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Robert Hight, AAA Break Into Top Half of Qualifying at NHRA Midwest Nationals

Points leaders Robert Hight and the AAA / Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS team battled through qualifying at the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway to ultimately jump from No. 18 to No. 8 on Saturday. John Force and the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevy Camaro SS are in the No. 4 spot while Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team are No. 10 and Brittany Force and the Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team are No. 11.

Without a clean run on Friday night, Robert Hight and the AAA team struggled Saturday afternoon. Tire smoke early forced Hight to shut off the Chevy Camaro and coast to 5.851 seconds at 117.21 shifting down to the No. 18 spot. Entering the final session not yet qualified, Hight held on for a 3.953-second run at 323.89 mph that got the AAA team securely in the show at No. 8. The jump in performance puts Hight and the AAA Camaro up against Cruz Pedregon in the first round.

“You never want to be in that position, not being qualified with one run left. Especially in a fuel car, you never know what could happen. You could drop a cylinder, anything could happen. You have to believe in everybody, our crew chiefs, the crew guys, and me as the driver, and work together. We did that and we got AAA qualified,” Hight said. “That would have been a bummer for the points leader not to be in. I think the way it was set up, Jimmy had it so that it would go down a dirt road. I didn’t think it would be in the top half but all that matters is that we are racing tomorrow. It’s a new day, it’s race day and anything can happen.”

 John Force and the PEAK team struggled off the starting line on Saturday. Force would have to shut the PEAK Chevy off early and settle for a 5.385-second run at 135.55 mph in the first session of the day.  Wrapping up qualifying, Force would again have to shut the PEAK car off early for a 4.303 at 211.66. He finished qualifying in the No. 4 spot and has a match-up against Terry Haddock in round one.

“Not as good of a day as we could have had. We knew that though, with the conditions, the warmer weather, and the hot race track. That’s why it was important to get it done Friday night. Now we have some information going into race day, similar conditions, maybe a little cooler,” Force said. “Danny Hood and Tim Fabrisi, they’ll take what they learned and put it to good use tomorrow. We’ll just see how it goes but I’m looking forward to it.”

Austin Prock and the Montana Brand team had a big improvement from their Friday night run. Prock handled the Montana Brand dragster to a clean 3.870-second pass at 316.60 mph in the heat of the day. In the final session, Prock again improved with a 3.770 pass at 318.62 to earn him the No. 10 spot and a first-round race against Clay Millican.

“This Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team made progress each qualifying session this weekend. I’m happy with how the car is reacting to the crew chief’s decision, I think they are too,” Prock said. “We are in a great place to have a strong race day Sunday tomorrow. I’m looking forward to going some rounds.”

After not making it down the racetrack in Friday night’s session, Brittany Force and the Monster Energy team started the day in the No. 16 spot. The Monster Energy team did improve but struggled at about 300 feet and shut off to go only 5.817 seconds at 111.43 mph. When Force pulled the Monster Energy dragster up to the team’s final qualifying try, they had been bumped out of the top 16. With race day on the line, the David Grubnic and Brandon Hazleton-led team breathed a sigh of relief as the Monster Energy dragster laid down a 3.791 at 330.72. They finished qualifying in the No. 11 spot and will run Tony Schumacher in the first round.

“It was a dramatic final qualifying session for our Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team as we had one shot to get in the show after being bumped out. This team hasn’t been in such a tight position before, but we pulled it off and moved up to the 11th position after a 3.79 at 330,” Force said. “Good job to Dave Grubnic and this Monster Energy team for stepping it up under such enormous pressure. I’m looking forward to race day tomorrow.”

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The NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway continues with qualifying sessions Saturday at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Eliminations will begin Sunday at 11 a.m. Television coverage of the event will continue on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) with a second qualifying show Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET. Eliminations will air Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET.

This story was originally published on September 30, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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