ROBERT HIGHT TOPS ON FRIDAY AT MAC TOOLS US NATS -Mike Neff No. 2, Ashley Force Hood No. 4 and John Force No. 7- INDIANAPOLIS, IN --- Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team need a lot of things to go their way at the 55th annual Mac ...
ROBERT HIGHT TOPS ON FRIDAY AT MAC TOOLS US NATS
-Mike Neff No. 2, Ashley Force Hood No. 4 and John Force No. 7-
INDIANAPOLIS, IN --- Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team need a lot of things to go their way at the 55th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. They are defending the title they won last year as well as trying to grab the last NHRA play-off spot. They took a huge step towards success by making the quickest run of the first funny car qualifying session at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis on Friday night. They covered the 1000 ft. race track in 4.107 seconds at a top speed of 305.36 mph.
"(Tonight was) definitely a good start. I don't know if it will hold up for the whole weekend. With the season we have had that is a good feeling. We failed to qualify at two races. It is just a good feeling. I was joking I hardly recognize anybody in the pressroom anymore. It has been a long time since I have been able to come up to the pressroom and talk," said Hight to the assembled media in O'Reilly Raceway Park pressroom.
Hight is in the midst of an epic points battle with Cruz Pedregon and rookie Matt Hagan for the 10th and final qualifying spot for the Countdown to 1 play-offs. The battle is so fierce that team owner John Force moved Hight to his Castrol GTX High Mileage team with Hall of Fame crew chief tandem Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly for the last two races of the regular season. A surprise medical situation that required the hospitalization of Coil reunited Hight with crew chief Jimmy Prock earlier than planned.
"(We've had) lots of changes for our teams lately. With Austin Coil going in the hospital John figured my chances of making the Countdown were the best by putting me back with Jimmy Prock. I had a great time driving for Austin and Bernie in Reading. We went a couple of rounds but this car that I am driving with Jimmy is like my couch. It just feels right. It is home. When I got in there tonight and they strapped me in it just felt like my car."
"There are lots of little differences between the two Mustangs. I didn't feel quite as comfortable in John's car. We did fine with it but this is home. We wish Austin Coil a speedy recovery and we want him back out here with us because we miss him and we need him out there. This is a great start for a big weekend for the Auto Club team. We have dug ourselves a deep hole and what is amazing is we are still within striking distance. We are two rounds out. It will be important to out-qualify Cruz (Pedregon) and (Matt) Hagan."
Hight knew coming out of Reading that his performance situation was moving in the right direction but he still had some personal doubts which he laid to rest tonight.
"Your confidence goes up and down so quickly in this sport. When I saw John in my car last week and he was going rounds and going down the track five runs in a row you start thinking 'Whoa, maybe it is me, the driver.' I have been saying all year long we are not that screwed up. We are not that lost. We are close to breaking through," said Hight.
"It does mess with your confidence. This was huge tonight going down the track being low ET in Jimmy's car. It was a perfectly straight run. All of our Ford Mustangs did great because we are all in the top half. That is a great start."
Right behind Hight is teammate Mike Neff who laid down a solid 4.113 second pass in his John Medlen tuned Ford Drive One Mustang. Neff, a finalist in Reading, is hungry for his first win but also eager to see all his teammates succeed.
"That was a good start for us. We were trying to run a little quicker than that but as it turned out that was a good run. We are pleased. We wanted to go down the track. We didn't want to get too carried away on the first run of five. You want to start with something you can work with. At the end of the day you have Robert No. 1, we're No. 2, Ashley is No. 4 and Force is No. 7. That is a good start."
Neff also has his eye on the possibility of improved conditions for tomorrow night's evening session and he feels that his team is ready to take advantage of any opportunity.
"Tomorrow night the conditions will be every bit as good as tonight and probably better. We'll be running a little later and the track should be cooler. Tomorrow you should be able to swing for the fence."
Finally, team owner John Force summed up the day's events by looking at both the positive team performances as well as the sadness of being at the biggest race of the season without one of his most important crew people and friend Austin Coil.
"I like all my race cars. It is exciting to see Jimmy Prock run low ET tonight. Tom McKernan, the president of Auto Club of Southern California, was here with his daughter Megan. We are having a good day," said Force.
"It is sad without Austin (Coil). I just talked to him at the hospital. He still wants a Sanyo TV for his room. He was on the phone to the brain trust. Everyone is working on this car. If you looked on the starting line you saw everyone up there Jimmy Prock, Dean Antonelli, Ron Douglas and Dan Hood. I am trying to move him (Hood) up and teach him more of the business. He fired the car today and did everything right. He got me back in my tracks. We are just trying to do stuff the way Coil would do them. Bernie (Fedderly) is my lead guy this weekend. He is the guy that is there for Coil and me."