their homework. They have done an outstanding job down there. You would think with this new system and four cars there would be problems but they have done their homework. It is very organized. There is no confusion. From start to finish they have done a great job. They did the best they could with the Tree. My hat is off to them. You saw how they responded to the two cars blowing up. That gives me confidence because you never know with these fuel cars what is going to happen," said a confident Hight.

Ashley Force Hood made the best pass of the final qualifying session covering the 1000 ft. race course in 4.062 seconds at 314.62 mph. The run moved her up to the No. 4 qualifying position and gave her a nice boost of confidence going into eliminations tomorrow.

"We made a good run to end the day and I think tomorrow will be a big old mess," joked Force Hood.

"Truthfully I think it will be fine but I think there could be some things that go wrong and you hope people don't get too frustrated. It is one thing added on top of these very difficult cars to run. At least going into it we ran good. Tomorrow the conditions should be similar if it doesn't rain. We'll just go out there and do the best we can. The whole staging thing will be up a notch because now your reaction times are going to be pretty crucial. We are just going to stay focused. I just want to do my routine and hopefully everything will work out."

As far as a favorite lane for the 2007 Rookie of the Year and defending Mac Tools U.S. Nationals champion, she has a preference but nothing carved in stone.

"My favorite (lane) is still lane No. 4. It was the first run we made and my Castrol GTX Mustang ran really well. I do like being on a side. It is a little strange to be in the center. In the outer lane it seems the most similar to what we are used to racing. We made a good run in No. 4. I don't know if that is a better lane but my comfort level will be in whatever lane my crew chiefs pick," said Force Hood.

John Force ended the day as the No. 6 qualifier but the number that captured his interest today was five as in five more years with Ford as a major backer. Force and Ford executives announced the news today between rounds in the zMax Dragway media center. The agreement will keep John Force Racing under the Blue Oval umbrella through the 2014 season.

"This extension means a lot to all of us at John Force Racing," said Force. "We've had a great relationship with Ford since we switched over in 1997, winning lots of races and championships in that time. But, more importantly, we found a willing partner that wanted to work with us to help take the sport forward, in terms of engine and chassis development, and also in terms of safety for all competitors.

"This new 'One Ford' approach we are all taking will allow some of the great development work done by Ford and JFR to help more of the Ford teams going forward."

-source: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan