Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team were running for the money on Sunday afternoon at the NHRA Kansas Nationals. Facing veteran Johnny Gray, Hight had lane choice but for the first time in four final round meetings Gray took the win. Gray posted a solid 4.067 second pass as Hight’s Mustang smoked the tires for the first time this weekend.
“I really believed we were going to get this one today. Not to take anything away from Johnny Gray. If this thing would have made a run like it had been all day we would have given Johnny a better race,” said Hight, the 2010 and 2011 Kansas Nationals winner. “It is hard to explain why we do well here. I don’t really know why. We have had some team members through the years that have been from this part of the country. This is just a great race track. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock has won here in Top Fuel and Funny Car.”
Hight moved up on the Mello Yello point standings from 8th to 7th and now has a firm position in the Top Ten heading into a critical stretch of the season. For his entire Auto Club team the qualifying success and then race day success really had an impact.
John Force led the team in qualifying grabbing the top spot in qualifying with a track record 4.043 on Saturday. Force opened Sunday with a win over former teammate Tony Pendregon. In the second round Force was outrun by Jack Beckman due to a wiring malfunction in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. At the end of the day the 15-time champion was pleased with the overall improvement in all his cars.
“Any time you can get a race car to the final that is part of the game plan. Winning is the icing on the cake. It is important to get the exposure for the sponsors like Auto Club, Ford, Castrol and Traxxas. We made some changes to our chassis and with our tune-up. We had a lot of meetings and got a game plan,” said Force, the nine-time Kansas Nationals winner. “To come out and be 1-2-3 in qualifying shows that we are moving in the right direction. We are starting to go rounds and get those extra runs down the race track without smoking the tires. All four of our race cars are testing tomorrow. That takes budget but we have to do it to get the runs and get where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Courtney Force qualified her Traxxas Ford Mustang in the No. 2 spot coming into race day and took on Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round for the first time ever. Force took the win with a 4.136 ET at 311.63 mph and moved on to the next round.
“We came out strong in eliminations. Our cars qualified 1, 2 and 3 and all of our Funny Cars got past first round. It was a great start to the day. Our Traxxas Ford Mustang machine was running strong. We had a problem with a dropped cylinder on the first pass, which slowed us down a little, but we were still able to get the win over Creasy,” said Force.
In Top Fuel Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE Top Fueler ran into a tough first round opponent, Khalid alBalooshi racing for Al-Anabi Racing. Both Top Fuel dragsters launched together but unfortunately for the rookie driver the maroon and gold alBalooshi dragster pulled away.
For Force just getting four qualifying runs was a win.
“We have been losing runs in qualifying because of weather. It was great to get four runs in qualifying and we made good runs. We are in the low 4.80s and I am getting experience which is important,” said Force.
MELLO YELLO POINT STANDINGS
FUNNY CAR – 1. Johnny Gray, 591; 2. Cruz Pedregon, 581; 3. Matt Hagan, 568; 4. Ron Capps, 512; 5. Courtney Force, Traxxas Ford Mustang, 485; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 457; 7. Robert Hight, Auto Club Ford Mustang, 447; 8. Jack Beckman, 444; 9. Del Worsham, 397; 10. John Force, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, 385
TOP FUEL – 1. Tony Schumacher, 665; 2. Shawn Langdon, 631; 3. Antron Brown, 593; 4. Spencer Massey, 541; 5. Doug Kalitta, 470; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 442; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 414; 8. Morgan Lucas, 409; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 358; 10. Clay Millican, 332; 11. David Grubnic, 317; 12. Steve Torrence, 306; 13. Brittany Force, Castrol EDGE dragster, 270
JOHN FORCE, 64, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 1st at 4.043 seconds, 313.22 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (quickest of Q3 and 3rd quickest of Q4)
Race results: Beat Tony Pedregon, Lost to Jack Beckman.
ROBERT HIGHT, 43, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 3rd at 4.050 seconds at 315.12 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +8 (Quickest of Q1 and Q2; 2nd quickest of Q3)
Race results: Beat Jeff Arend, Bob Tasca III, Ron Capps, Lost to Johnny Gray.
COURTNEY FORCE, 24, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Final Qualifying: 2nd at 4.050 seconds, 315.56 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +7 (2nd quickest of Q1 and Q2; quickest of Q4)
Race results: Beat Dale Creasy Jr., Lost to Ron Capps.
BRITTANY FORCE, 26, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
Final Qualifying: 13th at 3.846, 320.89 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: 0
Race results: Lost to Khalid alBalooshi.