Hight and Courtney Force top Friday's Funny Car qualifing

TOPEKA, KS  – It is only the first day of the NHRA Kansas Nationals but it was a great day for Robert Hight and Courtney Force who finished each qualifying session 1-2 in the Funny Car category. It was the first time all season Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang has been the quickest of the first two sessions and the two-time Kansas Nationals winner was pleased with his first day effort. Hight gave a lot of the credit to his crew chief Jimmy Prock and his pre-race decision to try a new tune-up.

“For some reason we always do good here in Topeka. We have qualified well but here lately we have been struggling and we’ve been working on the early part of the run. We definitely got it today being low ET of both sessions. It has been ages since we did that.  The back half of both of those runs weren’t very good. If we could have finished those out this thing would have really run,” said Hight. “It put a couple cylinders out. The reason it put cylinders out is it wore the clutch out and it didn’t lock up. We definitely fixed what we have been looking for what seems like a year. You see these other guys out there running these low numbers to the 330 (ft. mark) and you just can’t be giving that away. It has taken a lot of hard work and a lot of testing. Jimmy Prock just hit it right out of the box.”

Hight and the Auto Club Mustang have been inconsistent throughout the start of the season earning one No. 1 qualifier in Las Vegas. The rest of the season Hight has struggled to put two or three runs in a row together. A combination of lack of testing and poor weather during races has hurt the team’s ability to gather data

“Mother Nature hasn’t allowed us to test much. That is the biggest problem. We are missing twelve runs that we would have had from testing in Las Vegas, Charlotte or Houston. We have lost six qualifying runs we have missed because of weather. That has really hurt us but obviously it is the same for everybody. Jimmy just made a decision to come in here with a new set-up. We just really hoped we would get some data that first run. Luckily he hit it right on the head in that first run,” said Hight.

It has been a complete team effort to get a workable tune-up for the Auto Club Mustang that can be transferred to all the JFR Funny Cars.

“We always work together. It got us back on track be were struggling. It still didn’t get us quick enough in the ET department where we can make up some of that ET on the back half but as Jimmy has been looking at it we have some hot races coming up and summer is here. It will be tough to make that up if you give that much away early. You just can’t get that time back,” said Hight.  “We definitely found it today I know it is only two runs, what we have been missing. If we can get the back end right we’ll be in good shape. That run was pretty hairy because it had at least two cylinders out. I have looked at the computer data yet. It was dragging me over towards the wall. If we could have finished that off and run 270 (mph) at half-track this thing would have run 4.03 easily.”

Courtney Force, driver of the Traxxas Ford Mustang, made two great passes today to kick-off the weekend and qualify in the provisional No. 2 spot.

The 24-year-old ran a 4.133 ET at 307.16 mph, followed by a 4.068 ET at 312.86 mph in the second session which sent her to the top of the pack. Force stayed No. 1 until the next pair of cars including Robert Hight made their last pass. Hight beat out Force for the top spot by .001 seconds.

“It feels great coming out to Topeka and being able to make two great passes. We went to the top of the field only to be bumped down to the No. 2 spot by .001 of a second by my teammate and brother-in-law Robert Hight. I guess if I had to be bumped by anyone, I’m glad it’s someone on our team. I’m proud of my guys. They have been working hard. We really needed those runs for ourselves. We collected some points and to try to creep our way back up to the top. But, you know what we’re out here to have fun. It’s great to be back here at Heartland Park Topeka,” said Force.

Nine-time NHRA Kansas Nationals winner John Force stepped up in the second qualifying session posting a solid 4.117 second pass at 309.27 mph. He will go into Saturday’s final day of qualifying as the provisional No. 8 qualifier.

“We got all three Funny Cars in the show and Robert got low ET and that’s big. Courtney is right up there with him. I was No. 8 and we’re testing this new chassis. This is only its second run. It’s hard to tell what is going to happen tomorrow because we were 1, 2 and 3 after the first session in Atlanta. What matters is if we get to race tomorrow, I think we will be okay,” said Force.

In the first session the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang shook the tires loose but crew chief Mike Neff stepped up in the night session and got Force down the track with a good run as one of the early pairs.

The Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster piloted by Brittany Force made to good runs and the rookie driver was the quickest Top Fueler to not carry a time over into Saturday. The twelve quickest race cars post a time but on Saturday the Yorba Linda, California driver will have two opportunities to grab a spot in the top sixteen.

In the first session Force had a respectable 3.884 second pass that was good enough to be in the top half. Her Dean Antonelli and Eric Lane tuned dragster improved in the second session to a 3.847 second run at 319.52 mph but many of the teams stepped up as conditions improved.

“I’ve always loved coming to Topeka, so I’m excited to be here. We had two qualifying runs today and ended up 13th. We were hoping to improve on that last run, but we still get two more rounds tomorrow so that’s what we’re banking on and hoping to get us in the top half of the field and race on Sunday,” said Force.

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JOHN FORCE, 64, Castrol GTX Ford Mustang

Qualifying: 8th at 4.117 seconds, 309.27 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: 0

ROBERT HIGHT, 43, Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 1st at 4.067 seconds at 302.62 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +6 (Quickest of Q1 and Q2)

COURTNEY FORCE, 24, Traxxas Ford Mustang
Qualifying: 2nd at 4.068 seconds, 312.86 mph
Bonus Qualifying Points: +4 (2nd quickest of Q1 and Q2)

BRITTANY FORCE, 26, Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster

Qualifying: 13th quickest at 3.847, 319.52 mph

Bonus Qualifying Points: 0

* * * *

Dusty Brandel

President of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Inc. Worked with Mike Hollander since Tapsis, Compuserve, etc. and has posted to the website since the beginning. First Female photo-journalist to be given a garage and pit pass for the NASCAR garage, 1972 at Ontario Motor Speedway. One of first seven female writers, photographers given access to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage and pits in 1971. Past President of Greater Los Angeles Press Club, 1992-96, and first female editor of the 8-Ball publication for the Press Club

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Volume 2013, Issue 5, Posted 3:08 PM, 05.18.2013