HIGHT LEADS FIELD AFTER DAY ONE AT MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS (INDIANAPOLIS) --- With one day in the books the 54th annual Mac Tools U. S. Nationals is living up to the tradition as being the most pressure packed race of the season. Robert Hight...
HIGHT LEADS FIELD AFTER DAY ONE AT MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS
(INDIANAPOLIS) --- With one day in the books the 54th annual Mac Tools U. S. Nationals is living up to the tradition as being the most pressure packed race of the season.
Robert Hight and his Automobile Club of Southern Ford Mustang team put themselves in good position to make a run at their third consecutive final round blasting out of the gates with a class leading 4.114 second run. Landing in the provisional number one position surprised the California driver.
"What is funny was when I did my top end interview I didn't know I was number one. When you shut off at 1,000 feet now you can see the scoreboard and I thought I ran a 4.14 but it was 4.114. I just saw the last two digits," said Hight. "I was still happy with that. (Jack) Beckman had run a 4.13 in front of us and then when (Tim) Wilkerson ran a 4.13 behind us I thought we are in good shape in the number three spot. My guys said we held onto number one and I looked at the time slip and I was like wow we ran 4.11. It was kind of a surprise."
The former crewman for team owner John Force is already getting into the racing groove and handling the pressure of being on the biggest drag racing stage.
"You still get the same kind of nerves that I had the year before when I won the race. This is Indy. Even (teammate and rookie) Mike Neff said he felt the pressure. You don't really understand it until you are sitting in the car and driving it. This is big. When you are actually here everybody is different," said Hight. "The announcers sound more excited. Everybody is excited. This year is cool. I am glad they moved the countdown away from the Indy race. We can get through this race. There is enough going on at Indy anyway."
As Neff pulled up for his first competitive lap as a driver at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals the front-runner for the rookie of the year award felt the power of Indy.
"This definitely wasn't like any other race. It felt different. I think I was a little bit nervous. I was sitting there thinking 'This is Indy. This is my first run at Indy.' This is pretty cool. When you talk about Indy racing here, everything is different. This is the most prestigious race. This is the one everyone wants to win," said the three-time finalist in 2008. "There is the most pressure here. You get the most competitors here. You get the most money to win. It is just one thing that they talk about. You race your whole career and if you win here this weekend you will always be mentioned at the 2008 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner. That is something that stays with you forever. Just like winning a championship."
Neff's run was quick enough to land him in the 12th position heading into Saturday's sessions. He knows that continuing to make runs will be critical to his race day success.
"Since we haven't been able to make any test runs the more runs you get the better off you are. We were on a pretty good run early and we just had a little clutch malfunction," said Neff. "I had to shut it off. We feel good about this weekend. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
While Neff is halfway through his rookie season teammate Ashley Force is celebrating her first season with a specialty paint scheme and a positive team attitude. Her first session run of 4.357 seconds was the thirteenth quickest run of the day the former high school cheerleader was excited about the support she was getting from her young team.
"It is really neat to see it (new car) and get the fan's reaction. It is neat to look back at my personal history and see that we have done a lot since I started racing. To look back at my time in Super Comp when I didn't know anything about anything then getting into A Fuel and really learning about driving to the move to Funny Car. For me personally to look back at that is neat," said Force.
"The more laps we can get in both the lanes the more prepared we will all be for the US Smokeless Showdown. The days are just going by so quickly," added Force. "It feels like we are almost already to race day and we haven't hardly raced at all. That is just the difference of this race. Hopefully we will have success on all three remaining days."
Finally, team leader John Force made the 14th quickest run of the day in his 40th anniversary Castrol GTX Mustang. At the top end his Ford nosed over after suffering a malfunction that dropped the 14-time Funny Car champion back in the pack.
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JOHN FORCE, 59, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 14th quickest run at 4.416 seconds, 275.28 mph
ASHLEY FORCE, 25, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 13th quickest run at 4.357 seconds, 218.51 mph
Quotes: "I can't believe a whole year has gone by but we are happy it went A to B. We at least have something to start with. This is a long weekend. It feels like our week is half over since so much craziness has already happened. To get to the track and race is nice."
ROBERT HIGHT, 39, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 1st at 4.114 seconds, 297.48 mph
Quotes: "I'm excited to be at Indy and the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. It is good to get that first run out of the way and have it be a solid run. This is the biggest race of the year. I got out here early this morning and I'm looking forward to a great weekend."
MIKE NEFF, 41, Old Spice Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 12th at 4.349 seconds, 225.56 mph
Quotes: "This definitely wasn't like any other race. It felt different. I think I was a little bit nervous. I was sitting there thinking this is Indy. This is my first run at Indy. This is pretty cool. When you talk about Indy racing here, everything is different. This is the most prestigious race. This is the one everyone wants to win."