Hight Lights Up The Texas Night

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Robert Hight was the provisional No. 1 qualifier in the NHRA Funny Car class after Friday night at Royal Purple Raceway. (NHRA Photo)
Robert Hight was the provisional No. 1 qualifier in the NHRA Funny Car class after Friday night at Royal Purple Raceway. (NHRA Photo)
Robert Hight was the provisional No. 1 qualifier in the NHRA Funny Car class after Friday night at the Texas Motorplex. (NHRA Photo)

ENNIS, Texas – Robert Hight sprinted to the provisional No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car on Friday at the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the 22nd event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. The AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals is the fourth race of the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Hight posted a 3.839-second pass at 332.02 mph in his AAA Texas Chevy Camaro SS to take the qualifying lead. His time is the third-quickest Funny Car pass in NHRA history and a Texas Motorplex track record.  Hight, a two-time Dallas winner, won earlier this year in Gainesville, Fla., and is eighth in points. He has 48 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and one so far this season, which came recently in St. Louis.

“That was pretty impressive,” said Hight, the 2009 Funny Car world champion. “Going up to that run, (crew chief) Mike Neff told me he thought we could run 3.84. To me, looking at that we’ve never run that and we go up there and run a little quicker at 3.83. That shows he has a great handle on it and I’m not going to question him. My team’s on the right track. All we can do is try to go out and win these last three races.”

Jack Beckman raced to a 3.843 at a track record speed of 333.66 in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T to qualify second through Friday. Beckman claimed wins at Chicago and St. Louis earlier this year and currently sits third in the points standings.

Tommy Johnson Jr. powered his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T to a 3.847 at 325.06 to sit in the third spot. He is followed by three-time 2016 winner Matt Hagan in fourth and Houston winner Courtney Force in fifth.

In Top Fuel, Brown raced to a 3.682 at 330.55 in his Matco Tools dragster to lead the category through two sessions. His time is a Texas Motorplex track record. Brown, the reigning world champion, has 46 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and two this season. He has won six races in 10 final round appearances this year and has control of the points. He won this event in 2012.

“It was an incredible run,” said Brown. “That was a crucial point right there for us in this run for a championship. It got us some more quality points and it put us in the No. 1 spot so far. That car never stopped pulling. It was a little edgy in the beginning and then it was just hauling the mail.”

Leah Pritchett sits second with a 3.698 at 327.43 in her Papa John’s dragster. Pritchett, making her first appearance in the Countdown to the Championship, won earlier this season in Phoenix. She is seventh in points.

Sonoma winner J.R. Todd is third with a 3.723 at 309.27 in his SealMaster dragster. Brittany Force is fourth in her Monster Energy dragster while Shawn Langdon is fifth in his RedFuel / Sandvik Coromant dragster.

Line pushed his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to the provisional No. 1 spot in Pro Stock with a 6.568 at 210.34. The two-time world champion has tallied eight victories and five runner-up finishes in 2016. He won this event in 2011 and 2013 and is two sessions away from securing his seventh No. 1 of the season and 48th of his career.

“I think we could’ve (gone faster), but maybe we weren’t willing to be aggressive enough to make that happen,” said Line, who leads the Pro Stock points standings. “We felt like we were reasonably safe with the first run and all-in-all it was a good day for us.”

Greg Anderson, Line’s teammate, raced his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to the second spot with a 6.579 at 210.11. Anderson is a four-time Dallas winner and has notched seven wins and six runner-ups this season. He is second in points.

Alex Laughlin, who recently claimed the first win of his career at the event in St. Louis, is third with a 6.586 at 208.46 in his Gas Monkey Garage Chevy Camaro. He is followed by Bo Butner in fourth and Reading, Pa., winner Vincent Nobile in fifth.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to the top spot with a 6.812 at 195.42 in the first session. Hines, the defending world champion, has 38 No. 1 qualifiers in his career and two this season. He currently leads the points with five victories in eight final round appearances this season. He won the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in 2014.

“We were hoping to improve (in the second session),” said five-time world champion Hines. “What ultimately happened was it cooled off and the water grains came up with it and took the performance out of the motorcycle. That makes it harder to go through the air because it’s a little thicker and it makes the engine unhappy. Tomorrow I think we’ll have closer weather conditions to what we’ll see on Sunday.”

Hines’ teammate Eddie Krawiec powered to the No. 2 spot with a 6.821 at 195.42 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Krawiec, who won this event in 2013, is second in points with four wins and two runner-ups this season.

Jerry Savoie, an alligator farmer from Louisiana, is third with a 6.831 at 195.68 on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. Angelle Sampey, who won in Englishtown, N.J., is fourth and NHRA Carolina Nationals winner Chip Ellis is in fifth.