Hight Heads Gateway Funny Car Field Early

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Hight Heads
Robert Hight was the fastest Funny Car qualifier on Friday at World Wide Technology Raceway. (Brad Plant photo)

MADISON, Ill. – Robert Hight put on a show during qualifying on Friday, racing to the provisional No. 1 spot in Funny Car during the eighth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also provisional No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the second of six races during the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Gateway is also the 20th of 24 events on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Returning to the site where he broke his collarbone during a crash just past the finish line in the final round a year ago, Hight put together an outstanding run of 3.877-seconds at 334.90 mph in his AAA Missouri Chevrolet Camaro SS on Friday.

The defending event champion, Hight is racing for his ninth No. 1 qualifier of 2019 and 69th in his standout career as he looks to regain the points lead in St. Louis.

Bob Tasca III is currently in the second spot thanks to his run of 3.904 at 324.98, while John Force is a spot back after going 3.911 at 329.18.

Points leader Jack Beckman is in fourth with a run of 3.916 at 329.99.

“We had high hopes,” Hight said. “We made four really good runs testing, and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock was not going to let this thing slow down. That’s not how you’re going to win a championship and it’s not what you need in the Countdown. It was pretty exciting and to do it in AAA country and at my sponsor’s race, that’s a good way to shine and show off. We need to keep gathering up those little qualifying points.

“That’s going to put us back in the ballgame.”

Top Fuel’s Billy Torrence put together a blistering pass of 3.699 at 321.88 in his Capco Contractors dragster to move into the top spot. It would be Torrence’s second No. 1 qualifier this season and third in his career if it holds.

A spot behind sits his son, Steve, who is the defending race winner and world champion.

The younger Torrence, who won eight races in the regular season, went 3.711 at 325.85, while Top Fuel rookie Austin Prock’s 3.726 at 328.94 has him third.

Points leader Doug Kalitta is fifth after his run of 3.743 at 323.58.

In Pro Stock, Enders continued her impressive performance in qualifying during the Countdown to the Championship, going 6.580 at 207.15 in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

Enders is aiming for her second straight No. 1 qualifier and 21st of her career. The two-time world champ is also after her first win of the year.

Deric Kramer is second with a run of 6.585 at 209.20 and Bo Butner is third with his 6.586 at 208.17. Points leader Jason Line sits sixth with a 6.593 at 209.14.

Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Johnson raced to the top spot on his Slick 50 Suzuki, going 6.838 at 196.02 to set a commanding statement to open the weekend. It would be Johnson’s first No. 1 qualifier since 2013 if it holds, and the fourth in his career.

Johnson also put considerable distance between his next competitor, as Andrew Hines is currently qualified second with a 6.879 at 195.85. Eddie Krawiec is a spot back with a 6.884 at 196.70.

Points leader Jerry Savoie is seventh after going 6.908 at 196.62.