HIGHT SHOWS THE WAY AT O'REILLY SUMMER NATIONALS TOPEKA, Kansas -- The weather cooled off Friday at Heartland Park-Topeka but the tour's hottest driver did not. Robert "Top Gun" Hight took advantage of cool evening temperatures to push his...
HIGHT SHOWS THE WAY AT O'REILLY SUMMER NATIONALS
TOPEKA, Kansas -- The weather cooled off Friday at Heartland Park-Topeka but the tour's hottest driver did not.
Robert "Top Gun" Hight took advantage of cool evening temperatures to push his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang through the 1,000 foot timers in 4.095 seconds at 308.21 miles per hour, propelling him to the top of the qualifying order for Sunday's 22nd annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX.
The reigning NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car champion and the winner of the two most recent events in the series -- the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at St. Louis and last week's Summit Southern Nationals at Atlanta, Hight was quickest in both Friday sessions, picking up six qualifying bonus points while busting teammate Ashley Force Hood's track record time of 4.107 seconds.
Although he maintained the torrid pace that has enabled him to post the quickest overall time in seven consecutive rounds of racing, Hight cautioned himself against overconfidence.
"It is pretty exciting," he said. "These are the times you dream about when your car can win two-in-a-row and then you go out there and you are No. 1 qualifier both sessions at the next race. As a driver, it just gives you a lot of confidence. My car is going down the track. The more runs you make, the better you get. I have more confidence and it is a lot of fun.
"(However), the unfortunate truth about all this is when you run like that and you dominate, which I guess you could say we are sort of dominating with our John Force Racing Mustangs 1-2-3, all that does is make your competitors work that much harder," said the former world class marksman. "We have to be careful that we don't get too excited. We need to stay focused and keep working hard because those other guys are coming (after us). We just have to try and stay where we are, which is just a little bit ahead."
The team's namesake, 61-year-old John Force, finished the first day solidly in the No. 6 position at 4.118 seconds at a speed that was second only to Hight's (307.58 mph). Force Hood finished Day 1 in the eighth spot at 4.133 seconds, 303.37 mph in the Castrol GTX Ford.
"It's a lot of fun right now," Hight said, "especially because John is where he is (leading the Full Throttle point standings). He's the old John Force. He goes to every race knowing that he could win that race or qualify No. 1. The last couple of years he has had the gut ache of going to the race and wondering whether he was even going to qualify. Having the boss back and to see how bad he wants this and wants to win his 15th (championship) makes the whole team that much better."
"We really have three good cars," said the former Force crew member. "I think maybe taking a step backwards like we did over the winter and dropping (the fourth car) and shuffling personnel has given us three quality Funny Cars. It is not about quantity. We had good people (but) we were maybe spread a little thin (campaigning four Ford Mustangs)."
As far as his Friday time holding up for the top spot, Hight said he feels pretty comfortable.
"Tomorrow it is going to be hot and Sunday is going to be hot," he said, "but we just came from two hot race tracks and you saw how my car performed. I have a lot of confidence. Having only 15 cars here means that the No. 1 spot is pretty important. That might get me a bye round on Sunday. I don't think anyone will beat that tomorrow.
"It is going to be a lot hotter. I think you can run 4.17 tomorrow. In the final against Ashley in Atlanta, my car ran 4.18 (on) a 130 degree track. You are going to see (track temperatures) close to that tomorrow. This is a good race track. It is a good facility. It should be just like what we had last weekend."
Crew chief Jimmy Prock echoed Hight's sentiments.
"I've just been playing with it," Prock said of his suddenly potent combination.. "We made some quick changes. We don't really know how to run quite as quick as we used to, but (eventually) we'll get it. Just give us a few more shots at it."
In addition to the three Funny Cars, both of the team's A/Fuel dragsters will be in competition in the Summer Nationals.
After showing the effects of a long layoff when she was forced to abort her first qualifying effort in the BrandSource/Ford Racing dragster, 21-year-old Courtney Force, the youngest of the Force daughters, rallied in the second session, laying down a solid 5.320 second quarter mile that placed her No. 3 in the qualifying order.
She'll have one more opportunity on Saturday to improve her standing before the first round of eliminations Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, older sister Brittany will have a single shot at making the show on Saturday morning after a late Friday night flight from California, where she is doing her student teaching after graduating from Cal State-Fullerton.