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Apr 14, 2014 - 09:12 AM
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2014 NHRA: Hight Caps Busy Weekend With Big Win In Charlotte
Posted by: newsla on Apr 14, 2014 - 09:10 AM
NHRA
2014 NHRA: Hight Caps Busy Weekend With Big Win In Charlotte


Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car team fought an uphill battle today at zMAX Dragway at the 5th annual Four-Wide NHRA Nationals. Winning for the second time in the tough four-wide format today and for the fourth time at zMAX Dragway Hight leaves North Carolina still in the points lead and with two wins this season. This was the twelfth race in a row that John Force Racing has had a Funny Car in the final round going back to the U.S. Nationals last season.

 

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In the final quad Hight faced 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, two-time 2014 winner Alexis DeJoria and a strong Tim Wilkerson entry. Hight had a tremendous reaction time and drove away from the field to secure his 31st career Funny Car win with a blistering time of 4.074 at 311.34 mph.

“The whole field is tough. You look at it top to bottom. Anybody can win one of these races. There are a lot of great cars out there. Kalitta (Racing) is running great. Schumacher (Racing) will be there. Wilkerson is running well. It is all tough,” said Hight, who has a two race win streak at zMAX Dragway now. “If you let up just a little bit you don’t take everybody seriously you are going to be on the trailer. We took the points lead over in Las Vegas. We don’t want to give it up. I didn’t want to have to wait between here and Houston thinking about getting the points lead back. I want to go to Houston knowing we still have the points lead.”

Hight is the fourth driver to win more than one Four-Wide race and the first to do so in Funny Car. Previous two-time winners were Mike Edwards (2010, 2013), Greg Anderson (2011, 2012) and Spencer Massey (2012, 2013). JFR has won 60 per cent of all the Four-Wides contested on the tour plus the exhibition that preceded the actual event, which Mike Neff won as a driver. This is the 70th time JFR Fords have left a tour event 1-2 in points.

Hight’s two final round losses this season have come at the hands of DeJoria and heading into the final round he was 0-4 versus the Patron XO Café sponsored driver.

“You think three Ford Funny Cars in the final is pretty good odds but the way she has been running and winning races it was no gimme,” said Hight. “I don’t know who was runner-up her or John but that was a big one. I almost wish she would have been runner-up because I would have gained 40 points on John.”

Hight credited crew chief Mike Neff all weekend with giving him confidence and a great race car. On Sunday the team had to race in the lane that three other teams passed on in the second round and the final quad. It did not dampen the confidence of Neff.

“This format is a dangerous format for Mike Neff. He understands what he needs to run in order to win. We joked all day after the first round that we didn’t have lane choice and we got table scraps. We went out there and we still won from the lane that nobody wanted. Never once did I feel like we were at a disadvantage because we were in the ‘bad’ lane,” said Hight. “Losing twice to Alexis in finals earlier this year I think that motivated him a little bit to push it. The way he races I guarantee my car was not on the edge in the final. It was tuned up enough to go up there and hopefully get the win.”

Hight’s day started with one of the toughest match-ups of the day. In his first quad every driver had at least one NHRA Mello Yello championship. When he won in 2012 his final quad had two world champs and the best driver without a championship.

“I was racing world champs in that final (in 2012) Cruz Pedregon, John and Ron Capps. It never gets easy. First round today I had (Matt) Hagan, (Jack) Beckman and Tony Pedregon. All those guys are world champs. This has been a great weekend. We love coming to zMAX Dragway. We are trying to sell sponsorships and what better place than this to bring potential sponsors. Yesterday this place was packed. I was a great weekend all in all and to have John and I finish 1-2 made it that much more special. This was my fourth final in a row,” added Hight.

Despite having the best reaction time of all the other final quad competitors, John Force and his Castrol GTX Mustang came up just little short of winning his second NHRA Four-Wide Nationals as it was his son-in-law and fellow teammate, Robert Hight who got to the finish line first. With his second place finish today at zMax Dragway, John Force makes a significant move in the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car points standing.

“If it was just about the points, I’d feel real good as we moved up one and two but it’s about winning. I don’t like to lose to anybody but if I’m going to, I’d rather lose to a teammate who works just as hard as me and that’s Robert Hight,” said John Force.

