Hight Hot On Mountain At Mile High Nationals
Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang picked up on Friday night at the 32nd annual NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals right where they left off in 2010. Last year’s event winner recorded the quickest qualifying time of the first session and was second quickest of the night session in front of a packed Bandimere Speedway crowd. Hight’s run of 4.172 seconds was second only to Cruz Pedregon’s track record 4.095 second pass. He earned five qualifying bonus points for his efforts and moved closer to No. 2 Jack Beckman in the Full Throttle point standings.
“Getting five bonus points is definitely a good way to start the race. That is what you want to do. When you look at what Cruz ran we are not in the same ballpark unfortunately,” said the four-time 2011 event winner. “He ran well here last year too. What really hurts for us is we used an oil down penalty on that last run. That was our first oil down of the year. We had our freebie plus two more we earned and we were real close to earning a third one. That killed it. You hate to waste an oil down anywhere.”
Teams are given one free pass on oil downs and can earn additional oil down credits with every 25 oil free passes they make. Hight had made 68 passes without problems so far this season so his Auto Club Ford Mustang was only seven passes away from earning another free pass before the Q2 mishap.
“It is tricky the No. 5 piston was cold on the first run and Jimmy was afraid it would drop so he leaned it down. Tonight it burned it early and when I lifted it pitched that rod out. It is touchy, touchy up here. You are spinning the blower and everything so fast if everything isn’t perfect you have trouble. I’ll take the No. 2 spot.”
At the end of the night Hight joked about how the altitude and thin air at the mile high Bandimere Speedway was ironically making his crew chief Jimmy Prock think more clearly. Prock has dominated for years in Denver in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.
“I was joking earlier that after the first run, a 4.227 second pass, and we had a pretty good lead on everyone. They have those hyperbaric chambers for athletes to be in this perfect air,” said Hight. “Jimmy always seems to do good up here thinking. He makes his best decisions in the thin air so maybe we need to make him a chamber that deprives him of oxygen for everywhere else.”
Hight was followed closely by teammate Mike Neff in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang who recorded the second quickest run of the first session and wound up No. 4 at the end of the day. For the crew chief and driver it was a successful day even though he did not grab the top spot from Cruz Pedregon.
“It is important to start here making good runs on Friday. We were lucky we made a decent run the very first run and then the next run tonight was another critical run. These are the best conditions you are going to see,” said Neff. “This is pretty much setting the qualifying order. It is risk versus reward. How gutsy do you want to play it? How quick do you want to run and take that chance of blowing it. Then you are really at a deficit the rest of the weekend.”
“Personally I would prefer to concentrate on what is going to make me ready for Sunday. I am not worried about qualifying No. 1. Obviously, that 4.09 that Cruz ran was a heck of a run. There was no way we were going to do that, not even close. I saw him run that and you would be foolish to try and copy it. We were going to stick to our plan. I thought we would run better than we did. I thought we would run 4.15 or 4.16. It was a little slower early than I wanted it to be.”
“We are in the top four so I’ll take that going into Saturday. We want to make a couple more good runs tomorrow and get ready for Sunday. What counts is Sunday not Friday night.”
The winningest driver in NHRA history, John Force, will go into Saturday in the No 5 qualifying position and is only a few thousandths of a second behind Neff. Last Year Force raced to the final round from the No. 2 spot. His Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang made two solid runs and his crew chief tandem of Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas is pleased with the performance on Friday.
By: john force racing