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Hight’s Countdown-Roll Picks Up Steam

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 15 2017

Robert Hight of John Force Racing had a big day in Texas.. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

ENNIS, Texas – When Robert Hight looks at the calendar, he is convinced it reads “Procktober.”

Hight and crew chief/tuning wizard Jimmy Prock continued their pursuit of the 2017 NHRA Funny Car world championship Sunday with a victory over point-leader Ron Capps in the final of the 32nd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.

Hight, who began the weekend 46 points/two-plus rounds of racing behind Capps, scored his fourth win of the season and third at Texas Motorplex with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.877-seconds at 332.24 mph. Capps, of Don Schumacher Racing, trailed with numbers of 3.927-seconds at 329.18 mph and saw his lead over his John Force Racing rival shrink to 24 points with only two events remaining in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Hight, who began the six-race Countdown with a victory in the opener at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., has won four of the last nine national events to keep the heat on Capps, who has a class-leading eight victories thus far. Hight also has qualified No. 1 for three consecutive races, a performance advantage directly attributed to Prock.

“I’ve never seen a more focused individual than Jimmy Prock,” said Hight, the 2009 world champion and driver of the AAA Texas Chevrolet Camaro SS. “You could set the (team) trailer on fire and he’d still be preparing for that next round. Nothing rattles him. They’ve (Capps and crew chief Rahn Tobler) got the point lead, they’ve got the No. 1 on their car. Game is on.”

Hight noted his win over Capps produced a pivotal point swing. “A round-win is worth 20 points but truthfully that final round win for us was 40 points,” Hight said. “We were 44 back going into the final round and had we lost that’s 64. Winning brought it back to 24, which is a little over a round with two races left. That was a 40-point swing for us. That was big. We needed that one. We would have been pretty bummed leaving here over three rounds back.”

Hight posted the first half of a double victory for John Force Racing, as teammate Brittany Force prevailed in the Top Fuel final over Shawn Langdon. Also emerging as professional winners were Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Two races remain in the Countdown, which will resume with the 17th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 26-29. The season will conclude with the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway Nov. 9-12. That event will pay points-and-a-half to the playoff contenders.

Hight first predicted on Saturday afternoon that Sunday’s forecast for conditions 20 degrees cooler would likely lead to an assault on the record book and perhaps produce the first 340 mph run in Funny Car. Hight partly delivered in his Round 1 win over Jim Campbell with a Motorplex record 3.828-second run at 338.60 mph. Only a 20 mph headwind prevented his hot rod from cracking 340 mph, said Hight, the president of JFR as well as team-owner/16-time world champion John Force’s son-in-law.

“In the track walk (Sunday morning), I’m running my mouth saying there’s going to be track records and maybe national records because of the conditions we had today,” Hight said. “Then you see the first three pairs of Funny Cars go up in smoke. You have Jimmy Prock, Chris Cunningham and these guys in your corner, and it gives you a lot of confidence. So we go out there and run 3.82 at 338.6.”

In addition to Campbell, Hight defeated Alexis DeJoria and Tim Wilkerson en route to the final and his 41st career victory. Capps, driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T, trailered a trio of world champions in Del Worsham, Force and Jack Beckman en route to his third consecutive final-round appearance.

Brittany Force moved from third in the standings into second, 57 points behind point-leader and native Texan Steve Torrence, with her victory over Langdon. Force covered the 1,000-foot distance in 3.681-seconds and 326.87 mph to Langdon’s pass in 3.693-seconds and 326.56 mph.

Force defeated Doug Kalitta, then second in the standings, in the quarterfinals to begin her point move. “A lot needed to happen today but it was about us going rounds,” said Force, driver of the Monster Energy dragster tuned by Brian Husen. “I was confident we’d be turning those win lights on today and we’re still climbing the ladder.

“We’re peaking at the right time. I’m taking it one run at a time but when I get in the car, I don’t think about points. I’ve only been out here five years and to think about winning a championship, that would be unreal. We’re here and ready to play now.”

Force, who won the Countdown race at Reading, Pa., now has six career victories. She defeated Terry McMillen, Kalitta and Torrence to set up the final with Langdon. Her match against Torrence produced a separate drama, as the resident of Kilgore in East Texas was involved in a grinding crash during his quarterfinal victory over Richie Crampton.

Moments after crossing the finish line, Torrence’s Capco Contractors dragster took a hard-left into the concrete retaining wall at over 300 mph. The car’s front clip collapsed and detached from the driver’s section and rear wheels, which continued skidding across the track behind Crampton’s car before stopping. Torrence exited the wreckage under his own power and raised his arms to let the fans and FOX Sports 1’s live TV audience know he was not injured.

