POMONA, CA --- After two days of qualifying at the 47th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals Robert Hight and Mike Neff remain at the top of the provisional Funny Car qualifying order. During the lone qualifying session today Hight recorded the second quickest run of the category picking up another two qualifying bonus points.
“That is big (two more bonus points) and we knew that is what we had to do coming in here. Unfortunately I think I lost a point to Matt Hagan, the points leader. The way I look at it is there are four guys in front of me and I gained two on (Jack) Beckman, (Mike) Neff and Cruz Pedregon today,” said Hight who posted a time of 4.102 seconds today.
“It has been a while since the Auto Club Ford Mustang picked up bonus points in back to back sessions. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock made some changes and it slowed down a little bit but at least it went with a real respectable number. I believe he has a good handle on this Mustang. I really pray for two more runs and that we don’t get rain. We need to gain some more points. We want to try and cut this thing down to three rounds between Beckman and Hagan and I.”
When Hight was asked about the track conditions at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona he had nothing but positive feedback.
“The track is great. That is kind of the problem a lot of the teams are being too cautious and they are just trying to get down the track and qualify. They are shaking. You aren’t seeing too many guys mess up out there from being too aggressive.”
With the weather looking like it might be shaky for tomorrow Hight is hoping for a chance to take a couple more shots at the race track. With six more qualifying bonus points available for the two quickest runs he wants to get every point available.
“We are in a position now where we can flex tomorrow when we get to run. We can try and drop the ball a little further and run a 4.05 if we can. You know this track will hold that,” said Hight. “Our game plan coming in here was to be aggressive every run. We want to try and get points every session. You are not going to be defensive and gain points to win this thing.”
“You look at the NASCAR guys and Carl Edwards has been running around the track and Tony Stewart has been very aggressive. He is catching him. Carl Edwards can’t afford that any more. We are the same way. We don’t really have a lot to lose here. We are having some fun, we are relaxed. We have won a championship before and we know we can do it. We are just going out there and throwing down. We are being a little on the aggressive side. “
Neff narrowly missed picking up at least one qualifying bonus point in today’s session. His time of 4.123 seconds at 308.99 mph was one one-thousandth slower than fellow Ford driver Tim Wilkerson’s 4.122 second run. Wilkerson picked up the point but Neff was still satisfied with his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang’s performance.
“That was a good run, not a great run. We are getting a tune up for Sunday. You want to get down the track every time especially with weather moving in,” said Neff. “You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I liked being in the last pair with Robert and tomorrow we will be at the back again. That makes it easier for me to make decisions. I am happy with the way this Castrol GTX Mustang is responding. It is not hurting itself and there is more out there.”
The biggest surprise was the performance of John Force’s Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang. The reigning Full Throttle Funny Car champion is not qualified and he along with championship contender Cruz Pedregon will have to hope for the weather to hold tomorrow.
If the qualifying session is rained out and the field is set in its current positions there is the possibility for Mike Neff to race Jack Beckman in the second round and then Matt Hagan in the semi-finals which would put him in position to win his first championship as a driver if he went on the win the race.
The final two qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
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