John Force’s Castrol GTX High Mustang looked like a different car today. Any issues it may have had as it struggled during the Friday and Saturday qualifying session were obliviously addresses and fixed by Jimmy Prock and the crew.

In the opening quad, John was matched up against daughter and fellow teammate Courtney Force, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jeff Arend. John Force blasted off with a strong 4.046 second elapsed time, quickest of the race for Funny car and took the win to advance to the next session.

In the semi-final quad, the 16-time champ was lined up with Robert Hight, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Matt Hagan. When the Christmas trees lit up, John Force had the best reaction time of the bunch and led the pack with a 4.12 second elapsed time. Right on his bumper was fellow teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight with a 4.13 second time.

With lane choice being very critical, crew chief Jimmy Prock made sure the John’s Funny Car was lined-up in the best on that could take on the 8,000 horsepower from the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang.

When it came to the final quad, it was John Force, Robert Hight, Tim Wilkerson and Alexis DeJoria going for the win. When the Christmas Trees blinked, all four drivers took off in a thunderous fury as 40,000 horsepower erupted within the stands.

While John Force got the hole-shot over DeJoria with a stellar .040 light, it wasn’t enough to hold off Robert Hight’s hard charging Auto Club Mustang that blasted a 4.07 second elapsed time in final.

“Good weekend and I want to acknowledge the other drivers in the lanes next to Robert and me during the final race. You got to congrats that to Alexis DeJoria as her old car is starting to fly and Tim Wilkerson, to race the way he does on a budget is really something,” said John Force.

This was John Force’s fifth start at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and his second final round appearance.

“These were all great competitors and we gave the fans a really good show today,” said John Force.

For the third year in a row the Four-Wide NHRA Nationals were not kind to the Traxxas backed team. Courtney Force dropped a close race to her dad John Force and Tommy Johnson Jr.

“We didn’t get the win out here this weekend. We had some tough competition in the first round going up against my dad, Arend and Tommy Johnson Jr. But on a positive note, we’ve had a more consistent race car and coming out to four-wide I think it definitely shows that we’ve improved this year more than any year in the past,” said Force.

“We’re looking forward to Houston next week, but knowing that we qualified in the No. 6 position is big for us. That’s our best qualified spot at four-wide. We had a tough first round, but that’s going to keep up pushing forward. As a driver, I have to keep pushing myself too and we’ll see what we can do in Houston,” said Force.

Brittany Forces chances of winning her first NHRA Top Fuel trophy evaporated in the second round of eliminations as her Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster smoked the tires at the hit of the throttle. Despite having her best back-to-back qualifying performances, she still came up short on race day. Regardless, the 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year remains upbeat and positive.

“I’m still very proud of my Castrol EDGE team. To come out here to Charlotte and qualify number five at the four-wide is a big deal. That’s what we tried to do all of last year and we’ve improved. I’m also up against some tough guys, it’s not an easy group of racers so again, to go out and qualify number five at this race with these conditions and against some great teams is a big deal,” said Brittany Force.

In the opening round, Brittany finished second in her quad to 2012 NHRA Top Fuel Champion Antron Brown while outrunning Clay Millican and Leah Pritchett as their race cars experience traction and mechanical issues. Brittany ran a strong with a 3.81 at 323.19 mph and was right there next to Antron Brown’s 3.801 at 323.04.

“I felt good feeling going into the first quad, my energy was up and my guys were pumped. I had a feeling we’d get past round one. When I got to the other end of the track, I had no clue who won. I can get complicated with three other race cars up there but they said it was Antron and me moving on and I was pumped about that. Unfortunately we went out in the semis but we did get past this stump we’ve been in the last two races of going out in the first round,” said Brittany Force.

As a driver, Brittany’s confidence in herself and in the team’s ability to tune her race car to the track conditions continues to grow. She also solidifying her place in the points chase as she’s putting rounds on the guys behind her.

“The more runs we get, the better I feel in the car. I’m feeling more comfortable in the Castrol EDGE Dragster and it will help us go rounds in two weeks at the NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston,” said Brittany Force.


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