Under NHRA rules, Torrence was allowed to continue with a backup car that had not been run previously in this event. Torrence, 34, was medically cleared to continue while his team completed a major thrash of a new Morgan Lucas Racing chassis. Torrence and his crew were saluted by the crowd as they rolled to the starting line to race Force, who ran 3.685-seconds at 327.43 mph. Torrence, racing this time in the track’s right lane, ran 3.728-seconds at 323.35 mph before his car’s engine exploded in a ball of fire to end a very expensive day.

“That was tough,” Force said of the Torrence wreck. “I was standing at the top end when it happened and it was scary. Steve Torrence is a good friend of mine _ we were teammates last year _ and the important thing is everybody is safe.”

Langdon, driver of the Global Electronic Technology dragster fielded by Kalitta Motorsports, defeated Clay Millican, Terry Haddock and three-time/reigning world champion Antron Brown of DSR to reach the final. The 2013 Top Fuel champion, Langdon will move to Funny Car in 2018 for the team founded and owned by drag racing icon Conrad “Connie” Kalitta.

In Pro Stock, Line ended a victory drought dating to the 2017 season-opener at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway in February against Drew Skillman _ who red-lighted at the starting line and was DQed.

“That wasn’t heartbreaking for me,” Line deadpanned. “I saw the red light and thought, ‘Why did he red light? He’s faster than me.’ And then I kind of botched one of my shifts. I didn’t kill it in the final, but I’ve been on the other side of that, so I’ll take it.”

Line covered the quarter-mile in 6.548-seconds and 211.20 mph to notch his third win at The Plex and cap another dominant day for Ken Black Racing. Greg Anderson, a four-time world champion, overtook KB Racing teammate Bo Butner for P1 after Butner was defeated by Skillman in the quarterfinals. Anderson, driver of the red Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro, has a 15-point lead over Butner with Line third _ 15 points behind Butner and 30 behind Anderson.

“It’s not over and they’re going to have to pry that No. 1 off the window,” said Line, referring to his blue Summit Racing Equipment Camaro. “This week was do-or-die, so I had to win. It’s crunch time and I hate pressure. I like a really boring, big points lead. I’ve been accused of being a ‘lazy winner.’ I have been incognito most of the year, not a factor. Hopefully we can get it done now.”

Krawiec defeated Jerry Savoie when the reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion triggered the red-light in their final. Krawiec cruised down the quarter-mile in 9.336-seconds at 92.62 mph to notch his third career win at The Plex and second in succession. A three-time world champion, Krawiec scored his sixth win of 2017 and 42nd of his career aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Street Rod.

“Leaving here kind of sets the tone for the championship set-up,” said Krawiec, who defeated David Hope, Karen Stoffer and Scotty Pollacheck en route to the final. “So I put more pressure on myself to do well here. I had a great motorcycle underneath me today.”

Case in point, Krawiec left Billy Meyer’s facility and its all-concrete surface as No. 1 qualifier and with low E.T. (both 6.860-seconds) and top speed (196.53 mph). “I say I had a perfect weekend,” Krawiec said. “To see the guy I’m running for the championship go out in the first round, I knew I had to capitalize on it.”

That was a reference to 2010 world champion LE Tonglet, who was upset in Round 1 by Joey Gladstone aboard his San Marino Excavating Suzuki. Like Krawiec, Tonglet has won six races aboard his www.NitroFish.com Suzuki this season. But he now trails Krawiec by 107 points heading to Vegas.

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Final finishing order (1-16) at the 32nd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex. The race is the 22nd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and fourth of six in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs:

Top Fuel _1. Brittany Force; 2. Shawn Langdon; 3. Antron Brown; 4. Steve Torrence; 5. Leah Pritchett; 6. Richie Crampton; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Terry Haddock; 9. Billy Torrence; 10. Terry McMillen; 11. Scott Palmer; 12. Shawn Reed; 13. Blake Alexander; 14. Tony Schumacher; 15. Clay Millican; 16. Kebin Kinsley. 

Funny Car _1. Robert Hight; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Tim Wilkerson; 4. Jack Beckman; 5. Alexis DeJoria; 6. Jonnie Lindberg; 7. John Force; 8. Daniel Wilkerson; 9. Jim Campbell; 10. Cruz Pedregon; 11. Bob Tasca III; 12. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 13. Del Worsham; 14. J.R. Todd; 15. Matt Hagan; 16. Courtney Force. 

