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Hight Tops 339 In Sonoma

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 29 2017

Robert Hight smashed the Funny Car speed record on Friday at Sonoma. (Photo by Marc Gewertz/NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Robert Hight reset the NHRA record book with the fastest pass in any category and nearly eclipsed the next major speed milestone _ 340 mph _ during Funny Car qualifying Friday for the 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

Following a 4.507-second, 1,000-foot pass at 184.62 mph in the opening round of Friday’s session, Hight stormed to the top of the ladder at 3.807-seconds and 339.87 mph in the Auto Club of Southern California/California Highway Patrol Chevrolet Camaro SS.

The pass was the third-quickest in history, while the speed was the fastest in the history of the NHRA, and the first over 339 mph.

“When you mess up the first run and don’t go down the track, you would think you’d put a baseline setup in the car,” said Hight, who is aiming for his 52nd career pole and third of the season. “When you have Jimmy Prock as your crew chief, he tries to get everything he can out of that racetrack. When I lifted at the other end of the track, I knew it was fast, and quick. And when I saw out of the corner of my eye _ I saw the 3.80 _ but I didn’t know it went 339 _almost 340_ until they told me on the radio.”

Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the 15th of 24 events on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

The event in Northern California’s wine country is the second stop of NHRA’s annual summertime three-event Western Swing that began at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., last weekend. Hight won the Funny Car portion of the 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.

Sonoma Raceway holds a special place in Hight’s racing career. Hight watched his first professional NHRA race at Sonoma in 1988 and has witnessed every NHRA race at the track as either a fan, crew member or driver. He went on to win the national event in 2008 driving for John Force Racing.

“These things will run 340 mph, we know they can do it,” said Hight, the 2009 world champion. “Man, it came so close tonight. It’s still the fastest ever in the history of the NHRA _ that’s pretty cool. This thing was singing down there. It’s hard to explain to everybody, but it’s the coolest noise when you hear that nitro engine running up that kind of RPM. It’s music to your ears (and) 340, that’s kind of the magic number. When you can say you ran the fastest speed in NHRA history, that’s pretty awesome. And Sonoma Raceway can say it happened here.”

The typically low-key Prock was ecstatic after the wicked-fast pass. “That was an awesome run for us,” Prock said. “You know, this place is great. We’re in California. The air comes in at night and these things make some power.”

Since rejoining Hight’s team in March, Hight’s “Prock Rocket” has set the top speed in eight events, heading into this weekend. With warmer conditions forecast Saturday and earlier qualifying times, that number easily could turn to nine by the end of the weekend. Additionally, Hight has set nine of his fastest 10 career runs this season, including seven since mid-May.

“Fast” Jack Beckman of archrival Don Schumacher Racing, the 2012 world champ, is second in Funny Car at 3.854-seconds and 328.70 mph in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T. Courtney Force of JFR rounded out the top three at 3.889/327.03 in her Advance Auto Parts Camaro SS.

Pritchett leads Top Fuel after setting the track’s 1,000-foot elapsed time record of 3.669-seconds at 304.80 mph in her DSR dragster. Pritchett is chasing her second consecutive No. 1 qualifier, fifth of the season and sixth of her career.  

“It feels incredible,” Pritchett said. “I’m just overly impressed with my team. I knew we were going after it in Q2. The thing about these Q2 sessions is that you have to hang it all out on the line, from a crew chief standpoint to a driver standpoint, because things are going to get funky out there; and they did.”

Brittany Force of JFR sits second after a 3.689-second run at 330.63 mph in her Monster Energy dragster, while Doug Kalitta set the track speed record at 331.28 mph via a 3.694-second run in his Mac Tools dragster fielded by Kalitta Motorsports.

In Pro Stock, Skillman holds the provisional top spot after a quarter-mile pass in 6.544-seconds at 211.73 mph in his Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro during the second session. Skillman, who won the Factory Hot Rod class at Bandimere Speedway, is racing to secure back-to-back poles as well as a third consecutive victory.

