CONCORD, N.C. – Robert Hight stole the No. 1 spot during the final round of Funny Car qualifying Saturday at the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Mike Salinas (Top Fuel) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also the No. 1 qualifiers in their respective divisions Saturday afternoon at zMAX Dragway.
Hight, who entered the final round of Funny Car qualifying second fastest behind Jack Beckman, roared to the top of the qualifying sheet thanks to a 3.883-second pass at 325.92 mph.
Beckman wasn’t able to improve upon his time from Friday’s qualifying session in the final group of qualifiers, allowing Hight to clinch his fourth No. 1 qualifier in six attempts this year and the 64th of his career.
He’ll attempt to win his fourth Funny Car Wally in six attempts Sunday.
“I don’t think ever in my career had a car that is this dominant,” Hight said. “When John (Force) was doing it back in the ’90s and early 2000s he had a car that was a tenth of a second ahead of everybody else. You don’t have that anymore.
“From one through 12 there are just hundredths of second separating (everybody). So it is pretty amazing for us to be running this well. It makes my job pretty easy. You pretty much know the car is going to go down the track as long as you don’t screw it up.”
Beckman will race from the No. 2 position on Sunday thanks to his 3.891-second pass at 321.42 mph. Sixteen-time Funny Car champion John Force qualified third fastest with his 3.905-second pass at 329.42 mph.
Hight will race Tim Wilkerson, defending Funny Car champion J.R. Todd and Bob Gilbertson in the opening round of eliminations.
Jim Campbell, Dale Creasy and Bob Bode failed to qualify for the 16-car Funny Car field.
Salinas earned his second No. 1 qualifier of the year and third of his career thanks to his qualifying effort from Friday evening. His track record elapsed time of 3.687 seconds at 327.43 mph was enough to keep him at the top of the board.
The native of San Jose, Calif., is working with legendary tuner Alan Johnson and crew chief Brian Husen this year and has seen a major uptick in his performance as a result.
“It’s pretty amazing watching how they work and what they’re doing,” Salinas said of Johnson and Husen. “We’re expected to win with that team. Alan Johnson expects the best.
“The man has the credentials for it and we’re just all trying to please him and basically step up to the level he’s at.”
Antron Brown qualified second with his 3.725-second run at 327.03 mph. He was followed by Terry McMillen, who timed in third with a 3.728-second time at 320.36 mph.
Salinas will race Austin Prock, Clay Millican and Cameron Ferre in the opening round of eliminations.
Stoffer held on to the No. 1 spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle after improving upon her qualifying time from Friday evening.
After being bumped down to seventh during Saturday’s first qualifying session, Stoffer rocketed right back to the top of the charts with a 6.793-second run at 197.91 mph. It’s her first No. 1 qualifier since Atlanta Dragway in 2015 and the fourth of her career.
“It’s pretty big for me, it’s been a long time,” said Stoffer. “What was more impressive for me though was how we did it with a 6.79. I’ve never run in the 70s. That was my first 70. So it was a record for me E.T. (elapsed time) wise and then to also to maintain that and get the green hat at the end of qualifying is pretty huge.”
Hector Arana Jr. qualified second fastest a 6.802-second pass at 196.10 mph, with Andrew Hines third fastest with a 6.811-second run at 199.05 mph. Of note, Matt Smith set a top speed track record with a 200.32 mph pass during the final round of qualifying. Smith qualified seventh.
Stoffer will battle Angelle Sampey, Cory Reed and Jim Underdahl in the first round of Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations Sunday afternoon.
Marc Ingwersen, Jianna Salinas and Melissa Surber failed to qualify for the Pro Stock Motorcycle field.