HIGHT, AUTO CLUB LEAD JFR ON FRIDAY AT BIR
BRAINERD, MN --- Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team opened up the second qualifying session at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals with a strong run of 4.152 seconds and that time held up as the third quickest of the session earning Hight an additional bonus qualifying point. Hight will go into Saturday as the provisional No. 4 qualifier. Last year’s Full Throttle championship runner-up Matt Hagan was quickest of the day, 4.101 seconds, in his Freightliner Dodge Funny Car.
For Hight the run to the top portion of the qualifying order was just what the championship contender was looking for after smoking the tires in the opening session.
“With messing up the first run we really didn’t have a choice. We had to go down the track. I’ll be honest when I looked at the scoreboard and saw a 4.15 I thought that might stay in the top half but it is trickier out there than we think,” said Hight. “Jimmy (Prock) did what we had to do. We’ll learn from it and we’ll have similar conditions tomorrow when we go up there. We are still not where we need to be but we are working on it. The three runs we got in Norwalk helped us and we are getting there. I believe we can move up tomorrow.”
As the provisional No. 4 qualifier Hight will have the luxury of being one of the last pairs in the opening session tomorrow. He and crew chief Jimmy Prock will be able to watch their competition and more importantly they will be able to watch the track conditions.
“It is no fun as a driver to be the first Funny Car out there. There was a single in front of us and it is just all black on the track and you can’t see a groove after the NHRA drags the track. You don’t want to be the first car down a lane it is not any fun. It does make you be on your toes more when you are driving in those conditions.”
The last pair of Funny Cars of the day included 2010 Funny Car champion John Force and perennial championship contender Ron Capps. Capps had made the quickest run of the first session and the crowd rose to their feet during the burnouts expecting to see some fireworks on the heels of Hagan’s monster run. Unfortunately they were disappointed as Capps’ Dodge was shut off after the burnout and Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang smoked the tires at half track. He crossed the finish line on his single run with a time of 4.890 seconds at 161.44 mph.
“Every run counts. On the initial run they shut us off on the starting line but we didn’t think it would affect the run because they fixed the tree quickly and we started right back up. The tree had nothing to do with it. We just couldn’t get down it,” said Force an 11-time winner at the Lucas Oil Nationals. “We came back again and had the same problem. The weather is supposed to be good tomorrow so we will go out and fix it. We’ll put her in.”
Funny Car points leader Mike Neff and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang struggled today smoking the tires on both runs. The seven-time 2011 finalist will not carry a qualifying time into Saturday’s final day of qualifying. The five-time winner is not overly concerned about getting a handle on his Mustang.
“This track is a little bit tricky. It is not as good as it should be when you look at the track temp. It is a little tricky out there. We tried a different approach and changed some things around for today,” said Neff at the end of the day. “It looked OK but we didn’t get the results we wanted. For every action you take there is a reaction so now we are causing problems in another area. I am going to put it back like we normally run it tomorrow and try and go up and down the track. We’ll get some info that will help us go some rounds on Sunday.”