By John Force Racing
Hight And Auto Club Mustang Top Norwalk FC Field
On a day when half a dozen Ford executives were at Summit Raceway Park for the 5th annual NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals Robert Hight delivered, racing to the top of one of the largest Funny Car fields of the season. His first run of the day, a blistering 4.065 second pass at 306.53 mph, held up all day and secured Hight his 39th career No. 1 and first of 2011. Hight was in the middle of the longest drought eighteen races, going back to Seattle, 2010, for No. 1 qualifiers.
“That is a long time for us. In all honesty I think it has paid off. My crew chief Jimmy Prock is usually one to swing for the fences and really throw down. We are trying the consistency game. We talked about it over the winter. We looked back at all the rounds we lost last year and how it all shook out,” said Hight. “If we would have just gone down the track more not been pushing it so hard we might have been better off. This Mustang has really come around. What is really cool is I look at him and it is a night and day difference than when we were struggling or trying to find a combination. Now he goes to the box one time and you can tell he has confidence. Jimmy is so easy to read. He has some confidence since we made eight great run in Bristol and we come out here and run low ET for the first two sessions.
Going into the first round of eliminations versus Houston winner Jeff Arend Hight is not putting any round wins in the bank.
“We have to put (qualifying) behind us. Tomorrow will be a new day. It is going to be hot. This asphalt is a little tricky. We ran 297 mph that last run and it really didn’t spin down track. Whatever Jimmy did worked, the speed was way down on the dragsters too. It is tricky down there and it is going to get trickier tomorrow as the day goes on. We’ll have a lot more sun on the track,” said Hight.
The Ford executives in attendance included Director of Global Marketing, Elena Ford; Henry Ford III; Executive Vice President, President, The Americas, Mark Fields; VP US marketing sales and service, Ken Czubay; General Marketing Manager, John Felice; and Director of Motorsports North America, Jamie Allison. Hight enjoyed racing in front of the Ford representatives and was especially pleased to perform so well.
“What was really cool was that last run making it beside John (Force). Mark Fields and Ken Czubay, the big executives from Ford, were standing between us. They got to really see those two BOSS 500s at their best. It was a great side by side race. It is just cool what Ford is doing. They gave away a Ford Explorer to a fan as part of the K&N Filter Challenge. They are really behind NHRA. I believe we are in good shape.”
“We gave away a Whirlpool washer and dryer to a Joseph Piletic of Brooklyn, Ohio, as part of our BrandSource Win with Force promotion. I haven’t been able to do that in a while.”
This was the fifth year in a row for John Force Racing to be No. 1 qualifier in Norwalk. Hight has three and Mike Neff (2009) and Ashley Force Hood (2010) have one apiece.
“Every year this race has been contested a JFR Mustang has been the No. 1 qualifier. That is big. It goes back to all the match races. This is where I first started and got some experience. This was one of the first races I came to working for john. Bill Bader is a great promoter. That match race is just a lot of fun with the big fireworks show. John and I are slated to come back in August. We just love it here.”
While Hight was making the quickest runs of each session, his teammates were also putting up solid performance numbers. In the final session of Saturday points leader Mike Neff recorded the second quickest time of the session in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. He will go into race day as the No. 5 qualifier facing Tony Pedregon in the first round.
The pressure of only getting one day of qualifying was on Neff’s mind but he was able to fight through that.
“The conditions today could be close to race day conditions tomorrow. The biggest thing today was it was a lot more stressful for everybody because we lost a day of qualifying,” said Neff, the 2011 two-time Funny car winner. “You roll out there and there were 21 Funny Cars and you only have two chances to qualify. You can’t make any mistakes today. To be able to come out and go down the race track on both runs was big, especially making solid runs.”
Team leader John Force finished the two qualifying sessions as the No. 3 Funny Car and his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang made two good runs on Saturday. Going into eliminations tomorrow he will square off with veteran Jim Head. Force enjoyed seeing all the Ford execs and was thrilled to see the overall impact of one on his major sponsors on the sport he loves so much.
“It was a big day for a fan during that K&N Challenger winning a Ford Explorer. Greg Anderson won the $50,000 driving a Pontiac but Ford gave a fan a new Ford Explorer. Ford is doing good things over here in the NHRA,” said Force, the 15-time Funny Car champion. “We are excited to be a part of it. There were a lot of big executives from Ford out here today. It is just good when they come down and support us since they spend lots of money. They want to come here and see what we do and it makes us feel good that we can deliver. Robert is low ET. I’m third and Neff is fifth plus you have (Bob) Tasca and the Wilkersons, Tim and Dan, all doing well. Ford has six spots in qualifying.”