HIGHT SETS TRACK RECORD AS FORDS GO 1-2-4 IN VEGAS QUALIFYING
Ashley 12th in Top Alcohol Qualifying; Brittany, Courtney First Round Winners
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Relying on crew chief Jimmy Prock’s aggressive tune-up, second year Funny Car driver Robert Hight drove the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to a 4.702 second track record Friday night at The Stip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in qualifying for the seventh annual SummitRacing.com Nationals.
It was Hight’s “official” best although the 2005 winner of the Auto Club’s Road to the Future award (as the NHRA’s Rookie-of-the-Year) was clocked in 4.690 seconds during testing on the same track last February.
Hight’s performance, which literally destroyed the old track record of 4.746 seconds (by reigning NHRA champion Gary Scelzi) was all the more impressive because he entered the night session only 20th in the lineup after losing traction and aborting his Friday afternoon attempt.
“That was pretty stout," Hight said of the quickest “official” run he has made. "I think it was a little gutsy, maybe, being not qualified and going like that but Jimmy told me he didn't know any other way to run it. He said he was gonna be aggressive and get after it and that's what he did.
“He kept going back in the box (that contains the clutch controllers) after he watched them run ahead of us. It was pretty awesome.”
Prock’s aggressive tune-up and Hight’s spectacular ride had a ripple effect on the three-car John Force Racing team.
“After Robert’s run (which came early in the night session because of his problems earlier in the day) showed us what was out there,” Force said after pushing his Castrol GTX Ford to No. 2 at 4.715 seconds, 326.16 mph.
In fact, the Fords improved a combined 37 positions from the afternoon session to the night session. Only ninth (Force), 15th (Eric Medlen) and 20th after the first of four qualifying runs, the new Mustangs were 1-2-4 at the end of the day, split only by Del Worsham’s Chevrolet, which was third at 4.750 seconds.
Nevertheless, Hight interjected a note of caution in his press interview.
“We’re not going to get too excited – yet,” he said, “because we (qualified) 1-2-3 last week (at the O’Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas) and look what happened (all three cars were gone before the final). Besides that, we have to show (on Saturday) that we can run in the heat, because that’s what we’ll have on race day.”
Still, it was a great start, one that should put a Ford on the “pole” for the fifth consecutive NHRA event.
Force, who has set the pace at three of the previous four races but has only two runner-up finishes to show for it, was victimized in the first session by a dropped cylinder, the same problem that took him out in the semifinals at Houston. Hight and Medlen, on the other hand, simply overpowered the track.
Medlen, fourth entering Saturday’s final two sessions at 4.758 seconds, 318.47 mph, echoed Hight’s caution.
“This new Mustang has been fast since testing. We’ve had fast cars every race but we haven’t been consistent. To win in this field of cars with so many good teams you’re not going to intimidate anyone by running a big number on Friday night,” he said. “It’s good for your ego, but unless you can turn it into a win, it’s really not relevant.”
Among the drivers on the outside, looking in following Friday’s racing were tour winners Gary Densham and Tommy Johnson Jr. Scelzi, who failed to qualify last week at Houston, put his Dodge in the show at 4.813 seconds, good enough for the No. 11 spot, while teammate and points leader Ron Capps continued his solid performance by pushing the Brut Dodge to 4.771 seconds (No. 5).
* * * *
NOTES – John Force’s two youngest daughters, Brittany, 19, and Courtney, 17, both won their first round matches in the Super Comp class at the wheel of identical Ford-powered dragsters. They were to have raced in the second round Saturday morning and, if successful, in one more round Saturday evening. Courtney Force won four rounds of racing last week at Houston and was one of the last five drivers eliminated....Ashley Force, older sister to Brittany and Courtney, was qualified 12th after the first two sessions in Top Alcohol Dragster, a category in which she has won four times at the national level.
