CHARLOTTE, NC --- Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang did not start the first day of qualifying at the 2nd annual VisitMyrtleBeach,com NHRA Four Wide Nationals on the right foot when his Funny Car smoked the tires on his first qualifying effort. The two-time 2011 national event winner redeemed himself to start the second qualifying session racing to the top of the field with a 4.062 second run at over 313 mph. The 20-time winner was nervous pulling up before the run knowing that crew chief Jimmy Prock was not the kind of tuner to back down from a challenge.
“I’ll be honest I am just glad to qualify. After missing on the first run and seeing the weather which is iffy for tomorrow. Just getting in is big,” said the 38-time No. 1 qualifier. “It makes you even more nervous when you have Jimmy Prock as your crew chief. He does not back off ever. John (Force) has always said you just do what you know how to do. He’ll reference the fact that if you learn to shoot pool drunk then you shoot pool drunk. You race aggressive like Jimmy Prock does then why back off. You need to get out there and race like you know how to. That is why we have a lot of number one qualifiers. That is why we are number one in points right now. As a driver it makes you nervous. There are a lot of good cars out there.”
After Hight and Dale Creasy Jr. ran sixteen Funny Cars took aim at Hight’s time but no one came close until the last quartet. Hight was even surprised that his time held up at the end of the day.
“In all honestly I did not think that time would stand up but I also told my guys coming back from the top end that what that time might do is other guys will get greedy. They will see what we did first pair out there and they’ll get too greedy and smoke the tires,” said Hight. “It looks to me that is what happened. That race track is unbelievable. We almost went 269 mph at half track. Jimmy said after looking at the data there is more out there. When he said that I did not think there was chance that time would stick at the top. When you have guys like Cruz running the way he is every week and John and Neff and Hagan. Hagan is the national record holder. It was big being No. 1 but I am not going to get overly excited. We were number one qualifier here last year and we didn’t have a good first round. We want to forget what happened here last year.”
At the inaugural Four Wide NHRA Nationals Hight was the No. 1qualifier but was disqualified in the first round when he crossed the centerline. In the fall edition at zMAX Dragway Cruz Pedregon ran away from the field en route to the win. So far in 2011 Cruz has also been one of the top performers in the class. Hight recognizes that the two-time Full Throttle Funny Car champion is still the performance leader.
“We need more runs right now. If you look at the incremental times that Cruz is running he consistently is outrunning all of us. We still have some make-up to do and some catch up to do.”
Hight along with all the other Full Throttle Drag Racing Series competitors were getting accustomed to new staging lights throughout the day.
“I think (the new lights) are definitely an improvement. I like it. We got to preview it in Gainesville. I love it. It is definitely bright. When you are in lane two or three and can be a little confusing. I noticed a few problems out there. In the first session Cruz thought he was staged, he was looking at what he thought was his stage light but he wasn’t counting over enough. They went up and nudged him in. It wasn’t any kind of a big deal. I love it, you can see it good and you know where you are at when you are staged. I think it is great.”
Cruz Pedregon is positioned in the No. 2 spot just two thousandths behind Hight. The two other John Force Racing Mustangs round out the top four. Mike Neff and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang had a great first run that was good enough for three qualifying bonus points and held through the second round. Neff’s Mustang smoked the tires but the crew chief and driver is not worried about any potential gremlins.
“We had a good day. Something unusual happened that last run but we aren’t worried about it. We know what we need to do. I am happy to be No. 3 and to have the other two JFR Mustangs in the top four. We’ll be ready for tomorrow and hopefully we’ll get some runs in. We will for sure be ready for race day no matter what.”
Team leader and 15-time Funny Car champion John Force ended his day with a solid 4.10 second run in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang and will go into Saturday as the No. 4 qualifier. Force also spent the majority of the day on the starting line watching Top Fuel qualifying as well as some Pro Stock qualifying. Last year Force spent the most time on the starting line and credited that study effort with giving him a slight edge during eliminations.
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