AUTO CLUB'S ROBERT HIGHT LEADS JFR FRIDAY AT LAS VEGAS
LAS VEGAS --- Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang grabbed four valuable qualifying bonus points as they raced to the provisional No. 3 qualifying position at the 9th annual NHRA Las Vegas Nationals today.
Hight made the quickest run of the first session right out of the trailer and then followed that run up with the third quickest run of the second session a solid 4.06 second pass. He is right behind the pair of Don Schumacher owned Funny Cars, rookie Matt Hagan (4.030) and veteran Ron Capps (4.041). Those two runs surprised Hight but he was looked at the big picture at the end of the day.
"Honestly I didn't think anyone would run that quick. I thought you would have to run 4.05 to be low qualifier. Wrong. Whatever those guys are doing they have it figured out. They are swinging for the fences and we are inching up on it. It is not like we are going out there smoking the tires. We are going down the track. We can tune from what we are doing. I would like to have one more shot at it tomorrow night. With 27 dragsters and over 20 funny cars we will be at the end of the pack. We should have a good shot at another night session like this. We are going to make the best of it," said Hight.
The additional four points were four more than second place Ashley Force Hood earned, three more than third place Tony Pedregon earned and two more than fourth place Ron Capps earned.
"We earned four points today and there is nothing wrong with that. My guys have all done a great job. We are going to tune from this. What I am really looking forward to is we are going to race on a track that is 105 degrees on Sunday it looks like from the forecast. That changes things. I think my Auto Club Ford Mustang has a little bit of an edge in those conditions," added Hight.
Hight's closest competitor for the championship, teammate Ashley Force Hood, missed the mark in the second session when her Castrol GTX Mustang did not improve on her first session's 4.16 second run.
"In the first round it ran pretty well but on the second run (my Mustang) dropped a cylinder at the hit so that whole run was off. The good thing is here in Las Vegas the conditions tomorrow should be good and we ran a 4.16 in the first session today," said Force Hood. "Tomorrow we should have a chance to duplicate that and get right back in the show. We know how the conditions will be and we can still get some points as long as we are one of the quickest cars of each session. We will just see what we can do."
2008 Rookie of the Year Mike Neff is driving and tuning the Ford Drive One Mustang for the final three races of the season. The double duty has the second year driver burying his head in the computer monitor when he is not spending time with the fans. To add another challenge to the equation Neff is also running one of the first John Force Racing built chassis.
"This track is in real good shape and we expect to have good conditions tomorrow. We get two more shots and we'll try and pick it up a little bit. It is not running as quick as we are trying to run. We are still trying to work out a couple of bugs with this new chassis," said the 2005 Funny Car champion crew chief.
"Tomorrow we should be able to make some progress. The chassis has been great it is just all the different components that are in there. We are still trying to get some of the timing things right. The numbers are a little different. We are making some adjustments. To go down the track twice is really good because we can look at everything. We need to keep it going down the track so we can keep trying to improve."
Team leader John Force made two passes down The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but the times were not up to his championship standards. For a driver who is used to being at the top of the standings his recent swoon has him looking for answers. The good news is Force's team is still setting the pace for the class.
"I am going down the race track but I am not competitive. It is not where it needs to be. I am in the top twelve. I would feel better if Ashley was ahead of me. She will be tomorrow. We are doing the best we can," said the winningest driver in NHRA history. "(Crew chiefs) Austin Coil, Bernie (Fedderly) and John Medlen are working hard and we'll see improvement. Robert and the Auto Club Mustang came out swinging. We have three of our Mustangs in the top twelve."
The second session of Top Alcohol Dragster was postponed until tomorrow after Top Alcohol Funny Car driver Jay Payne crashed and an extensive clean-up took place. In the first session Brittany Force powered her BrandSource A Fuel Dragster to the No. 2 qualifying position with a 5.282 second, 262.64 mph run. Courtney Force smoked the tires in her Sanyo Supercharged HD A Fuel Dragster and will be vying to make the top sixteen tomorrow starting at 1:30 p.m.