HIGHT RUNNER-UP IN CHICAGO; TAKES POINTS LEAD JOLIET, IL --- Robert Hight raced to his fourth consecutive final round of 2010 but came up just a few thousandths of a second short of getting four wins in a row. It took a national record setting...
HIGHT RUNNER-UP IN CHICAGO; TAKES POINTS LEAD
JOLIET, IL --- Robert Hight raced to his fourth consecutive final round of 2010 but came up just a few thousandths of a second short of getting four wins in a row. It took a national record setting performance from second year driver Matt Hagan to end Hight's 2010 winning streak - at three in a row - at the 13th annual UA Rt. 66 NHRA Nationals. Hight was dominant early running 4.112 and 4.111 in the first two rounds of competition today.
Unfortunately Hight's string of healthy runs for his engine ended in the second round when his blower seized up. The team switched blowers but a nearly five hour rain delay completely reset the weather conditions for the semi-finals and finals.
"We got snake bit in the second round when our blower seized up. We haven't hurt any parts what so ever the last four races. I felt that something was wrong at the top end after that second round run. When I lifted it was beating and banging. It felt like there was a belt catching. We had to change blowers to one that we were running in Houston and we had to put a new case on it," said Hight. "We put it in for the semis and it ran 4.04 but it hurt it again. We could have hauled ass that run. We tried fixing it and we hurt it again in the final. The engine was wounded."
Hight still rose to the occasion in the final but Hagan and his Tommy Delago and John Medlen tuned DieHard Charger simply had a little more. Hagan established a new national ET record 4.022 seconds when he ran that number in the semi-finals versus Ashley Force Hood. He backed up the record with a winning 4.035 second run. Hight's semi-final and final runs of 4.044 and 4.069 seconds would have won every race in the first two rounds of racing on Sunday.
"(In the final) we were together with Hagan until the 330 ft mark and then he put about three hundredths on me to half track. It was like I was sitting still and I almost lifted. He was just marching away from me," said an impressed Hight.
Hight opened his day with a win over Justin Schriefer. Hight made the quickest run of the session, 4.112 seconds, and then in the second round he posted a 4.111 second lap against fellow Ford racer Tim Wilkerson for his 14th consecutive round win. His fifteenth consecutive round win over Jack Beckman put him in elite company.
Only four drivers including Don Prudhomme (30), Cruz Pedregon (22), John Force (21) and Kenny Bernstein (18) have longer consecutive round win streaks than Hight's 15 in a row. Force also has a streak of 16 and on five different occasions he hit the 15 rounds in a row number. Hight was disappointed to have the streak end but he knew the clock was ticking as the streak grew. Long-time NHRA observers have recognized that this era of Funny Car racing may be the most competitive top to bottom.
The round win over Beckman also advanced him to his 30th career final in 126 starts.
There was a chance for the third all John Force Racing final of the season when Ashley Force Hood pulled up beside Matt Hagan in the semis. Unfortunately while Force Hood stepped up mightily with a 4.044 second run Hagan was impressive running the national record time of 4.022 seconds.
"This has been one of the strangest days with the weather, the changes in conditions, and the amazing runs later in the day. Of all my rounds I probably felt the most confident heading into the semis. It was our best run and we lost. It was very up and down emotionally. These guys worked so hard and to maintain high energy is tough. They did a great job. It just wasn't our day," said Force Hood.
"You have to think about the points. That is our big goal. We all want strong running cars and we all want to win a lot of rounds later this year. We want to win every race you go to but you really want to be winning in the Countdown. We just ran 4.04 and so did Robert. We have very strong running cars right now. I think you try and keep that consistency. This might not have been our weekend or Robert's or my dad's weekend but that doesn't mean this can't be our championship."
Force Hood has a tough first round match-up versus 14-time Funny Car champion and father John Force. Force Hood took the win when Force hazed the tires running a 4.451 second run to her 4.114 second pass. At the top end Force Hood was asked what it was like to race against the legend.
"He has beaten me a lot this year on the track. You never want to go against your teammate early in the day on a Sunday. The ladder is the ladder. One of us had to go out but at least one of us gets to advance. We'll see how Robert can do and hopefully we can go some rounds today. My dad doesn't mind us beating him as long as we go after that win," said Force Hood.
With inclement weather rolling in after the second round Robert Hight talked about how critical the communication between crew chief Jimmy Prock and track specialist Lanny Miglizzi.
"Jimmy Prock and Lanny keep talking about a degree here and a degree there on that track. (Auto Club car chief) Eric Lane was running underneath the tower to see if there were some clouds back there. It is crazy. I am sitting in the car thinking does a degree or two make that much difference. Obviously these guys are making the right calls. This Ford Mustang keeps rolling through em."
With three John Force Racing Mustangs atop the point standings again team leader John Force was looking forward to getting back to the track next weekend in front of major sponsor Castrol.
"I am excited to take three cars there 1-2-3 in the points. Hagan is tied with Ashley for third. To bring the Mustangs to our home base in Englishtown for our 25th year is pretty exciting. If you look at the numbers after the final Robert and Ashley running 4.04 and their hot rod just got us. Our cars are performing mine is a little off pace. We applauded Robert and his whole team when they came in. We congratulate the other team for winning. John Medlen and Delgado their group over there at Schumacher Racing. At the end of the Matt Hagan did his job and they had a good race car but so did we. We'll go to Englishtown and we'll be ready," said Force, a three time winner in 2010.
"(Englishtown) is big because it is home for our major sponsor, Castrol, for me and Ashley. I get up for all the sponsors Ford, Castrol, Mac Tools, Auto Club and BrandSource. I'll get up for that race without a doubt. It is time to flex your muscles in the hometown. Robert went around me in the points. I have to fight to run for this championship. To win in front of Castrol would mean a lot because they deserve the win. I am the one or Ashley that has to give it to them. Remember Robert Hight carries their name too. If one of these Mustangs gets that win we'll be OK."