ATLANTA, GA --- On the first day of the 32nd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals Robert Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang got right back to their high performance numbers posting the quickest run of the day, 4.104 seconds at 308.35 mph. He will go into Saturday’s qualifying day as the provisional No. 1 qualifier just ahead of Ron Capps (4.114 seconds) and fellow blue oval racer Bob Tasca III (4.121 seconds).
Hight posted is best time in the second session – in the first session he was third quickest - and he had to wait for Cruz Pedregon and Tasca to make their final runs before his top spot was secure.
“(Crew chief) Jimmy Prock was really trying to run a 4.0. The left lane is a little on the tricky side here. There are a couple bumps over there. This is probably the best race track in the country; the surface area by far is the best race track. It is awesome. It does have a few little bumps. He wanted to make sure we got over those. We didn’t think that a 4.08 or 4.09 would stay number one but we picked up really big early and it was just a little on the weak side on the other end for whatever reason,” said Hight, a three-time No. 1 qualifier in 2012. “That is why we ran a 4.10 which was a little slower than he expected. We ran 308 mph and we have been running big speeds. Luckily for us it held for No. 1. We believed that other guys would run better than that.”
“We are going to change some blowers and do some different things tomorrow. Jimmy is one of those guys that is never happy and he will pick that run apart. He is not going to sleep well tonight knowing that it didn’t run really good on the other end.”
It was hot today but the biggest issue of the day was the setting sun. As the Funny Cars pulled up the sun was blasting right into their sight lines and forcing teams to be creative to give their drivers an edge.
“I was nervous on that run because of the sun. It was right in your eyes. Shafty (crewman David Karcanes) on my team was intentionally standing between the sun when the body was up. He was blocking the sun from my eyes but I knew that when the body went down he was not going to be able to stand there much longer. Luckily the A-Post on that Ford Mustang blocked the sun just enough but it was hard to see.”
“I had (track specialist) Lanny (Miglizzi) on the radio telling me cars were moving to the outside. This track wants to pull you to the outside. You are really focused on trying to keep it in the groove. It was so hard to see with the sun. I all honesty I think maybe I cheated a little bit and pointed it a little to the middle and got it a little inside at the other end. We’ll take it. Hopefully that will hold.”
“That would be four No. 1s out of seven races. Jimmy Prock definitely has a handle on this Mustang. He can go from any kind of conditions and move around. He can just make it run. I think we got four bonus points today. We are counting all those little points. When the Countdown comes they will all be taken away but we want to gain everything we can right now,” said Hight, the current Full Throttle Funny Car points leader.
The Auto Club team has raced out to a commanding points lead in the Full Throttle Funny Car category. They have won four races already and raced to 17 consecutive round wins before falling to Ron Capps in the semi-finals in Houston last weekend. Hight attributes his team’s success to teamwork and consistency.
“Having Shafty block the sun is just typical of my team. They are always paying attention to everything. I am out there and he can see the sun is in my eyes and he is going to stand there and block it for me. We had a guy this morning that doesn’t even do the clutch but he pays attention to this RacePak dash that is on the car,” said a proud Hight. “He knows what the pressure is supposed to be when we charge the clutch. He noticed it was down. He brought that to their attention and they fixed it. We would not have gone down the track the first round if he hadn’t seen that. The Auto Club crew has been together for over five seasons and it is paying off right now. These guys have their heads on and they are focused on racing and winning and going down the track. It is pretty fun right now.”
If Hight’s time holds up as the quickest that will mean for the fourth time this season a lucky fan will win a front loading washer and dryer compliments of the BrandSource “Win with Force.”
The youngest of the Force crew and rookie driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car posted a 4.227 at 298.34 today in the first round of qualifying here at the Southern Nationals. The 23-year-old Cal State- Fullerton graduate managed to hold that qualifying position throughout the second round as well. She went 4.156 ET at 305.98 mph and for staying in the top twelve, is guaranteed to keep her best time going into Saturday’s sessions.
“First run out, we had a solid run down the racetrack. We ran a 4.22 and I was confident to go back up. It’s a tough track. With all of this heat, you want to make sure your car gets from A to B before you try to see how fast you can make it run. That was our goal,” Force said of the first session today. “The first run we got it out there and we wanted to run a 4.22 and we ran a 4.22. The second run we kind of tweaked it a little bit and got it to go a 4.15. That was in the left lane which was awesome even though there were a couple bumps in the lane, but it went good, I was able to get the 4.15 and get qualified for the night,” she added.
Unfortunately for the team that is undefeated so far this season, teammates John Force and Mike Neff are currently not in the field. Because only the top twelve drivers get to keep their times at the end of the day, both Force and Neff will go into Saturday with a blank slate.
John Force, who was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega last night, ran a 4.261 ET at 287.05 mph for the first round of qualifying today which left him and his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang in the No. 12 spot going into second round later on this evening. He then ran a 4.261 ET at 287.05 mph and did not improve. The improvements of other teams pushed the fifteen-time champion down and left him in the No. 14 spot going into Saturday’s qualifying rounds.
Mike Neff, driver and tuner of the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang and last week’s champion at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston, Texas, made his first pass in the heat and suffered from an internal malfunction at about the 600 ft. mark. He ran a 4.582 ET at 181. 86 mph. The Fishers, Ind. native did not improve his run on the last pass of the day, making it to about the same mark as the last run and putting a couple cylinders out. He did not improve with that 4.465 ET at 250.23 mph and ended up in the No. 18 position.