Robert Hight raced to the provisional No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car Friday at the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Brandon Bernstein, Jason Line and Hector Arana were also provisional No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the penultimate race of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing season.
Hight, who entered the event fifth in the point standings, took the provisional top spot on the first pass of the second session of qualifying Friday when he powered his Auto Club Ford Mustang to a 4.085-second pass at 311.27mph. If it stands it would be his second No. 1 qualifier of the season, 40th of his career and sixth in Las Vegas.
“That's one reason why I don't gamble in Vegas because I would've bet anyone that this time wouldn't have stuck,” said Hight. “There were a lot of good cars behind me. It stuck, but tomorrow the conditions will be just as good, and we run pretty early before the track heats up. That 4.08 is probably not safe, but I'll sleep a lot better tonight knowing that we're No. 1. We haven't had a lot of these this year.”
While Hight holds the provisional top spot in the field, Don Schumacher Racing drivers Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan are currently tied for the points lead in the category after Hagan picked up five bonus points during the first two rounds of qualifying. Hagan and Beckman currently sit in the provisional second and 10th spot in the field, respectively.
Bernstein raced to the provisional No. 1 spot in a very competitive Top Fuel class after he powered his Copart dragster to a 3.833 at 321.27. If it stands, it would be Bernstein's second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 15th of his career.
“The car seemed like it didn't even move because it was such a straight run,” said Bernstein. “The finish line comes so much quicker when you're going 321 mph. The Copart team did a great job. We've been focusing on making four great qualifying runs and going rounds on Sunday. We're a car that can run with all the guys who are in championship contention. This team needs a win, and that's what we're out here trying to do.”
Top Fuel points leader Antron Brown raced his Matco Tools dragster to the provisional fifth spot in the field, while second and fourth place drivers in the point standings Larry Dixon and Del Worsham sit in the provisional seventh and ninth spots after two rounds of qualifying. Third place driver in the standings Spencer Massey is in the provisional second spot.
In Pro Stock, points leader Line drove his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to the provisional top spot with a run of 6.624 at 208.07. If it stands, it would be his eighth No. 1 qualifier of the season, 25th of his career and third at this event.
“It's a great way to start,” said Line. “The goal is to make a big rebound from Phoenix. We kind of stunk up the joint there, and we're not going to do that two weeks in a row. We feel pretty good about things. We went to the finals (last year), but we were terrible here in the spring race, and I tend to remember the bad races. But we have had good races here, and hopefully, this will be one of those.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle Arana powered his Lucas Oil Buell to a 6.924 at 190.86 and the provisional top spot in the category. If it stands it would be his second No. 1 qualifier of the season, 17th of his career and third consecutive at the event.
“It feels good (to qualify No. 1),” said Arana. “We've been working hard, and now it seems like things are finally lining up and going my way. Hector Jr. is struggling a little right now getting off the starting line. I told him, ‘I'm going to be right behind you. Either you take first or I'm going to take it from you.' I know he wants it. And if he concentrates for tomorrow, he should have the No. 1.”