BRISTOL, TN --- Robert Hight said he was ready to battle at Bristol Dragway and today he gave the historic track in Thunder Valley a knock-out punch winning in Bristol for the first time and the fourth time in 2011. On the way to the winner’s circle he set the national speed record at 316.45 mph and in the final his winning time of 4.092 seconds was enough to defeat a tire smoking Jack Beckman’s 5.615 second pass.
“Today was unbelievable. We finally got Bristol. We were joking around that all the races that start with ‘b’s’ we have trouble at like Brainerd and Bristol. We turned this one around and what better way to do it than with Ford as the title sponsor at Thunder Valley,” said the Ford-backed Hight.
Hight qualified 6th and took out Ron Capps, Mike Neff, Jeff Arend and Beckman to get the win. Hight improved his 2011 round win record to an impressive 18-5.
“If you look at what we had to do to do it beating guys like Ron Capps. He is coming around and he has crew chiefs that have him turned around. My teammate and the points leader Mike Neff in the second round,” said Hight. “He has been to the last four finals and that was a huge race. It was unfortunate that we had to race that early. In the semis we had to race Jeff Arend who has already won a race this year and then in the finals we get Beckman, who has won a couple races this year. It wasn’t an easy day.”
Hight moved within 14 points of second place and recorded his 22nd national event win. This is the second season in a row for Hight to win four national events and he accomplished this career tying feat in the first nine races of the season.
Hight was forced to run his teammate Mike Neff in the second round and the pair of Mustang Funny Cars executed one of the quickest side by side races in recent memory. Hight’s 4.062 outdistanced Neff’s 4.082.
“We are one big team. Neff and (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) really work together closely all winter. The set ups on these Mustangs are very similar. We just struggled a little bit. Jimmy has been tweaking it,” said Hight. “I really give Jimmy a lot of credit for coming here this weekend and sneaking up on it. He knew he could run big numbers but on the night runs we played it safe. We made eight great runs. When we needed it the most Jimmy pulled it out and he had some confidence and he got Neff. We made my chassis in the fab shop this winter and it is identical to Neff’s. It is unbelievable to drive it leaves straight and it is so nice.”
Hight set the first record of his career this weekend setting the national speed record at 316.45 mph.
“The speed record is huge. I have never set a record before. I have made the quickest runs at 1000 feet and ¼ mile but I never backed them up. I know the speed record is no points but there are some bragging rights. It is great to have that record with the Auto Club Ford.”
“The only thing you can feel is it is pulling on you all the way to the finish line. The nicest thing there is, is the sound of that engine. It is singing when it is running 316 mph and the rpms are way up. When the engine is happy and it has all eight pistons still in it that is music to your ears. I wish everyone in this room (the Bristol media center) could hear that sound. That is music.”
Neff knew that he had forced his teammates to step up based on his previous performances. For the five-time finalist and two-time winner he was ready for a big shot from Hight and Prock.
“That run all came together for them right there. You race Jimmy Prock and Robert Hight you better bring your ‘A game.’ We thought we did. We thought it would run 4.07. They made a great run right there. My hat is off to them. They whupped us,” said Neff, the current points leader.
“We messed up on Friday and we had to get on the other side of it on Saturday. We have a good handle on our race car and it has been real consistent. I feel good about the fact that this Castrol GTX Mustang is predictable and running good.”
Team leader John Force struggled again but he was undeterred at the end of the day. The 15-time Funny Car champion slipped a little in the point standings but Force is still within striking of the middle of the top ten.
“I just got whooped in the first round. I ain’t worried about my race car. We are learning every day. I am on a new team. Even though (co-crew chiefs) Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas have been together for years with Ashley (Force Hood) it is new with me. They are having to teach me the game all over again. We’ll be fine. We dropped in the points today. I fully intend on marching ahead. I have two real good hot rods with Robert and Mike,” said the Castrol GTX High Mileage driver.
With the 22nd win of his career Hight is now winning on average once every 6.7 races which is an impressive number. He still has some winning to do to catch up to Force who over his thirty-plus year career averages a win once every 4.3 races.
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UNOFFICIAL FULL THROTTLE POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR - 1. Mike Neff, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 765; 2. Jack Beckman, 705; 3. Robert Hight, Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, 691; 4. Cruz Pedregon, 635; 5. Matt Hagan, 544; 6. Jeff Arend, 488; 7. Bob Tasca III, 462; 8. John Force, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, 451; 9. Ron Capps, 440; 10. Johnny Gray, 431.
TOP FUEL - 1. Del Worsham, 763; 2. Larry Dixon, 732; 3. Spencer Massey, 729; 4. Antron Brown, 679; 5. Tony Schumacher, 670; 6. Doug Kalitta, 503; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 458; 8. Morgan Lucas, 426; 9. Shawn Langdon, 396; 10. Terry McMillen, 364.
PRO STOCK - 1. Jason Line, 694; 2. Mike Edwards, 670; 3. Greg Anderson, 645; 4. Greg Stanfield, 617; 5. Vincent Nobile, 598; 6. Roger Brogdon, 571; 7. Allen Johnson, 557; 8. Erica Enders, 521; 9. Shane Gray, 437; 10. Ron Krisher, 414.
JOHN FORCE, 62, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 8th at 4.114 seconds, 311.63 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race results: Lost to Cruz Pedregon.
MIKE NEFF, 44, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.085 seconds, 311.99 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +2 (3rd quickest of Q3 and Q4)
Race results: Beat Tony Pedregon. Lost to Robert Hight
ROBERT HIGHT, 41, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 6th at 4.090 seconds, 311.20 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +7 (2nd Quickest of Q1 and Q2; quickest of Q3)
Race results: Beat Ron Capps, Mike Neff, Jeff Arend, Jack Beckman