Robert Hight raced to the Funny Car qualifying lead Friday at the O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec. Larry Dixon, Mike Edwards and Eddie Krawiec also led their categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Hight, who barely made it into the NHRA Full Throttle Series Countdown to 1, has made the most of his opportunity and followed up his win last weekend in Charlotte, N.C. by leading qualifying at the Texas Motorplex at the second event in the six-race championship playoffs.
Hight powered his Auto Club Ford Mustang to a No. 1 effort of 4.109 seconds at 305.56 mph. If the performance holds through Saturday's two qualifying sessions (11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.) it will be his third No.1 position of the season. Hight earned three bonus points in qualifying under NHRA's new qualifying bonus system, announced prior to the start of the Countdown to 1, which awards the top three qualifiers in each pro category 3, 2 and 1 points per session.
"It's a good way to start the weekend," Hight said. "We've kind of gotten on a roll here. People have been joking with me saying we sandbagged all year, and that's not the approach we took, trust me. We would loved to have had this a lot sooner, but we're definitely going to take it now that we've got it. The trick now is to keep running with, keep doing this. We tried too hard the first run, so we definitely needed to go down the track tonight, and to put a 4.10 on the board is pretty gutsy. But it stuck and it looked like there was more room. Tomorrow we're going to have to run in the heat and practice for Sunday because it's going to be hot out there."
Hight's Team owner, John Force, was second in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang, while veteran Jerry Toliver was third overall in his Canidae Chevy Monte Carlo.
In Top Fuel, Dixon paced the field with a 3.833 at 312.93 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to hold down the top spot. He was quickest in both sessions and earned the maximum six-point bonus available in his category.
"Before, being in the top three or four was okay," Dixon said. "Now, you want to be low every session. We came into the race 21 points out, then after the first session it was 18 and now it's 15. Even if we don't get any points tomorrow, we've did okay. Those points can absolutely make a difference. That [3.94 in the first session] was a good baseline run for us. It was very safe, and I know it's going to be warm tomorrow, and that will allow us to press a little harder to see what we can get away with on Sunday. We know we can run a 3.94, so if we can run a 3.90 or 3.88 or something like that, then obviously that kind of information will help."
Morgan Lucas was second in his GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil dragster, while Tony Schumacher was third in his U.S. Army dragster. Charlotte winner and points leader Cory McClenathan was fifth overall in his FRAM Tough Guard dragster.
Edwards continued his impressive playoff performance and raced to the lead in Pro Stock with a 6.597 at 209.88 in his A.R.T./Young Life Pontiac GXP. Edwards was quickest in both sessions, which netted him six bonus points.
"The conditions are good enough to run .50s," said Edwards, who is looking to claim his 12th No. 1 qualifying position of the season if the performance holds through Saturday. "I think the track was real tricky the first run and then tonight we got a little bit more weather in here as far as humidity and it really affects these aspirated engines. I think that might have slowed some of us down a little bit. We actually went pretty hard left that time so I feel like we ran pretty good for the e.t. we got. I think we could have run just a little bit better maybe. But overall, my guys made great decisions and I'm happy with the results."
Krawiec was quickest in Pro Stock Motorcycle, with a performance of 6.908 at 192.36 on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. He also earned six bonus points for being quickest in both sessions.
"It's great to be back up here again," said Krawiec, who earned his only No. 1 qualifying position this season at Sonoma in July. "For awhile I didn't know if my Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson would make it back in the No. 1 spot, but the confidence in my whole team and everybody out there, it's been working. We did some work in between the last race and this race, got here a few days early, pulled out the Matco Tools and got to work on the bike. We couldn't be any more excited with the results. [Getting the] six bonus points, that's huge. We count every point that there is and with that new scoring system and points it gives you an opportunity to hopefully get 20 points by the end of the weekend if you're the No. 1 guy. I got the first half of that, now let's just hope I can get the second. The track is great, it's working well and hooking really good for us. The weather conditions are almost second to none. There are a lot of times when you go to these and you don't know what you're going to get."