Robert Hight’s track record tops Funny Car qualifying at Fall Nationals

Posted Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals Texas Motorplex, Ennis. Sunday’s schedule: Pre-race ceremonies start at 10 a.m. Final eliminations in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle start at 11 a.m. TV: ESPN2 will televise three hours of coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: Call 800-668-6775, or visit texasmotorplex.com.

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Former Funny Car world champion Robert Hight spent a few seconds Saturday afternoon at Texas Motorplex “rotating the earth” — drag racing parlance for the record-shattering elapsed time he will carry into final eliminations for the 28th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals.

Hight covered the 1,000-foot distance in a track record 4.052 seconds and 311.85 mph during his second/final pass down The all-concrete surface, knocking two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon off the provisional pole. The 2009 world champion, Hight will meet No. 16 qualifier/former Top Fuel world champ Del Worsham during Sunday’s opening round.

The race is Round 2 of the six-event Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoff among the top 10 drivers in four Professional classes.

“Qualifying’s over. It was shortened to begin with,” said Hight, referring to the two sessions of time trials that were rained out Friday. “You always feel fortunate to be able to go down the track twice when you only get two runs. It’s the Countdown and it would be devastating to this team to lose first round. [Points leader] Matt Hagan is still way out there on us, so we’ve got to make the most of this.

“Del Worsham’s a tough opponent. He wouldn’t be a guy that I would pick of the 16 out there that I would want to race first round. We’ve got to stay focused and make another real good run to have a chance of going on.”

Hight, of John Force Racing, opened the Countdown with a victory over 2011 world champion Hagan in the final at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., last week. Hagan, of Don Schumacher Racing, retained his points lead with Hight third, 86 points behind. At 20 points per round, that’s four rounds of racing.

“[Crew chief] Mike Neff had a talk with the guys, even though I didn’t think he needed to,” said Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang. “He said, ‘We’ve got four races in a row — give us all you’ve got. Let’s not ever look back and say we left something on the table.’”

Hagan qualified third at 4.093 seconds and with a track-record speed of 312.78 mph.

Also qualifying No. 1 were Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and former world champion Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Langdon’s first-round pass of 3.819 seconds at 321.04 mph held up for pole, with Doug Kalitta nailing the No. 2 spot at 3.852 seconds and 318.39 mph in uncle Connie Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster. Langdon surrendered the point lead at zMAX Dragway when he was beaten in Round 1 by Bob Vandergriff Jr.

Fort Worth’s Spencer Massey, who exited that event with a 24-point lead over Langdon, qualified sixth here at 3.839 seconds and 318.02 mph. Reigning world champ Antron Brown, who failed to qualify at zMAX, earned the No. 14 spot at 3.895 seconds and 311.05 mph in his Matco Tools dragster.

“Obviously, it was huge to come out here and make that strong of a run in the first session,” said Langdon, driver of the Al-Anabi Silver Racing dragster. “Our focus for race day is if we can win the race. we can leave with the point lead.”

Houston native Enders-Stevens earned her first Pro Stock pole of 2013 during a truncated season that has seen her sit out six races because of a lack of sponsorship. Enders-Stevens, who returned last weekend with backing from Husky Liners on Victor Cagnazzi’s Chevrolet Camaro, covered the quarter-mile in 6.557 seconds and 210.93 mph. Points leader Mike Edwards, the 2009 world champion, qualified sixth.

Arana rode his Lucas Oil Products Buell to a pole-winning quarter-mile pass of 6.846-seconds at 195.42 mph — two spots ahead of son and points leader Hector Arana Jr.

John Sturbin is a senior writer at RacinToday.com. He can be contacted at jsturbin@racintoday.com

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