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Hight Adds Onto His Records

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 23 2017

Robert Hight of John Force Racing had a big day Friday in Reading, Pa. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

John Force Racing’s Robert Hight rewrote both ends of the track record to power into the provisional qualifying lead Friday evening during the 33rd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.

Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also earned provisional poles in their respective categories at the second of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

Hight reset the track record at 1,000-feet with a 3.844-second pass at 339.02 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, the latter being the second-fastest speed in NHRA history. The previous Maple Grove Raceway elapsed time record was a 3.850-second pass, while the previous speed record was 333.99 mph, both from last season.

“I’m pretty excited that we’re having these conditions in Reading, because it’s very similar to what we had last week in Charlotte (zMAX Dragway) where we got the win,” Hight said. “We picked up right where we left off and got five points today, which is really what we’re trying to do each time we hit the track for qualifying.”

Hight now owns the two fastest speeds in NHRA history, as well as four of the seven fastest speeds. The 2009 world champion, Hight is aiming for his sixth pole of the season en route to his second consecutive Countdown win. Hight defeated JFR teammate Courtney Force in last Sunday’s final of the 10th annual Carolina Nationals after trailering two-time world champ Matt Hagan of Don Schumacher Racing in the first round, DSR’s Tommy Johnson Jr. in the second and J.R. Todd of Kalitta Motorsports in the semifinals.

Hight ran 3.943-seconds at 328.86 mph to take down Courtney Force’s 3.980-second pass at 315.19 mph in the final. “What’s awesome is the lineup of drivers that we beat,” Hight said. “Every round we had a Countdown competitor.”

Hight took over the championship lead with that win and began the weekend with 44-point advantage over reigning world champ Ron Capps of DSR, who suffered a second-round loss last Sunday. Hight began the Countdown second in points, but his second-round victory vaulted him atop the standings.

“That’s amazing,” Hight said post-race. “We got up to No. 2 in the regular season, and when Ron went out early we had to capitalize. You know those guys are going to have some wins in this Countdown, but when they go out early we had to take advantage and we did. It was just a perfect day. You can only dream of a day like this and script it.”

The victory was the 40th of Hight’s career and third in the last six races. Over that span, Hight and his Camaro SS also have set the national record in elapsed time (3.793-seconds at Brainerd, Minn.) and speed (339.87 mph in Sonoma, Calif.) “These Chevrolets are back…an unbelievable way to start the Countdown,” Hight said.

Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday. The stop at Maple Grove Raceway is the middle race in a string of three consecutive events to open the Countdown.

Hagan currently sits second in the preliminary qualifying after a 3.874-second pass at 335.82 mph in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, while Capps is in the third slot in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge after a 3.877-second pass at 327.43 mph from his second pass of the day.

Millican, currently sixth in the Top Fuel point standings, raced to a 1,000-foot pass in 3.699-seconds at 327.27 mph in his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster. He is aiming for his fourth pole of the season.

“Our crew chief was actually disappointed with the run, because we thought we would run faster but it was still a good run and we’re aiming for every bonus point we can possibly get,” Millican said. “Every lap we’re going to push for those bonus points, so we know we’ll need those throughout the rest of the Countdown.”

Point-leader Doug Kalitta _ the winner at zMAX Dragway _ is in the second slot after a 3.704-second pass at 333.66 mph in his Mac Tools dragster. Steve Torrence currently sits in third in his Capco Contractors dragster with numbers of 3.720-seconds at 327.66 mph.

In Pro Stock, Butner holds the top spot after covering the quarter-mile in 6.554-seconds at 210.18 mph in his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevrolet Camaro during his first pass of the day. Butner, of Ken Black Racing, is seeking his fourth No. 1 qualifier of 2017.

“We feel great after today since our car ran so well; we have room for improvement but that’s what we’re looking for this weekend,” Butner said. “Our cars seem to like these hotter tracks, so we’re very excited to come back out tomorrow to try and make some improvements.”

Three-time world champion Jason Line, also of KB Racing, has the second preliminary spot after a 6.563-second pass at 210.54 mph in his Summit Racing Equipment Camaro. Point-leader and Tanner Gray ran 6.565-seconds at 210.44 mph in his Gray Motorsports/Valvoline Camaro to round-out the top three. Gray, a rookie, opened the playoffs with a victory at zMAX Dragway.

Arana Jr. sits atop the Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying order with a quarter-mile pass in 6.834-seconds at 196.76 mph aboard his Lucas Oil Buell during his second pass Friday after not making it down the track in the first session. He has one previous pole this season.

“We had some data for the track despite a rough first run, and we trusted our combination to be fast and we ended up really well,” Arana Jr. said. “We know how important these qualifying points are, so we were pretty excited to see we held onto the top spot today.”

Point-leader Krawiec, a three-time world champ and the winner at zMAX Dragway, earned the second position with a 6.841-second pass at 195.45 mph on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod. Scotty Pollacheck is third after a 6.850-second pass at 195.90 mph aboard his Suzuki.

Qualifying is scheduled to continue at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday. Fox Sports 1 will air one hour of qualifying Sunday from 2 to 3 a.m.

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Friday’s provisional qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 33rd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and second of six events in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _ 1. Clay Millican, 3.699-seconds, 327.27 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.704, 333.66; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.720, 327.66; 4. Brittany Force, 3.731, 327.90; 5. Leah Pritchett, 3.741, 328.14; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.747, 329.42; 7. Dom Lagana, 3.762, 320.36; 8. Antron Brown, 3.766, 326.71; 9. Richie Crampton, 3.767, 282.60; 10. Scott Palmer, 3.805, 324.44; 11. Wayne Newby, 3.878, 319.14; 12. Terry Haddock, 3.939, 303.57; 13. Shawn Langdon, 4.614, 160.67; 14. Terry McMillen, 4.624, 162.90.

Funny Car _ 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.844, 339.02; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.874, 335.82; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.877, 327.43; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.914, 330.55; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.914, 330.39; 6. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.929, 326.87; 7. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.935, 321.88; 8. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.937, 318.77; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.942, 329.50; 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.957, 326.00; 11. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.963, 321.35; 12. John Force, Camaro, 3.978, 324.12; 13. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.992, 323.43; 14. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.177, 301.87; 15. Mike Smith, Dodge Stratus, 7.749, 85.11.

Pro Stock _ 1. Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.554, 210.21; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.563, 210.54; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.565, 210.44; 4. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.572, 209.95; 5. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.578, 211.16; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.593, 210.24; 7. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.594, 210.47; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.600, 209.95; 9. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.600, 209.82; 10. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.602, 210.28; 11. Brian Self, Camaro, 6.607, 209.72; 12. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.621, 210.50; 13. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.637, 208.71; 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.664, 207.50; 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.674, 207.91; 16. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.844, 202.15.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.834, 196.76; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.841, 197.13; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.850, 195.90; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.861, 197.51; 5. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.862, 194.02; 6. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.869, 193.40; 7. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.878, 194.97; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.895, 193.49; 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.896, 194.46; 10. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.899, 193.13; 11. Ron Tornow, Buell, 6.953, 192.00; 12. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.956, 193.82; 13. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.003, 178.14; 14. Charles Sullivan, Buell, 7.013, 189.82; 15. Lance Bonham, Buell, 7.203, 186.87; 16. Andie Rawlings, Suzuki, 7.786, 170.95.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 23 2017
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