“We are on a momentum of positive energy,” Skillman said. “We’ve got a great car and we’ve got great horsepower. Can’t complain right now; life is good. We’re going to keep swinging and hope to improve (Saturday).”

Four-time world champion Greg Anderson of Ken Black Racing is second with a 6.553-second pass at 211.39 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro. Point-leader Bo Butner, also of KBR, is third at 6.564-seconds at 211.66 mph in his Jim Butner’s Auto Camaro.

Tonglet sits atop the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying order after posting a quarter-mile time of 6.783-seconds at 196.73 mph aboard his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki during his second pass. The 2010 world champion, Tonglet is seeking his third pole of this season and sixth of his career.

“Being No. 1 builds up your confidence,” said Tonglet, teammate to reigning world champ Jerry Savoie. “We’ve won here two times and hopefully we can add to that. Also, hopefully we can get a couple of round-wins at the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle.”

Hector Arana Jr. is in the No. 2 slot after a pass in 6.783-seconds at 196.36 mph aboard his Lucas Oil Buell, while Savoie sits third at 6.788/197.05 aboard his White Alligator Racing Suzuki.

Qualifying will continue Saturday with two afternoon sessions to set Sunday’s lineups and pairings. FOX Sports 1 will air one hour of qualifying coverage starting at 10 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The network also will air three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m. (EDT) Sunday.


Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma (Calif. Raceway, 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _ 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.669-seconds, 328.38 mph; 2. Brittany Force, 3.689, 330.63; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.694, 331.28; 4. Antron Brown, 3.705, 329.42; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.709, 328.30; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.718, 328.78; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.722, 327.59; 8. Clay Millican, 3.744, 328.54; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.757, 292.33; 10. Mike Salinas, 3.785, 322.42; 11. Scott Palmer, 3.828, 324.59; 12. Troy Buff, 3.866, 275.73; 13. Troy Coughlin Jr., 4.030, 222.95; 14. Shawn Reed, 4.550, 176.53; 15. Terry Haddock, 8.133, 86.62.

Funny Car _ 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.807, 339.87; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.854, 328.70; 3. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.889, 327.03; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.902, 329.91; 5. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.904, 330.39; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.908, 327.43; 7. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.926, 331.20; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.935, 325.30; 9. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.947, 329.50; 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.959, 325.77; 11. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.019, 310.84; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.020, 319.60; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.032, 306.12; 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.093, 310.48; 15. Tim Gibbons, Chevy Impala, 7.251, 101.51; 16. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 8.678, 97.11. 

Pro Stock _ 1. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.544, 211.73; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.553, 211.39; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.564, 211.66; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.565, 211.86; 5. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.573, 210.08; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.575, 210.77; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.577, 211.06; 8. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.581, 210.64; 9. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.598, 210.90; 10. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.610, 208.71; 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.614, 209.20; 12. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.625, 209.14; 13. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.679, 209.26; 14. Tom Huggins, Dart, 6.709, 206.80; 15. Erica Enders, Camaro, 15.877, 52.00.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.783, 196.73; 2. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.783,196.36; 3. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.788, 197.05; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.804, 196.19; 5.Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.837, 197.13; 6. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.839, 194.94; 7. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.841, 193.82; 8. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.857, 195.34; 9. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.859, 194.04; 10. Angelle Sampey, Victory, 6.874, 192.22; 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.908, 195.51; 12. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.918, 197.39; 13. Cory Reed, Victory, 6.926, 190.54; 14. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.947, 193.74; 15. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.953, 197.77; 16. Chip Ellis, Victory, 6.968, 193.82.

Not Qualified _ 17. Scott Bottorff, 7.042, 188.86; 18. Charles Sullivan, 7.306, 183.22; 19. Lance Bonham, 7.322, 183.67; 20. James Surber, 7.395, 181.59; 21.Andie Rawlings, 7.808, 140.17.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 29 2017
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