ST. LOUIS – Today on a hot track at Gateway Motorsports Park Robert Hight and the AAA Insurance Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car picked up where they left off just four days ago in Charlotte. On Monday Hight and his team were testing new components in hopes of finding a tune-up that could carry the 2009 NHRA Funny Car champion further into championship contention. After the two quickest runs of the day in the ultra-competitive Funny Car class Hight, the 2010 AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals winner, ended the day as the provisional No. 1 qualifier.
“This was a big day for us. It is only one day. When you test on Monday and it was only us and John (Force), it is hard to judge your performance. You don’t have other cars there. You don’t really know if you have improved until you go to the next race track. The Funny Car class is the most competitive it has ever been. To go out there and be No. 1 two runs in a row out there with all that we have changed on this race car just show how good my team is,” said Hight.
In the first session Hight blasted to the top of the field with a 3.941 second runs at 325.61 mph. Between rounds the team had to thrash to get the car together for the second qualifying session. Luckily, they were the last pair and running beside reigning Funny Car champion Del Worsham he moved back to the top of the pack after slipping to the No. 6 position.
After Hight’s second pass the scoreboard showed the lone 3.8 second run of the day. Hight’s official time of 3.893 seconds at 328.38 mph earned him three more qualifying bonus points.
“You are starting to see some smiles in the AAA pit. I joked at the other end the only thing that is the same in this race car is the driver everything else is different. Mike Neff realized it was do or die and we kind of dug ourselves a hole in Charlotte. We need to come out here and really perform and try to get right back in this thing. The six points we earned today will definitely help,” summed up Hight.
Hight and the AAA Funny Car team began to turn the corner after the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. The entire team has been working overtime and today they began to realize the fruits of their labors.
“Those guys have worked their butts off actually since Indy when we had the big explosion. We had to switch cars and then go back and build a new car after Indy,” said Hight. “We changed a bunch of things after Charlotte and then once it works you have to regroup and get all the parts together that you need for the next race. My guys were out here late last night. There is still a lot of fitting and changing parts. Good job to the guys and it us starting to pay off.”
If Hight holds onto the top spot he will keep a significant streak alive of qualifying No. 1 at least once every year of his career.
Hight’s Funny Car teammates will go into Saturday’s final day of qualifying looking to solidify their positions. Courtney Force and the Traxxas Camaro Funny Car finished the day as the provisional No. 5 race car with a 3.912 second qualifying time while the most recent winner in Funny Car John Force will be looking to step up and race into the top half of the field.
Force’s PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Camaro Funny Car hazed the tires on both runs and his quickest time of 4.440 will not carry over into Saturday. Force was not the only top tier driver to unsuccessfully battle the hot track. He is joined on the outside looking in by Countdown contender Tommy Johnson Jr.
Over on the Top Fuel side of the pits Brittany Force and the Monster Energy team also started off with an impressive run on Friday. The No. 4 Top Fuel team in points ran to the provisional No. 1 spot after the first session with a strong 3.790 second, 320.20 mph run that grabbed three qualifying bonus points. That strong run gave the team the confidence to get aggressive in the second qualifying session.
“We had a great start today. It was an awesome fast run that took us to the No. 1 spot. Going in for Q2 we got aggressive and we obviously pushed too hard. We finished up the day No. 7 so we are still top half and we’ll work from there. The important runs are the two runs on Saturday. Those will be the closest to race day conditions in the heat. Tomorrow we have to throw down and get two good runs.”
The tire smoke run in the second session was disappointing but they will regroup for the two sessions on Saturday.
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NHRA ON TV
Sunday, Sept. 25, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 2 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 25, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 2 p.m. (ET).
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JOHN FORCE, 67, PEAK Antifreeze 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 15th quickest at 4.440, 193.29 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
ROBERT HIGHT, 47, AAA Insurance 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 1st at 3.893, 328.38 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +6 (Quickest of Q1 and Q2)
COURTNEY FORCE, 28, Traxxas 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Qualifying: 5th at 3.918, 324.36 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
BRITTANY FORCE, 30, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Qualifying: 7th at 3.790, 320.20 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q1)