HIGHT STAYS No. 1 AT AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS
ST. LOUIS – Robert Hight recorded his second No. 1 qualifier at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals today. The 2010 winner of the annual NHRA national event held at Gateway Motorsports Park posted his best time 3.893 seconds at 328.38 mph on Friday night and today in the final qualifying session Hight made one of the quickest runs of the day 3.91 seconds in the heat. A broken blower belt robbed Hight’s AAA Insurance backed Funny Car team from another 3.80 second time.
“On that last run it was going to run in the 3.80s again. It shut off at 3.5 seconds because the belt came off. It was running right with our 3.89 second run from last night. It didn’t have any cylinders out. It broke the blower belt real early,” said Hight who picked up his 48th career No. 1 qualifier.
Robert Hight and the AAA Insurance Chevrolet Camaro took advantage of being the provisional No. 1 qualifier in the first session today by aggressively attacking a hot race track. Running in the last pair Hight’s Funny Car launched hard and quickly covered the first couple of hundred feet before overpowering the track. Crew chief Mike Neff will take the information gathered on that run and look to step up in the final qualifying session.
“Saturday is more conducive to what you are going to race with on Sunday especially if you look at the weather forecast. Basically three of the four runs we were low ET. That gives you a lot of confidence. That third run we were still pushing hard,” said Hight. “We were getting after it and sometimes it is nice to know where your limits are. You want to find that limit on Saturday and not Sunday. This was a great weekend that was perfectly planned. I am excited about tomorrow. I am more excited about race day tomorrow than I have been in a long time.”
The top qualifying position extended Hight’s streak of starting No. 1 at least once every season of his professional career that started in 2005. At the end of the day Hight will square off with veteran racer John Hale and his Jim Dunn tuned Funny Car in the first round. With eliminations scheduled for 11 a.m. Hight will have just over twelve hours to think about possibly winning the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals for the second time. The 37-time national event winner knows that nothing is guaranteed in this highly competitive class.
“The changes we made in Charlotte definitely woke up this Chevrolet Camaro up. It is a contender. This is just one race and we have to take it one round at a time. John Hale is a tough competitor. We are going to have to go out there and earn it,” explained Hight in the Gateway press room. “He is a tough racer. This next twelve hours is going to go by slow. That is what I hate about first round. Once you race and if you win first round you get into a groove and things just happen that twelve hours is a long time before first round. I hate the thought of waiting and thinking about it.”
The Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car powered its way just past half-track before hazing the Goodyear tires in the first qualifying session today. In the second session as the sun set Force masterfully controlled her Funny Car to the finish line and recorded a solid 3.928 second, 322.04 mph time. The run was the third quickest of the session and Force grab her lone qualifying bonus point for the weekend.
“We are in a pretty good position. I think qualifying in the top half of the field feels great. We learned a lot from the passes we made in qualifying. I think it will definitely help us running in the heat tomorrow. Matching up against Chad Head will be a challenge. He is a great competitor. He knows how to run in the threes as well. We are definitely going to have to push this Traxxas Chevy Camaro hard tomorrow to see if we can get it to run steady through the heat,” said Force.
In 2014 Force picked up a win at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals qualifying No. 4 and then dispatching Bob Tasca III, Del Worsham, John Force and Matt Hagan on the way to the winner’s circle. The heat tomorrow will dictate a lot of performance numbers but Force is confident in her team and especially her crew chief tandem of Danny Hood and Ronnie Thompson.
“It is a hot track for everybody. It is just a matter of figuring it out and Dan Hood with Ronnie Thompson have done a great job so far this weekend. We are pushing this Funny Car about as far as it will go and learning from it. There are different parts of the race track you have to figure out and I think we learned a lot on that last run,” summed up Force.
In the third qualifying session John Force was behind the wheel of the quickest Funny Car on the property. Force’s PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car cruised down the left lane and lit up the scoreboard in 3.958 seconds. The run earned Force three qualifying bonus points. The three-time Midwest Nationals winner had his hands full as his Funny Car was sashaying down his lane.
"That run was a handful. That old PEAK Chevy hot rod was all over the place. It was like being on the dance floor with a woman; sometimes you just have to take control,” exclaimed Force at the top end.
During the final qualifying session Force’s PEAK Camaro was the first JFR Funny Car up and after an odd burnout the 16-time champ overpowered the track. Running beside Tommy Johnson Jr. Force was briefly charging before he lost power and traction. The 16-time champion will face reigning Funny Car world champion, Del Worsham, in the first round. Force is 2-2 against Worsham this season but holds a 52-28 career win record against the Funny Car champion.
“This weekend didn’t go as smooth as Charlotte. We had a few problems but we will figure them out. (Del) Worsham is a great racer and we’ll be ready for him in the first round. We made a great run today and I have a lot of confidence in my guys. I am excited to get to the race,” said Force, who will be looking for his second consecutive Countdown victory tomorrow.
On a hot and slippery Gateway Motorsports Park track Brittany Force and the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster started the day with a solid 3.778 second run at 323.35 mph. The run moved the three-time 2016 winner up to the No. 6 qualifying position and earned her one qualifying bonus point for the effort. Crew chief Brian Husen continued to work on a race day tune up that would continue the upward trajectory of Force in the Mello Yello Top Fuel points.
“Making good qualifying runs does get you set up for race day. The heat is always tough. Once you gear up and climb into that race car the heat is the last thing on your mind,” said Force.
In the final session Force showed she has a consistent and quick Top Fuel dragster running 3.790 seconds at 321.27 mph on her final run. She will go into race day as the No. 8 qualifier and will face veteran racer Clay Millican. Last year Force raced to the semifinals from the No. 4 spot and she has only started from the bottom half of the field once at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals.
“We struggled a little bit this weekend. We wound up in the No. 8 spot which isn’t typical for us,” admitted Force. “People have won from the No. 8 spot so that is what we will try and do tomorrow. We want to go out tomorrow and start turning on win lights and wind up in the winner’s circle again. It is tough out here in the heat. We made some decent runs out here and I think it will be enough to set us up for tomorrow.”
JOHN FORCE, 67, PEAK Antifreeze 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 10th quickest at 3.958, 323.19 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +3 (Quickest of Q3)
First round opponent (W-L): Del Worsham (52-28)
ROBERT HIGHT, 47, AAA Insurance 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 1st at 3.893, 328.38 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +8 (Quickest of Q1 and Q2 and 2nd quickest of Q4)
First round opponent (W-L): John Hale (2-1)
COURTNEY FORCE, 28, Traxxas 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS
Final Qualifying: 6th at 3.918, 324.36 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q4)
First round opponent (W-L): Chad Head (2-1)
BRITTANY FORCE, 30, Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 8th at 3.778, 323.35 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (Quickest of Q1 and 3rd quickest of Q3)
First round opponent (W-L): Clay Millican (2-5)