* * * *
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Pro qualifiers for the seventh annual SummitRacing.com Nationals following Friday’s sessions at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
FUNNY CAR – 1. Robert Hight, Anaheim Hills, Calif., Automobile Club Southern California Ford Mustang, 4.702, 327.11 mph; 2. John Force, Yorba Linda, Calif., Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 4.715, 326.16 mph; 3. Del Worsham, Chino Hills, Calif., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.750, 325.61 mph; 4. Eric Medlen, Indianapolis, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang, 4.758, 318.47 mph; 5. Ron Capps, Carlsbad, Calif., Dodge Stratus, 4.771, 321.35 mph; 6. Phil Burkart Jr., Yorkville, N.Y., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.773, 325.37 mph; 7. Cruz Pedregon, Camarillo, Calif., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.780, 319.14 mph; 8. Jim Head, Columbus, Ohio, Dodge Stratus, 4.785, 325.14 mph; 9. Scott Kalitta, Ypsilanti, Mich., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.804, 317.49 mph; 10. Whit Bazemore, Indianapolis, Dodge Charger, 4.812, 327.03 mph; 11. Gary Scelzi, Fresno, Calif., Dodge Charger, 4.813, 323.97 mph; 12. Mike Ashley, Melville, N.Y., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.838, 322.81 mph; 13. Bob Gilbertson, Gastonia, N.C., Dodge Stratus, 4.841, 322.81 mph; 14. Tony Bartone, Long Island City, N.Y., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.870, 320.97 mph; 15. Tony Pedregon, Chino Hills, Calif., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.878, 313.58 mph; 16. Tim Wilkerson, Springfield, Ill., Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.908, 282.01 mph.
TOP FUEL – 1. Tony Schumacher, Long Grove, Ill., 4.501, 327.35 mph; 2. Larry Dixon, Indianapolis, Ind., 4.528, 330.80 mph; 3. Brandon Bernstein, Lake Forest, Calif., 4.534, 330.23 mph; 4. Hillary Will, Fortuna, Calif., 4.559, 320.43 mph; 5. Doug Herbert, Lincolnton, N.C., 4.571, 320.97 mph; 6. Melanie Troxel, Avon, Ind., 4.577, 322.65 mph; 7. Cory McClenathan, Anaheim, Calif., 4.579, 330.47 mph; 8. Doug Kalitta, Ann Arbor, Mich., 4.588, 321.88 mph; 9. David Grubnic, Ennis, Mont., 4.589, 325.69 mph; 10. Morgan Lucas, Upland, Calif., 4.604, 315.86 mph; 11. David Baca, Brentwood, Calif., 4.606, 323.19 mph; 12. Bob Vandergriff Jr., Alpharetta, Ga., 4.608, 326.16 mph; 13. Mike Strasburg, Lindon, Utah, 4.631, 330.15 mph; 14. J.R. Todd, Lawrenceburg, Ind., 4.673, 315.64 mph; 15. Rod Fuller, Las Vegas, Nev., 4.685, 303.50 mph; 16. Scott Weis, Ashland, Va., 4.736, 311.34 mph.
PRO STOCK – 1. Greg Anderson, Concord, N.C., Pontiac GTO, 6.787, 202.82 mph; 2. Richie Stevens, Metairie, La., Dodge Stratus, 6.790, 202.67 mph; 3. Dave Howard, Braidwood, Ill., Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.797, 202.88 mph; 4. Erica Enders, Houston, Texas, Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.798, 202.58 mph; 5. Kurt Johnson, Lawrenceville, Ga., Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.803, 202.94 mph; 6. Jim Yates, Occoquan, Va., Pontiac GTO, 6.804, 202.67 mph; 7. Dave Connolly, Elyria, Ohio, Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.806, 202.70 mph; 8. Vieri Gaines, Lakewood, Colo., Dodge Stratus, 6.813, 202.61 mph; 9. Jason Line, Terrell, N.C., Pontiac GTO, 6.814, 202.76 mph; 10. Shaun Carlson, Ontario, Calif., Dodge Stratus, 6.816, 201.79 mph; 11. Warren Johnson, Sugar Hill, Ga., Pontiac GTO, 6.823, 203.19 mph; 12. Larry Morgan, Newark, Ohio, Dodge Stratus, 6.829, 201.94 mph; 13. Mark Pawuk, Akron, Ohio, Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.829, 201.43 mph; 14. Greg Stanfield, Bossier City, La., Pontiac GTO, 6.834, 202.67 mph; 15. Ron Krisher, Warren, Ohio, Chevrolet Cobalt, 6.840, 201.79 mph; 16. Allen Johnson, Greeneville, Tenn., Dodge Stratus, 6.843, 201.73 mph.
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER – 1. Sean O’Bannon, Alta Loma, Calif., 5.385, 267.16 mph; 2. Jack Beckman, North Hills, Calif., 5.401, 266.21 mph; 3. Richard Putz, Earlville, Iowa, 5.436, 259.21 mph; 4. Joey Sev