HIGHT SITS NO. 1 AFTER FRIDAY QUALIFYING IN LAS VEGAS; SCHUMACHER, HUMPHREYS, AND ELLIS ALSO LEAD LAS VEGAS -- With father-in-law John Force watching from starting line and recently added teammate Mike Neff making his first competitive runs...
HIGHT SITS NO. 1 AFTER FRIDAY QUALIFYING IN LAS VEGAS; SCHUMACHER, HUMPHREYS, AND ELLIS ALSO LEAD
LAS VEGAS -- With father-in-law John Force watching from starting line and recently added teammate Mike Neff making his first competitive runs in Funny Car, Robert Hight took the role of team leader during the opening day of qualifying at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.
While John Force looked on, Hight drove his Auto Club Ford Mustang to a 4.763-second provisional No. 1 qualifying effort at 322.58 mph at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Justin Humphreys (Pro Stock), and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle) joined Hight atop the charts with two qualifying sessions remaining.
Hight was beaming after his second run of the day, mostly because he saw how happy it made Force, who was sporting hard casts on his left leg and arm as well as a number of bandages, in his first time back at the track since his accident in Dallas.
"It's been an emotional day," Hight said. "John being here is the best therapy he could have. I spent a lot of time with John in the hospital and all he talked about was racing. No one loves this sport more than John Force and he'll be back real soon.
"It was cool to see John [Medlen] over there banging on (Mike) Neff's hood and pointing in the car like he did with Eric. I'm sure it was tough for him but then that car went straight down through there and he was so pumped up. It's been a great day for all of us. We needed this."
POWERade points leader Tony Pedregon was second to Hight with a 4.770 at 314.09 mph in his Q Horsepower Chevrolet Impala SS. Fellow Countdown racer Gary Scelzi ended up sixth (4.815), with Ron Capps (eighth, 4.82) close behind.
Schumacher wasn't exactly thrilled with his provisional No. 1 qualifying effort, mainly due to the fact he's been the top qualifier 10 times this year and only converted one of those low qualifying efforts into a win. Nevertheless, his 4.482 at 327.59 put him on top of the heap at the midway point qualifying.
"All joking aside, the No. 1 qualifier deal is important because it cuts [the points deficit] to the lead down to less than one round," Schumacher said. "It wouldn't have hurt my feelings if someone like David Baca would have knocked us off that No. 1 spot because of the bad luck we've had with it this year but the reality is I wouldn't trade my car or my team with anyone."
Larry Dixon, the current leader in the Countdown, stands to give up two points to Schumacher if he stays third. His best run was a 4.534 at 321.42 mph. Others in the Countdown field include "Hot Rod" Fuller, who is seventh with a 4.558, and Brandon Bernstein, who is eighth with a 4.561.
In Pro Stock, it was the former Sports Compact star Humphreys who stole the show Friday, racing to his first provisional No. 1 qualifying spot with a 6.750 at 204.05 mph in the Knoll Gas Pontiac GTO.
"I've raced here a bunch in my sports compact cars and my Outlaw 10.5 cars and I've always loved this place," Humphreys said. "We're really excited. Bringing Bob Glidden on board awhile back has turned into such a great thing. Between Bob working on the car and Dick Maskin's horsepower, we're looking great."
Points leader Dave Connolly is second in his Torco/Seelye Wright Chevrolet Cobalt after a 6.754. Fellow Countdown racers Greg Anderson (fifth with a 6.766), Allen Johnson (sixth, 6.766), and Jeg Coughlin (11th, 6.790) are also safely in the field.
Ellis soared again in Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying, carding a crushing 7.045 at 188.96 mph on his Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin to take the provisional low qualifier slot. Ellis has led the last three Pro Stock Motorcycle fields into race day.
"If we could race on qualifying day, I'd win every trophy," Ellis said. "The bike is just hauling. It's tough mentally for me on race day. That's all it is. I'm not the smartest guy in the world but I'm thinking about too much up there I guess. I've been working on it. I just haven't done my job."
Andrew Hines, who is in the Countdown to 1 chase with Ellis, is third with a 7.102. The other two Countdown riders, Matt Smith and Peggy Llewellyn, follow in fourth and fifth place.