HIGHT STAYS NO.1 AT HOT FALL NATIONALS DALLAS, TX --- Hot track conditions at the Texas Motorplex did little to change the provisional qualifying order for the 24th annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol...
HIGHT STAYS NO.1 AT HOT FALL NATIONALS
DALLAS, TX --- Hot track conditions at the Texas Motorplex did little to change the provisional qualifying order for the 24th annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec. Robert Hight's 4.10 second run from Friday night was never in jeopardy of being bested. In fact the closest anyone came to that time was teammate Ashley Force Hood in the first session of the day with a 4.212 second run in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.
Hight knew that his time would hold up but he also knew that getting solid runs on a hot track would be key for Sunday success. He hit the mark in the final session but it was not a bulls-eye for the former world class trap-shooter.
"We knew last night that that run, the 4.10 second pass, with the weather we were going to have today we would definitely stay number one. No one was going to run 4.10 or better," said Hight. "We only got down the track once today though. I would feel better going into race day if we would have gotten down the track one more time in the heat. We dropped a cylinder on that last run. If that had not have happened we would have run up there with the quick cars."
In the first round Hight will be racing custom painter and funny car racer Leif Helander of Sweden. Hight knows he will have to be on his toes and he can also relate to the excitement Helander must be feeling.
"You know he (Helander) has to be hungry. There are no easy ones. You know that guy is going out there trying to get his first round win at an NHRA national event. We are going to have to do our job tomorrow. There are a lot of first round match ups of Countdown cars. If we can do what we did in Charlotte a lot of those guys will be gone early and we can still continue to keep this thing rolling. It is not going to be easy," said Hight.
"Another one of my jobs at John Force Racing is selling parts and we sell a lot of parts to Sweden and other countries in Europe. I look online and follow what they do. I don't know anything about Leif but I am looking forward to meeting him tomorrow. I am a drag racing fan so I follow drag racing all over. I remember my first day when I first qualified for an NHRA national event so I am excited for him and I am glad he qualified. We still have to go out and do our job and try and beat him. He is going to try and whooping us I guarantee you that."
After Hight exited the pressroom Helander made a surprise visit to talk with the media. On the heels of Hight's positive comments the assembled media was interested in getting a feel for the Swede. He showed that like American funny car racers it is about passion and showmanship.
"I am going to kick his (rear)," Helander jokingly told the media.
"We are here to learn. We will take one step at a time. I hope we can do better than we did today. We have been here (to America) three times with our car. This is the first time with a fuel funny car. I have raced six years in Europe," added Helander.
With even warmer temperatures expected tomorrow Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock will have their hands full on the tricky Texas Motorplex all concrete track.
"It is supposed to be hotter tomorrow. Jimmy Prock is starting to race really smart. We have to go down the track tomorrow to win. Having to pedal it and all that is a big part of it but we have to be going down the track under power. Look at Ashley's car she made two good runs today. There are a lot of good cars out here and it will be tough to win out here," said Hight, the 2006 Fall Nationals winner.
The hot track conditions were also top of mind for newly installed Funny Car points leader Ashley Force Hood. Ashley picked up seven more points in qualifying and is now six points in front of Tony Pedregon.
"We have been running really well this weekend. This is not an easy track. Ron and Guido (co-crew chiefs Ron Douglas and Dean "Guido" Antonelli) make it look easy. The groove is really narrow. The conditions are pretty warm. The starting line can get a little greasy when it is hot like this. Those are all battles they have to fight. They have to get the car down the track but also get it down the track fast. If we can keep doing that and run how we have run in qualifying tomorrow we should be in really good shape. We got down the track all four runs," said the number four qualifier.
John Force will start race day from the number two qualifying position and will square off versus Grant Downing. This will be the 124th different driver Force has raced in his illustrious career. The winningest driver in NHRA history moved around Tim Wilkerson in the points standings and now sits in the 7th spot.
Finally, 2008 rookie of the year Mike Neff and the Ford Drive One Mustang crew will begin their quest for his first career NHRA victory as a driver against 2008 Funny Car world champion Cruz Pedregon. Neff has never defeated Pedregon in four career attempts.