Pro Stock _1. Jason Line; 2. Drew Skillman; 3. Greg Anderson; 4. Brian Self; 5. Alex Laughlin; 6. Erica Enders; 7. Tanner Gray; 8. Bo Butner; 9. Chris McGaha; 10. Larry Morgan; 11. Allen Johnson; 12. Deric Kramer; 13. Alan Prusiensky; 14. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 15. Shane Tucker; 16. Kenny Delco.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Eddie Krawiec; 2. Jerry Savoie; 3. Scotty Pollacheck; 4. Matt Smith; 5. Andrew Hines; 6. Joey Gladstone; 7. Karen Stoffer; 8. Angie Smith; 9. Mike Berry; 10. Hector Arana Jr.; 11. LE Tonglet; 12. Gunner Courtney; 13. Mark Paquette; 14. David Hope; 15. Steve Johnson; 16. Melissa Surber. 

Sunday’s final results from the 32nd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex: 

Top Fuel _ Brittany Force, 3.681-seconds, 326.87 mph def. Shawn Langdon, 3.693-seconds, 326.56 mph. 

Funny Car _ Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.877, 332.34 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.927, 329.18. 

Pro Stock _ Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.548, 211.20 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 9.336, 92.62 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, Foul/Red Light.

Top Alcohol Dragster _Todd Bruce, 5.260, 275.96 def. Megan Meyer, 7.110, 141.80.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Doug Gordon, Chevy Camaro, 5.376, 272.23 def. Annie Whiteley, Chevy Camaro, 5.382, 275.00.

Competition Eliminator _ Clint Neff, Roadster, 7.654, 169.74 def. Will Hatcher, Dragster, 6.629, 177.98.

Super Stock _ Slate Cummings, Chevy Cavalier, 9.344, 139.95 def. Pete Peery, Oldsmobile, 9.653, 136.32.

Stock Eliminator _ Thomas Marlow, Ford Mustang, 10.243, 121.25 def. Jeff Lopez, Chevy Camaro, 9.482, 127.19.

Super Comp _ Craig Anderson, Dragster, 8.922, 176.21 def. Ryan Herem, Dragster, 8.912, 169.91.

Super Gas _ Tommy Phillips, Chevy Corvette, 9.916, 161.96 def. Jerry Debusk, Ford Probe, 9.931, 165.56.

Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com _ Shane Eperjesi, Dragster, 6.404, 209.75 def. Wade Pennington, Dragster, 5.965, 213.20.

Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com _ Greg Lair, Chevy Camaro, 6.485, 214.04 def. Aaron Philpot, Chevy Cavalier, 7.014, 197.19.

Final round-by-round results from the 32nd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex:

TOP FUEL 

ROUND ONE _ Richie Crampton, 3.683, 326.79 def. Billy Torrence, 3.726, 326.95; Shawn Langdon, 3.993, 219.54 def. Clay Millican, 8.830, 83.31; Brittany Force, 3.708, 327.27 def. Terry McMillen, 3.754, 317.57; Steve Torrence, 3.683, 327.59 def. Blake Alexander, 4.110, 217.28; Terry Haddock, 4.043, 285.95 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.559, 220.08; Antron Brown, 3.721, 325.69 def. Shawn Reed, 3.894, 271.24; Doug Kalitta, 3.867, 262.28 def. Kebin Kinsley, 10.303, 69.81; Leah Pritchett, 3.724, 324.05 def. Scott Palmer, 3.795, 313.22;

QUARTERFINALS _ Langdon, 5.862, 105.23 def. Haddock, Broke – No Show; Brown, 3.687, 323.74 def. Pritchett, 3.709, 326.63; Force, 3.719, 326.56 def. Kalitta, 3.739, 323.43; S. Torrence, 3.724, 302.62 def. Crampton, 3.711, 325.53;

SEMIFINALS _ Langdon, 3.702, 322.88 def. Brown, 3.716, 326.71; Force, 3.685, 327.43 def. S. Torrence, 3.728, 323.35;

FINAL _ Force, 3.681, 326.87 def. Langdon, 3.693, 326.56. 

