HIGHT AND FORCE TOPS AT ENGLISHTOWN ENGLISHTOWN, NJ -- 2010 points leader Robert Hight and 14-time champion John Force struggled in the first qualifying session at the 41st annual UA NHRA SuperNationals but they more than made up for it in ...
HIGHT AND FORCE TOPS AT ENGLISHTOWN
ENGLISHTOWN, NJ -- 2010 points leader Robert Hight and 14-time champion John Force struggled in the first qualifying session at the 41st annual UA NHRA SuperNationals but they more than made up for it in the second session. The crowd favorites came up early in the session by virtue of their less than stellar first run but the pair laid down the quickest side by side passes of the 1,000 era with Hight's 4.025 just off the window of Force's 4.037 second pass. The crowd roared their approval as the chutes blossomed at the top end.
"No doubt that was a great run. Where was that 4.02 when I needed it against Hagan last weekend?," joked Hight. "Seriously, that was a great job by (crew chief) Jimmy Prock and my crew guys. I didn't get a chance to talk with Jimmy after the first session when we smoked the tires. When I saw that 4.02 on the scoreboard I thought for sure (Chicago winner and national ET record holder Matt) Hagan or Ashley (Force Hood) could get to that number. It was an unbelievable run for the position we were in being the second pair out."
"I saw (Jim) Head take out the cones in front of us and when my Auto Club Mustang launched it went straight for the Christmas Tree. That was one of the wildest runs I have ever made. Once it set the front end down it made a huge move to the left. I was steering that thing as hard as I could. It was all over the place. Usually when you are driving it that hard it won't hold the track. We had a good race track tonight. It was set up great for us," added Hight.
John Force Racing has a long history at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park going back the match racing era. For Hight some of his first memories were working on John Force's Funny Car as it campaigned for mid-week match race money.
"I remember coming here on Wednesday nights when I was on John's crew and we would match race for Vinnie Napp. They would pack them in here. It is always fun to race here."
Hight's qualifying performance lately has been something to behold. His Jimmy Prock tuned Auto Club Ford Mustang is on pace to grab its third No. 1 qualifier in a row and fifth of the season. Hight also owns two of the four quickest ETs of 2010.
"This will be our third No. 1 in a row if it sticks. I knew Jimmy was going to go after it but I thought he would try and run a 4.04 like he did in the semis in Chicago. I saw my 4.02 and I thought this could be the night for a run in the threes," said a relieved Hight in the press center.
"I probably scrubbed a hundredth off my run because it was so all over the place. I could use this time as a back up for a national record but the conditions will have to be perfect. It could happen if we get some cloud cover and it cools off tomorrow. That could happen. "
As Hight was racing to the top of the ladder sheet the 14-time champion John Force was right on his heels. Force's Austin Coil, Bernie Fedderly, and Mike Neff tuned Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang held its own with Hight and recorded the track record speed of 313.73 mph.
"I have been a part of a number of the quickest side by side races. I did it once with (Jack) Beckman. That was a great run. It meant a lot to me to do that here at Englishtown because this place is so special to me. I remember match racing here for (track owner) Vinnie Napp and he was so good to me and my team. He would save the sub sandwiches from the concession stands and bring them over at the end of the day to give to my team because we didn't have any food," said Force. "The fans here are so great too. They would bring us food and I used to race here on my birthday and they would bring me birthday cake. My wife would call me to say happy birthday and I would tell her they fans gave me cake."
Force has a history of stepping up for big races. So far in 2010 he has won the 50th annual NHRA Winternationals as well as the Inaugural Four-Wide NHRA race in Charlotte. As he celebrates his 25th year with major sponsor Castrol he knows that a win for the hometown sponsor would mean a lot.
"This place is also special because of Castrol. They have been with me for 25 years. (Daughter) Ashley (Force Hood) was just two years old when they became a major and they have been so good to me. This is an important race and I want to do well here. I want to prove I can still run with the young kids like Robert. That 4.03 and 4.02 was special," said the winningest driver in NHRA history.
Force Hood made the strongest run for the John Force Racing camp in the first qualifying session. Her time of 4.164 grabbed the 5th spot for the championship runner-up and gave her an end of session run time. Her Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas tuned Castrol GTX Mustang smoked the tires at about 100 feet after recording the quickest 60 ft. time of the session. The tandem was going for a top ET but the track could just not hold the power that they threw at it. Force Hood will enter Saturday's final day of qualifying in the No. 8 position with aspirations of moving up.
Professional qualifying began almost four hours late after a tragic accident during the Top Alcohol Funny Car qualifying session. Top Alcohol Funny Car racer Neal Parker, 58, from Millville, N.J., crashed at a high rate of speed in the shutdown area during qualifying and was pronounced dead.