Robert Hight and the Cornwell Tools / AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS team earned their fifth No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Brittany Force with the Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy dragster and John Force in the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevy Camaro SS are in the No. 4 positions while Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist dragster are No. 10.
After a fiery end to their first qualifying day, Robert Hight and the Cornwell Tools team jumped right back to the top half of the Funny Car field with a stout 3.849-second pass at 323.27 mph to land No. 3 heading into the final session. After a lengthy rain delay, Hight and the Cornwell Tools team threw down a 3.824-second pass at 330.15 mph to steal the No. 1 qualifying spot by one-thousandth of a second.
“Sometimes when you push and try real hard, it doesn’t work out. There are a lot of moving parts and everything has to come together, there are a lot of variables. It’s a science but there is some luck to it too. We were pushing on that run. We wanted the No. 1 spot because of the bye. To get it by one-thousandth of a second, it just shows you how tough it is out here,” Hight said. “Honestly, I thought with Bob Tasca III and Matt Hagan running behind us, I could still be third after that but you’re going to see a lot of these close races. Really, hats off to the Cornwell Tools team for pulling through after what we went through last night. I’m just really proud of them for working hard all night. I wouldn’t want to jump back in the car after what happened last night with any other team than them.”
Hight, the points leader, will enter race day with a first-round bye as he looks for his fourth win of the season and a chance to widen his points lead. It was Hight’s 82nd career No. 1 qualifying position and first at the Carolina Nationals. He’s qualified No. 1 at the spring Four-Wide event three times.
Coming into the day sitting No. 6, John Force and the PEAK Chevy team improved with a 3.866-second run at 327.66 mph to jump to the No. 4 spot. In the final session Force stayed consistent with a 3.861 pass at 329.02 mph to keep No. 4. He will race Alex Laughlin in the first round of eliminations.
“Good two days of qualifying for this PEAK Chevy team. We had some consistency and we just need to keep it going tomorrow,” Force said. “This Funny Car field is impressive. They’re out there running some big numbers but we’re right there in the mix. Danny Hood and Tim Fabrisi, all our guys, they’re working hard and it seems to be showing so we just need to keep it going and see what happens tomorrow.”
Already qualified No. 2 from Friday night, Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac team ran quickest of the second qualifying session with a 3.673-second pass at 335.48 mph to earn three bonus qualifying points. To wrap up their qualifying efforts at the Carolina Nationals, the Flav-R-Pac dragster had a misstep, pushing too hard to smoke the tires near 100 feet for only 8.901 at 70.02. They’d finish in the No. 4 spot with a matchup against Clay Millican waiting for them in the first round.
“We head into race day from the No. 4 position and face Clay Millican in round one of eliminations. In qualifying we ran a 3.686 and our best 3.673. On our last qualifying run we didn’t make it down the track. The conditions were great and this Flav-R-Pac team wanted to take advantage of that track but pushed a little too hard,” Force said. “Tomorrow will be a whole new day, with completely different conditions. It’s going to be tough to adjust but that’s the same boat everyone is in. It’s zMAX Dragway and race number two of the final six and this team is looking for four win lights.”
Austin Prock and the Montana Brand team improved on their performance from Friday with a solid 3.725-second run at 325.53 mph but shifted into the No. 10 spot. In the last qualifying session, the Montana Brand dragster drove into tire smoke almost immediately to coast to a 9.810 pass at 117.69 but stayed No. 10.
“We’re looking forward to a strong race day tomorrow. Conditions will be different than we’ve seen all weekend with warmer temperatures so it will be a fresh start for all of us,” said Prock who will race against Josh Hart in the first round. “We made some progress on this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist car today and we will be ready to attack tomorrow morning.”
Competition at the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals will continue with eliminations Sunday at 11:00 a.m. Television coverage of the second of six races in the Countdown to the Championship will continue to air on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) with a second qualifying show Sunday at 11:00 a.m. ET and eliminations at 2:00 p.m. ET.