FUNNY CAR 

ROUND ONE _ Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 4.372, 303.78 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 5.186, 257.38; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.287, 220.58 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.474, 244.43; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.590, 229.70 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 5.140, 190.78; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.828, 338.60 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.053, 318.54; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.886, 332.34 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.439, 195.70; Daniel Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.975, 317.05 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 5.842, 140.66; John Force, Camaro, 4.413, 234.61 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.467, 192.44; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.933, 329.83 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.444, 209.82; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Capps, 3.921, 329.10 def. J. Force, Foul/Red Light; T. Wilkerson, 3.904, 331.45 def. Lindberg, 4.200, 276.63; Hight, 3.865, 331.77 def. DeJoria, 3.945, 329.83; Beckman, 5.082, 145.89 def. D. Wilkerson, Broke; 

SEMIFINALS _ Capps, 3.905, 329.10 def. Beckman, 4.468, 196.13; Hight, 3.898, 331.85 def. T. Wilkerson, 3.954, 316.60;

FINAL _ Hight, 3.877, 332.34 def. Capps, 3.927, 329.18. 

PRO STOCK 

ROUND ONE _ Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.552, 211.39 def. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 14.090, 59.06; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.562, 210.37 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.562, 210.80; Brian Self, Camaro, 6.561, 210.01 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.589, 208.39; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.707, 209.69 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, Foul/Red Light; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.532, 210.60 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.616, 208.49; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.550, 210.60 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.788, 178.50; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.535, 211.83 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, Foul/Red Light; Greg Anderson, Camaro, Broke/No Show def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.575, 210.77; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Anderson, 6.572, 210.01 def. Enders, 6.575, 210.37; Line, 6.552, 210.87 def. Laughlin, 6.565, 210.37; Skillman, 6.538, 211.26 def. Butner, 16.122, 51.20; Self, 6.566, 209.98 def. Gray, 10.780, 81.51; 

SEMIFINALS _ Line, 6.590, 210.64 def. Self, 13.523, 62.95; Skillman, 6.559, 211.26 def. Anderson, 6.592, 209.20;

FINAL _ Line, 6.548, 211.20 def. Skillman, Foul/Red Light. 

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

ROUND ONE _ Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.855, 194.16 def. Gunner Courtney, Suzuki, 7.378, 146.62; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.957, 189.63 def. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.938, 195.68; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.889, 189.66 def. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.936, 186.59; Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.944, 190.73 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 10.180, 78.32; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.935, 193.21 def. Mark Paquette, 8.227, 110.04; Matt Smith, 6.900, 193.43 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, 19.300, 27.53; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.885, 194.44 def. David Hope, Buell, 9.212, 91.40; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.916, 192.28 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.971, 194.46;

QUARTERFINALS _ Savoie, 6.845, 194.52 def. Gladstone, Foul/Red Light; Pollacheck, 6.895, 189.50 def. A. Smith, 7.213, 146.19; M. Smith, 6.862, 193.77 def. Hines, 6.849, 193.27; Krawiec, 6.785, 196.50 def. Stoffer, 6.897, 191.32;

SEMIFINALS _ Savoie, 6.860, 195.28 def. M. Smith, 10.803, 72.59; Krawiec, 6.853, 195.87 def. Pollacheck, 6.907, 191.76; 

FINAL _ Krawiec, 9.336, 92.62 def. Savoie, Foul/Red Light. 

Point standings (top-10) following the 32nd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex: 

Top Fuel _1. Steve Torrence, 2,465; 2. Brittany Force, 2,408; 3. Doug Kalitta, 2,389; 4. Antron Brown, 2,360; 5. Leah Pritchett, 2,285; 6. Tony Schumacher, 2,273; 7. Clay Millican, 2,268; 8. Shawn Langdon, 2,193; 9. Terry McMillen, 2,147; 10. Scott Palmer, 2,137.

Funny Car _1. Ron Capps, 2,495; 2. Robert Hight, 2,471; 3. Courtney Force, 2,324; 4. Jack Beckman, 2,309; 5. Matt Hagan, 2,269; 6. John Force, 2,252; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,224; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,206; 9. J.R. Todd, 2,199; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 2,128.

 

Pro Stock _1. Greg Anderson, 2,471; 2. Bo Butner, 2,456; 3. Jason Line, 2,441; 4. Tanner Gray, 2,360; 5. Drew Skillman, 2,301; 6. Erica Enders, 2,252; 7. Allen Johnson, 2,183; 8. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 2,180; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,154; 10. Vincent Nobile, 2,052.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,506; 2. LE Tonglet, 2,399; 3. Andrew Hines, 2,364; 4. Jerry Savoie, 2,360; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,330; 6. Matt Smith, 2,313; 7. Hector Arana Jr., 2,297; 8. Karen Stoffer, 2,200; 9. Angie Smith, 2,174; 10. Joey Gladstone, 2,169.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 15 2017
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