BRAINERD, Minn. – Funny Car points leader Robert Hight raced to the qualifying lead Friday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd Int’l Raceway.
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the penultimate event in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season.
After opening qualifying with a tire-smoking pass that dropped him to 17th position, Hight rebounded on the day’s second attempt and powered to the No. 1 position with a performance of 4.085 seconds at 313.29 mph in his 10,000-horsepower Auto Club Ford Mustang.
Hight was the first car out in the second session and says he was surprised that the elapsed time stayed at the top after the remaining cars made their runs.
“Given we messed up the first run to come out and go 4.08, it was pretty awesome,” Hight said. “It shows that [crew chief Mike] Neff has a great handle on this car and he can make it do what he wants. It was an unbelievable run and exactly what we needed to do.”
Hight is hoping to turn his fortunes around at Brainerd this weekend. The veteran driver has never won or earned a No. 1 qualifying position at the scenic Minnesota dragstrip. He says on the second run he was determined to keep his car in the groove.
“When you are not qualified you aren’t as amped up,” Hight said. “You are making sure you drive the car down the middle of the lane and give your team the best opportunity for a good run. That was my focus to keep it right down the middle and we did that.”
Cruz Pedregon qualified second with a 4.093 at 308.21 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry and 11-time Brainerd winner John Force was third with a 4.099 at 311.77 in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang.
Top Fuel points leader Kalitta earned the top spot with a 3.812 at 322.96 at the controls of his Mac Tools dragster. He is seeking his sixth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and fourth at Brainerd.