FORCE STAYS NO. 2, HIGHT IMPROVES FOR CHARLOTTE ELIMS CONCORD, NC -- When the Funny Car action gets underway at zMax Dragway for the 3rd annual O'Reilly NHRA Nationals tomorrow the opening round match-ups will have top tier talent squaring off...
FORCE STAYS NO. 2, HIGHT IMPROVES FOR CHARLOTTE ELIMS
CONCORD, NC -- When the Funny Car action gets underway at zMax Dragway for the 3rd annual O'Reilly NHRA Nationals tomorrow the opening round match-ups will have top tier talent squaring off across the elimination ladder. One of the heavy-weight races will be the battle between Robert Hight and Don Schumacher Racing's Matt Hagan.
Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock stepped up their game in the final qualifying session moving from the bottom of the ladder to the No. 12 spot with a 4.154 second run. In their previous three qualifying attempts the Auto Club Mustang had just missed reaching the finish line at maximum power. In their last effort the team knew they needed to get in the show, not impress the scoreboard judges.
"We weren't in any position to try any harder. It was just a good run to go down the track. The first run today we crippled it too much and tonight if it didn't go we knew we could be bumped out. (No. 16 qualifier) John Smith ended up not running the last session. Had (Tim) Wilkerson gotten in John Smith would have had to make a run and he definitely could have run better than that 4.22 (the eventual bump spot)," said Hight.
"We had to go down the track. Now we have a hitter first round. We are a hitter too. Jimmy Prock has been doing this a long time. He knows how to throw the long ball and make it stick. We'll see what happens tomorrow and I am excited."
Hight and Hagan have met twice in 2010 and have a 1-1 record with Hagan taking the win in the final round of Chicago and Hight most recently defeating Hagan in the semi-finals before his Denver win. The first round race will be a repeat of the 2009 O'Reilly NHRA Nationals finals where Hight beat Hagan and then went on to win his first Full Throttle Funny Car championship.
Hight knows that these two teams meeting in the first round will be a race that could have title implications for either team.
"If we win first round tomorrow honestly we'll be on our way to winning this race. That is a big match up. It is a great car but the Auto Club Ford is a great car too. I believe we are where we need to be," said Hight.
Ashley Force Hood will once again meet Del Worsham in the first round. These two Funny Car competitors seem to wind up on opposite sides of the Christmas Tree on a regular basis. Two weeks ago Force Hood started her victorious day in Indianapolis with a first round win over Worsham. She holds a 12-5 career record over the veteran racing for Al-Anabi Racing but she is 1-2 versus Worsham in 2010.
"I haven't looked at the ladder other than to see that I have Del in the first round. We are just going to take it one round at a time. I am not going to care about what everyone else is doing. I am just going to be focusing on my team and of course my teammates," said Force Hood.
"(Crew chiefs) Ron (Douglas) and Guido (Dean Antonelli) were saying that something happened on two of our runs even though we ran pretty good on them they know what the problem was. They are going to fix that for tomorrow. I think our Castrol GTX Mustang will run like it did during our good run in the heat. We know exactly what it was doing then and if I can do my job we'll be in good shape. The lanes are even. It should be a good day."
Even though Force Hood should be riding a wave of confidence she knows that past performance is no guarantee of future success. For the four time NHRA national event winner looking beyond the first round is not an option. She also knows that while she had up and down qualifying sessions getting round wins comes on Sunday not what happened on Friday or Saturday.
"I can feed off my crew chiefs' confidence. It wasn't a perfect four qualifying runs but it seems this year the races where we have been perfect in qualifying we have not done well on race day. That doesn't always mean everything. It is good to get those good runs but I would rather save my good runs for race day. The crew chiefs are happy with how this Mustang is running," said the No. 12 qualifier.
"They learned what they needed to learn from all the runs. I got more practice so with that combination I feel pretty good for tomorrow. You really have to leave everything in the past. The moment you start having false confidence from what you did the week before is the moment that you miss having your focus on the here and now. We have won Indy twice we have been to the final here before but that is in the past. Tomorrow is a new day. We'll just do our best."
The team leader and motivational force behind the team, 14-time champion John Force, was ready to get behind the wheel of his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang on Saturday night. Force will face veteran Paul Lee who is racing for drag racing legend Jim Dunn.
"It is always exciting especially when my three Mustangs are running strong to see Ashley perform along with Robert and Jimmy. They were in a funk and then they came out of it because Jimmy Prock always does. We have our hands full tomorrow. I don't take Jim Dunn and Paul Lee lightly. Jim Dunn saves a silver bullet for this old man. We are going to have to hop it up and go after him. We can run in the cold and run in the heat. I am excited about it. We are just going to give them hell tomorrow," said the 130-time national event winner.