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Hight Leads Ford Parade In Northwest

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 9 2010

Robert Hight on top after first round of qualifying. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Racing Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Reigning Funny Car world champion Robert Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock served notice Friday night they are aiming for the fences during the NHRA’s annual Western Swing.

Hight drove to the provisional No. 1 position after the opening two rounds of qualifying for the 23rd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals. Hight, a three-time race-winner this season, posted a 4.194-second pass at 291.57 mph at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., to pace a quartet of Fords atop the Funny Car ladder.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also emerged as provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 14th of 23 races in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season. This event also kicks-off the three-race Western Swing that continues at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., and Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo.

“Week-in and week-out Jimmy is always swinging for the fence,” said Hight, driver of the Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang. “He doesn’t try to back it off. We’ve won a lot of races that way and qualified No. 1 a lot because of that.

“It’s a great feeling, but it all really goes back to the first run and getting down the track on that first run. That sets the tone for the whole weekend. Had we messed up and been early in the session here tonight we would not have been able to flex for what we shot for. Now it’s supposed to cool off (Saturday) so I don’t know if that 4.19 is safe. Jimmy will look at that run and he’s never satisfied. He’ll look at that run and think he could have run better here or done better there. That’s what he’ll shoot for if the conditions are better (Saturday).”

Hight has qualified on-pole five times this season. If Hight can hold onto the No. 1 spot, it will be the 38th pole of his career and move him into the top 10 all-time in the class. Prock, meanwhile, was impressed by Friday’s effort, given its “experimental” nature.

“We’re trying to sort out some new clutch stuff. It looks like (the parts) are working pretty good,” Prock said. “I wasn’t sure what it would run. It cooled off a little at the end. It probably ran a little better than I thought.”

Hight trails team-owner and 14-time Funny Car champion John Force by 69 points after earning four bonus points Friday. Force, a four-time winner this season in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang, also is the only Funny Car driver to have won the Western Swing _ a fact not lost on Hight.

“This is a really fun time for me when we come to the West Coast Swing. I am a West Coast guy,” said Hight, a native of Alturas, Calif. “We have lots of fans here on the West Coast. You have different conditions, different fans and different racing out here on the West Coast. It’s good to see guys like (former John Force Racing teammate) Gary Densham and Grant Downing, and a full field. I just love this three-week swing. I need to start it out right here and get a win and keep it rolling into Sonoma.”

Trailing Hight in the provisional qualifying order is JFR teammate Ashley Force Hood, who ran 4.225-seconds and 287.23 mph in the Castrol GTX Mustang. Fellow-Ford drivers Bob Tasca III and Brut Force are sitting No.3 and No. 4, respectively.

“How about the Fords?” Hight said. “We’re 1-2-3-4 and that is stout. That’s what we shoot for because the last few weeks we’ve been running into each other like John and Ashley first round in Norwalk (Ohio two weeks ago). That just kills us. We have to meet in the semifinals or later.”

In Top Fuel, Kalitta and the Kalitta Motorsports team continued an impressive return to prominence with a 3.844-second pass at 313.58 mph.

“We were really happy with that,” said Kalitta, fifth in points to leader Larry Dixon, winner of seven races this season. “Conditions were really coming to us at the end of the day. Obviously tomorrow (with cooler temps forecast) will be a little more challenging but so far so good.”

Kalitta is seeking to nail down the 29th pole of his career and first since the 2006 Auto Club Finals in Pomona, Calif.

In Pro Stock, the Summit Racing Pontiac GXP team remained hot as Line (6.612-seconds/209.01 mph) followed up teammate Greg Anderson’s first win of 2010 at Norwalk on June 27 with what would be his first No. 1 qualifier of 2010.

“I got six bonus points and that’s more than I’ve got since they started the program,” said Line, fifth in points and 94 behind Anderson. “(The 6.621 pass) is not going to hold up (Saturday). The weather’s going to be a lot different, and as you know the Pro Stock cars are affected dramatically by that.”

Two rounds of professional qualifying Saturday will set the 16-car fields. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 10 p.m. (ET) on Saturday. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute race preview show, at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.

Additionally on Sunday, ESPN3.com now will air two hours of eliminations coverage live at 2 p.m. (ET). ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of eliminations beginning at 11:30 p.m. (ET).

Results Friday after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 23rd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways, 14th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel – 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.884 seconds, 313.58 mph; 2. Larry Dixon, 3.904, 311.77; 3. Cory McClenathan, 3.936, 306.46; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.959, 302.75; 5. Antron Brown, 3.964, 303.03; 6. Brandon Bernstein, 3.976, 299.06; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.995, 299.00; 8. Terry McMillen, 4.041, 292.58; 9. David Grubnic, 4.056, 269.62; 10. Morgan Lucas, 4.058, 283.19; 11. Steven Chrisman, 4.251, 241.02; 12. Mike Strasburg, 4.472, 188.67.

Not Qualified  – 13. Steve Torrence, 4.538, 251.44; 14. Terry Haddock, 6.588, 101.90.

Funny Car – 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.194, 291.57; 2. Ashley Force Hood, Mustang, 4.225, 287.23; 3. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.257, 285.29; 4. John Force, Mustang, 4.269, 285.35; 5. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.275, 284.03; 6. Jeff Arend, Toyota Solara, 4.276, 284.39; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.277, 287.23; 8. Del Worsham, Solara, 4.315, 282.72; 9. Paul Lee, Chevy Impala SS, 4.321, 277.66; 10. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.321, 277.32; 11. Tony Pedregon, Impala, 4.331, 254.90; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Solara, 4.341, 226.39.

Not Qualified – 13. Matt Hagan, 4.371, 275.79; 14. Gary Densham, 4.428, 258.22; 15. Brian Thiel, 4.640, 263.20; 16. Grant Downing, 4.708, 198.38.

Pro Stock –1. Jason Line, Pontiac GXP, 6.612, 209.01; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.618, 209.52; 3. Mike Edwards, GXP, 6.631, 209.20; 4. Ron Krisher, Chevy Cobalt, 6.648, 208.14; 5. Johnny Gray, GXP, 6.655, 208.59; 6. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.656, 208.62; 7. Shane Gray, GXP, 6.660, 208.30; 8. Warren Johnson, GXP, 6.663, 207.98; 9. Rodger Brogdon, GXP, 6.678, 207.34; 10. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.679, 208.04; 11. Greg Stanfield, GXP, 6.679, 206.67; 12. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Cobalt, 6.685, 208.78.

Not Qualified– 13. Bob Yonke, 6.695, 206.57; 14. Larry Morgan, 6.697, 206.57; 15. V. Gaines, 6.716, 206.89; 16. Erica Enders, 6.723, 206.26; 17. Jim Cunningham, 6.775, 205.29.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 9 2010
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