Robert Hight, shown here earlier this year, was the top Funny Car qualifier at the Texas NHRA FallNationals. (NHRA photo)
Robert Hight, shown here earlier this year, was the top Funny Car qualifier at the Texas NHRA FallNationals. (NHRA photo)

Hight Tops Funny Car Trials At FallNationals

ENNIS, Texas – Robert Hight held onto the top spot in Funny Car, powering to the No. 1 position on Saturday at Texas Motorplex at the 36th annual Texas NHRA FallNationals.

Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified No. 1 at the 17th of 20 races during the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the fourth race in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Hight raced to the No. 1 qualifier on the strength of his run of 3.878 seconds at 331.94 mph in his 11,000-horsepower AAA Texas Chevrolet Camaro on Friday, and made a strong pass to close out qualifying on Saturday. It is his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 70th in his career as he looks for his third win of the 2021 campaign. Hight will start eliminations against Jeff Arend knowing he needs a number of big performances over the final four races to jump back into championship contention.

“We’re pretty excited,” Hight said. “Having four qualifying runs is huge and we were low E.T. three of the four runs and that gives you a lot of confidence heading into Sunday. That was a great run to close the day and you’re going to see more of the same tomorrow. This is the Countdown and we’ve dug ourselves a hole. We’ve got to win from here on out if we want to have a chance to win a fourth championship. We’ve had the performance as of late, but no consistency. We haven’t had a lot of No. 1 qualifiers, so we’re excited heading into raceday.”

Ron Capps qualified second with a 3.882-second pass at 329.34 mph on Friday, and Cruz Pedregon is third with a 3.892-second pass at 325.14 mph. Defending world champ and points leader Matt Hagan, who won the most recent race in St. Louis, is fourth with a 3.897-second pass at 332.34 mph.

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force clinched an incredible 11th No. 1 qualifier this season thanks to her track record run of 3.637 seconds at 335.32 mph on Friday in her 11,000-horsepower Monster Energy dragster. It is also the 31st career top spot for Force, who closed out qualifying with a strong run as well. But it was her pass on Friday that wowed everyone, as she made the quickest pass of the entire 2021 NHRA season and will now try to finish it off with her second win of the year in the thick of the championship hunt. Force, who is second in points, will open eliminations against Joe Morrison at Texas Motorplex after making the fifth-quickest run in NHRA history on Friday.

“We laid down some pretty good runs here, especially that run last night, and that gave us a good ladder going into raceday,” Force said. “We ran right on our number in the last qualifier and we feel confident going into raceday tomorrow. That last run was a big one for us. It’s getting in the car and making consistent runs, and I’m trying to do my job the best that I can.”

Texan Steve Torrence qualified second at his home track thanks to his run of 3.678 seconds at 326.48 mph from Friday. The points leader and three-time defending world champ is after his second straight win at Texas Motorplex and his third victory in the past four races in Dallas. Mike Salinas took third after his 3.680 at 330.47, also making the quickest run of the third session on Saturday.

Points leader Anderson maintained his spot atop Pro Stock, as his run of 6.553 seconds at 209.23 mph from Friday in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ensured his 10th No. 1 qualifier of the season in 15 races in the class. It’s a remarkable number and also gives Anderson his 116th top qualifier in his standout career. Looking for his 98th career win, which would give him the all-time mark in the class, Anderson will take on Marty Robertson to open eliminations. Anderson is also seeking his sixth win at Texas Motorplex, which would give him the most in Pro Stock history at the track as the championship hunt heats up.

“It’s been awesome and I’ve just had a great car all year long,” said Anderson, who led Erica Enders by 17 points heading into the weekend. “My guys have done a great job and they’ve given me a horse to win every race I’ve been to. I really hope tomorrow is my day. I always love racing at Texas Motorplex all these years. It’s a great Pro Stock track and you don’t struggle to make clean runs, and we love that. I know we’ll be great tomorrow and we’re in good shape. We’re right where we want to be and hopefully, I can find the finish line four times.”

Anderson’s KB Racing teammate, rookie Dallas Glenn, qualified second with a 6.567 seconds at 209.14 mph and defending world champ Enders will start race day from the third spot after her run of 6.571 seconds at 206.67 mph.

Johnson’s run from Friday held up and he added a pair of solid runs to close out qualifying for good measure, with his 6.756-second pass at 198.44 mph on his Brady Mechanical Services Suzuki giving the points leader his third No. 1 qualifier of the 2021 season. It’s also the seventh career No. 1 qualifier for the veteran, who entered the weekend with a 17-point lead over Angelle Sampey. He looked strong in qualifying, making the best run in three of the four sessions, and will meet Jianna Salinas to open raceday as he looks for his third win in what’s been a phenomenal season.

“It’s exciting to start from the number one spot,” Johnson said. “We’re preparing the right way and when you get No. 1 you’ve prepared the best way possible. If we prepare and we all do our job, we’ll all love the results. I have so much respect for every competitor and I’m glad they’re all here, but at the same time my focus is on my guys and how I drive the motorcycle on Sunday.”

Defending world champ Matt Smith qualified second with a 6.772-second pass, setting the track speed record on Saturday with a pass of 200.83 mph. Sampey will open eliminations from third after going 6.809 seconds at 197.74 mph.

In the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, Rickie Smith drove to the No. 1 position in his nitrous-powered Camaro with a run of 5.755 seconds at 251.06 mph. Points leader Jose Gonzalez is second after going 5.786 seconds at 248.93 mph and two-time defending world champ Stevie Jackson is third with a 5.793-second pass at 247.70 mph.

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