Robert Hight powered to the provisional No. 1 spot on Saturday at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, going to the top during the final qualifying session at the 69th annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Matt Hartford (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all remained the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 15th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Hight went 3.853-seconds at 329.67 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Cornwell Tools/AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS, racing to the top under the lights at The Big Go. If that holds, Hight will earn his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season and 81st in his career. It also gives the multi-time champion plenty of momentum heading into Sunday’s Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout.
Hight had the first selection the specialty event, selecting back-to-back world champ Ron Capps. With the next pick, Bob Tasca III picked John Force and Matt Hagan followed by choosing Tim Wilkerson, leaving Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria as the final pairing for Sunday’s race. Hight, though, likes his chances after Saturday’s standout run.
“That was big. We stayed and tested Monday after Brainerd and things went really well. So far, our first three runs here have been pretty impressive,” Hight said. “When the car responds to what Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] is doing and it runs what he says it’s going to run, you can’t be any more confident than that.
“The other Funny Cars weren’t running great and none of the dragsters really stepped up from last night, but you have to trust what your people are telling you. They’re fine-tuning this thing right now, it’s not just ‘make a bunch of changes and see what sticks.’ They’re fine-tuning parts of the run and that’s how you become consistent and win.”
Tasca is currently second with a 3.864 at 324.90 and Alexis DeJoria sits third thanks to her 3.888 at 331.77 from Friday.
In Top Fuel, Torrence stayed on top thanks to the run of 3.708 at 329.42 in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster on Friday. Torrence is after his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 36th in his career. He is aiming for his second win in three years at the world’s biggest drag race and third overall at The Big Go. Defending world champion Brittany Force stayed second with her 3.709 at 333.25 and Doug Kalitta remained in the third spot on Friday with a run of 3.717 at 328.54.
Hartford maintained his No. 1 spot in Pro Stock thanks to Friday’s run of 6.569 at 209.23 in his Total Seal Camaro, keeping him on track for his fourth top qualifier this season. He also made the quickest run of Saturday’s first session, continuing his quest for a first Indy triumph.
“We’re siting potentially as the No. 1 qualifier at Indy. It’s a lifelong dream come true,” Hartford said. “There are two things that would make this season better: No. 1 to win the championship, No. 2 is to win Indy. Our goal is to go four rounds here on Monday, and four rounds for every race in the Countdown and see where the points stack up. Our team has really gelled, we’ve had the same team now for a long time. We’ve made three incredible runs for the conditions.”
Troy Coughlin Jr. maintained his second spot with a run of 6.570 at 208.30 and Aaron Stanfield stayed in the third spot after going 6.586 at 208.39.
He didn’t top Friday’s spectacular, track-record run of 6.746 at 198.96 on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki, but Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Gaige Herrera made a pair of strong runs to stay in command heading into Sunday. If Friday’s run holds up, Herrera would get his eighth No. 1 qualifier in nine races, a spectacular feat considering the talent level in the category.
“I was very pleased with that run, but I have to give all the credit to (crew chief) Andrew (Hines) and all the crew guys,” Herrera said. “Andrew has tons of data, and all that but he adjusts per the weather. It’s always last minute before we roll up Andrew is just finishing the final touches before the pass because he wants max performance every pass.
“We’re off to a very good start and I’m definitely looking forward to the next two days. Hopefully it keeps going into Monday.”
Herrera’s teammate, Eddie Krawiec, is stayed second with his 6.807 at 198.79 from Friday and Hector Arana Jr. remained third after going 6.873 at 198.76.
Qualifying continues on Sunday at 12:15 p.m. ET at the 69th annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. The Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout begins at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, with the semifinals at 3:20 p.m. and the finals at 5:15 p.m., with television coverage taking place from 4-5:30 ET on FOX.