Robert Hight claimed his first Funny Car specialty win at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on Sunday, defeating Matt Hagan in the final round of the Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout 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) also claimed No. 1 qualifiers at the 15th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
In the final round of the Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout, Hight went 3.955-seconds at 321.58 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Cornwell Tools/AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS to slip past Hagan’s 3.979 and win the $80,000 shootout at The Big Go. The multi-time world champ had fallen short in four previous specialty event final rounds at Indy, but came through in a big way on Sunday, knocking off points leader Ron Capps and Cruz Pedregon to set up the marquee matchup with Hagan.
“It’s amazing to get this,” Hight said. “Hagan really stepped up in the final round. We made the right decisions today, went out and did the job today. There’s been a lot of double-ups at this race and I’d like to add my name to it. You’ve got to win on Sunday first to even have a chance, but we’re looking forward to Monday. We’re definitely coming around and coming together at the right time.”
Hagan reached the final round in his Dodge Direct Connection Charger SRT Hellcat with wins against Tim Wilkerson and John Force. Hight will also try to make it a clean sweep of the weekend on Monday and starts raceday from the No. 1 qualifier for the fourth time in 2023 thanks to Saturday’s run of 3.853 at 329.67. He’ll open raceday against Paul Lee on Sunday.
Torrence’s standout Top Fuel run of 3.708 at 329.42 from Friday in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster on Friday held up, giving the four-time world champ his first career No. 1 qualifier at The Big Go. He put together a series of standout runs this weekend, qualifying No. 1 for the second time this season and 36th time in his career and giving him plenty of confidence going into raceday. He’ll face off with Will Smith in the first round of eliminations, trying to win the world’s biggest drag race for the second time in three years.
“We’ve had a pretty consistent race car,” Torrence said. “We utilized the track conditions today to prepare for tomorrow and I feel really confident that the two runs we made today – even though we didn’t make it down the track – what we learned today will be useful for tomorrow. I enjoy coming here and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow. Being No. 1 at Indy for the first time is really special to me and now we’ll see if we can go win this thing (on Monday).
Defending world champion Brittany Force stayed second with her 3.709 at 333.25 and Doug Kalitta qualified third with a run of 3.717 at 328.54.
Matt Hartford can now claim his first No. 1 qualifier at the world’s biggest drag race in Pro Stock, securing the top spot thanks to Friday’s run of 6.569 at 209.23 in his Total Seal/GETTRX Camaro. That hands him his fourth No. 1 position this season, but none have been bigger than this weekend. Hartford, who is currently second in points, had never qualified No. 1 before this season, but has impressed in that area this year. He also closed out eliminations with a stellar 6.601, adding to his momentum going into eliminations. He faces Mason McGaha in the opening round, looking to add a first Indy victory to his first Indy No. 1 qualifier this weekend.
“To come to Indy and qualify No. 1 is a dream come true, plain and simple,” Hartford said. “That 6.601 in those conditions, that’s more impressive to me than the 6.56 we ran on Friday night. I need to get focused tonight, I’m going to have to do something to clear my head before I go to bed because getting up tomorrow it’s a brand new day.
“It doesn’t matter what you did on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, what matters is what you do on Monday. It’s going to be four grueling rounds tomorrow. We’re going to be in conditions similar to this, and we have a great raceday tune-up. We’re going to go up there with some strategy tomorrow and if I just do my job in the car, my crew is going to do theirs. All I have to do is my job and this car is going to go four rounds.”
Troy Coughlin Jr. stayed second with his run of 6.570 at 208.30 and Aaron Stanfield, who won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday, took third after going 6.586 at 208.39.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Gaige Herrera wrapped up his eighth No. 1 spot in nine races in 2023 on the strength of his track record run of 6.746 at 198.96 from Friday on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. He made another strong run to close out qualifying on Sunday, setting Herrera up nicely for raceday, where he’ll open up eliminations against Cory Reed. Herrera made his Pro Stock Motorcycle debut last season at The Big Go and, a year later, the points leader now has a chance to wrap up a dominant regular season with his first Indy win.
“Running the .74 off the trailer, that was a big accomplishment for the whole team,” Herrera said. “They worked pretty hard the last couple of weeks from Sonoma to here. All weekend, I’ve had a very consistent motorcycle and today Andrew (Hines, crew chief) decided to play with tires a little bit. We were in full test mode today, and we’re definitely ready for Monday.
“It would almost top the Western Swing to win Indy. That was a very big accomplishment for me and the whole team, but if I’m able to clinch here at Indy, this is the big race everyone talks about. It would definitely be amazing to win here.”
Herrera’s teammate, Eddie Krawiec, qualified second with his 6.800 at 198.79 and Hector Arana Jr. took the third spot after going 6.828 at 199.11.
Eliminations for the 69th annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals begin at 10 a.m. ET on Monday at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.