Hight Races To Semis At Northwest Nationals Clinches Countdown Spot
KENT, WA --- There was no Wally hoisted by JFR this weekend at the 24th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals but Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team joined teammate Mike Neff as Countdown contenders clinching their spot this weekend. Only four Funny Car drivers have assured they will have a shot at the 2011 Full Throttle Funny Car championship and with two races left John Force is in good position to join Neff, Hight, Jack Beckman and Cruz Pedregon.
“(Clinching) is huge. I remember two years ago wondering if I was even going to make it into the Countdown when we were in Seattle. That is a big positive. I believe we are turning around,” said Hight. “I have positive feelings coming out of Seattle.”
“It did mess up in the second round but we got the round win. This Auto Club Ford Mustang is going through the tough parts smoothly now. In the semis it went through the trouble area so we fixed our biggest problem of shaking. That was just killing us. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) has some work to do learning how to run us this way. We have two races and we are going testing next weekend at the Night Under Fire in Norwalk. We are going to make as many runs as we can. We’ll be ready to go to Brainerd. I already got one win at a track I had struggled at in Bristol so we’ll go to Brainerd and turn that one around too.”
After the first round when Hight recorded the quickest time of the session at the top end Hight was thrilled with the turnaround in his Auto Club Mustang.
“Jimmy Prock changed everything and then we had to change more once that tire let go. Great job. It is kind of like a new pair of shoes. I am not quite used to this Mustang yet but Jimmy Prock and the Auto Club team have her handled though,” said Hight.
In a surprise turn of events Full Throttle points leader and No. 5 qualifier Mike Neff dropped his first round race to Bob Tasca III. Neff’s Castrol GTX Ford Mustang launched and then at about 200 feet it spun the tires as Tasca pulled away.
“It put a cylinder out in the first round today. The engine came way down and it spun the tires. We were just a little bit off here. It was tricky early and then the track got quite a bit better. We just didn’t have a good first round,” said Neff, a seven-time finalist in 2011.
John Force raced to the second round behind strong runs in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. He is only one point behind Ron Capps who sits in 6th place in the Full Throttle Funny Car point standings.
“The main goal is to make the Countdown and it looks like I got a pretty good shot. I didn’t win the race but you look at how the cars are running we’ll be OK. We could leave here 1 and 2 depending on what Beckman does,” said Force. “Neff and Robert would be at the top and I am just one point out of sixth I think with Capps. I can still move up. I want to try and get into the middle of the pack and let Robert and Neff take one and two.
“At the end of the day we had some breakage and we’ll have to go back and evaluate the body and what happened on the race track. We don’t want that to happen again. NHRA is evaluating it and Good year is looking at it. We’ll come up with an answer and give the racers a better situation,” said Force in reference to Hight’s tire explosion on Friday.
“I couldn’t win the swing but I have won it before. We’ll get her on a roll and move up in the points. I had a good race car and the track was a little tricky. It was tricky for everyone. We’ll get a chance next week at the Night Under Fire to do some testing me and Robert in Norwalk. We’ll see what we can learn about these cars.”