In contention for his fourth championship, Robert Hight and the Automobile Club of Southern California / Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS team had a perfect day to take the No. 1 qualifying spot in Funny Car while defending event champion Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist Chevrolet dragster team blasted their way to No. 1 in Top Fuel Saturday evening at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip.
John Force and the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevy Camaro SS team will start race day from the No. 2 spot while daughter Brittany Force and the Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team will start from No. 9.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club team laid down the lowest elapsed times of both qualifying sessions on Saturday to earn eight valuable bonus points. Their performance moved Hight around Bob Tasca III from No. 3 to No. 2 in the points and within 12 of leader Matt Hagan heading into race day. In the first session, Hight would handle the Auto Club Chevy to q 3.880-second pass at 324.36 mph after it dropped a cylinder. Running with all eight candles lit, Hight managed to hold on for an impressive 3.844 pass at 332.61 to establish his No. 1 qualifier status in the fourth session. It is his seventh No. 1 of the season, 78th of his career and second at the NHRA Finals.
“Going around Tasca in the points, that’s big. This whole day was big for us. We knew what we had to do, but you have to execute too, and this is a tricky place to race. When it’s good, it’s really good and you have to be aggressive and get after it. I’m really proud of the whole Auto Club Chevy team for getting eight points today – low E.T. in both sessions – that’s exactly what we needed to do. It might give us a little momentum going into Sunday. We’re running good. We’ve got to race smart tomorrow. Probably not going to sleep much tonight, but at least we’re qualified,” said Hight who takes on Jeff Diehl first round. “If you would’ve told me that a 3.84 would be low E.T., I would’ve said it’s going to take more than that. Honestly, that was probably one of the hairiest runs I’ve made in a while. There’s a pretty good bump at three to 400 feet. I was perfectly centered, everything was going well, and I hit that bump and I couldn’t drive it. It carried the front end and started drifting to the left, I was thinking ‘Please hold on.’ It set it down, and I actually lifted a little early. It was running good down there, but I did not want to cross the center line.”
Prock, who picked up the win at last year’s Finals from the No. 5 qualifying spot, didn’t open day two of qualifying quite as planned as they smoked the tires early for only 6.820 seconds at 134.52 mph. The Chris Cunningham and Joe Barlam-led team turned things around in a big way for their final attempt down Pomona Dragstrip rocketing to a career-best elapsed time of 3.636 pass at 332.92 to take over the top spot for the second time this season, the third time in Prock’s career and first time at the historic facility.
“I love Pomona, as a kid here growing up, ditching school and flying out here and watching my dad race for wins and championships, it was always a treat to me. I still feel the same way. It’s got a special place in my heart. It just seems like this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team has a little mojo going here. If we go to the final round tomorrow, that’s five consecutive final rounds for me here in Pomona, so I hope I can make that a fact.” said Prock who will race against Ron August in the first round. “Our focus every weekend is to go for a Wally. I finally feel like we have a race car that can do it. We’ve been picking at it slowly throughout the year. The last two or three races, it’s really come around. The first run today was the first time we smoked the tires in, I think, eight runs. It ran between 3.68 and 3.72. We just lowered the boom a little bit there, and hopefully, we can keep that up tomorrow.”
To open day two, John Force and the PEAK Chevy had tire spin mid-track for only a 4.251-second pass at 215.75 mph shifting them into the No. 10 spot. The PEAK team wouldn’t stay down for long. In the final session, Force handled the Chevy Camaro to a 3.862 pass at 328.14 that would only be bettered by teammate Hight. Force earned three bonus points for the PEAK team’s performance.
“Pretty good run there for this PEAK Chevy. It’s funny, sometimes these cars are like beautiful women, they do what they want, and I can’t figure them out,” said Force, who takes on Terry Haddock in the first round. “We’re here with Auto Club, Chevy, PEAK, Cornwell Tools, Monster, Flav-R-Pac, Montana Brand. Man, Prock the way he ran and now Robert going around me. He’s here to win the championship, hopefully, we can help him do that tomorrow. It’s going to be an exciting day.”
Brittany Force and the Monster Energy dragster had to shut off early in the third qualifying session on Saturday. They would cross the line at 4.298 seconds and 190.11 mph. They’d turn things around on the final session laying down a 3.684-second pass at 317.49 mph that will put her No. 9 with a match-up against Justin Ashley in the first round.
“Our team is looking forward to race day tomorrow. It’s the last race of the season and this Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team wants to end on a good note,” Force said. “Sitting No. 9, we’ve got our work cut out for us, but this team is always up for the challenge. We aren’t chasing a championship down this year, but we are looking to go after a win and make things a little interesting for those still in contention.”
Competition at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip continues with eliminations Sunday at 11 a.m. Television coverage of the event will air Sunday on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) with a qualifying show at 2 p.m. ET and eliminations at 4 p.m. ET.