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Robert Hight, Cornwell Tools Runner-Up at Carolina Nationals

Robert Hight and the Cornwell Tools / AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS team raced to their fifth final round of the season and second runner-up finish Sunday at the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team made a semifinal appearance while Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy team raced to the quarterfinals and John Force with the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS team had a first-round exit.

Coming in as the No. 1 qualifiers, Robert Hight and the Cornwell Tools team earned a first-round bye. It would be a throwaway run with Hight going red and the Cornwell Tools Chevy smoking the tires. In the second round, Hight faced Paul Lee. With cylinders out on the Camaro, Hight managed to hold on for a 3.963-second pass at 314.68 mph defeating Lee’s 4.643 at 176.70.

Hight would take on Funny Car up-and-comer Alex Laughlin in the semifinals. The Cornwell Tools team continued their impressive performance with a stout 3.934-second pass at 325.22 mph to defeat Laughlin’s 4.200 at 305.77 setting Hight up for the 101st final round of his career and fifth at the Carolina Nationals.

In the finals, Hight had a solid 3.932-second pass at 326.95 mph but with a .091-second reaction time, it wasn’t enough for Tasca’s 3.933 at 329.26 and a .050 reaction time, giving Tasca the win on a holeshot.

“We wanted to win this thing, to have back-to-back victories but it just wasn’t in the cards today,” Hight said. “This Cornwell Tools team deserves all the credit still though, for the turnaround that they did from Friday into Saturday and then to come out here on race day in completely different conditions and make it to the finals, they’ve done a great job, Jimmy Prock and Thomas and Nate tuning, they’ve all worked hard. When you have partners like Cornwell Tools, Chevrolet, AAA, and Flav-R-Pac, we’ve got everything we need to do the job. The guys do the hard work and they perfect what they do, that’s how you win the close races. We were in another final and that’s what you’ve got to do to win a championship, just keep going rounds but it’s going to take wins, too.”

Austin Prock and the Montana Brand team opened race day with a takedown of Josh Hart in the first round. Prock would have a clean 3.722-second pass at 323.27 mph to Hart’s 5.109 at 139.18 after smoking the tires. With the win, Prock and the Montana Brand dragster would see Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac team in the second round. It would be a pedal fest for the John Force Racing teammates, Prock would manage to get his dragster hooked back up quicker for a 4.655 at 223.17 while Force would manage a 4.834 at 189.18.

In the semifinals, Prock found himself lined up against the No. 1 qualifier, track record holder, and the first dragster to 300 mph at the eighth mile, Mike Salinas. Prock would have to pedal his way to a 4.189-second pass at 305.77 mph but it wouldn’t be enough for Salinas’ 3.898 at 257.68.

“A good healthy points day for us. It was fun to go some rounds today with this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team. Anyway that you can get those flashing win lights makes you feel good,” Prock said. “For me, getting to recover the race car out of tire smoke is a lot of fun and I got a few shots at it today. Leaving Charlotte with our heads up, we’ve got some momentum going into St. Louis next weekend.”

Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac team had a solid first-round pass of 3.736 seconds and 332.67 mph to defeat Top Fuel veteran Clay Millican’s 3.777 at 330.47. The win set her up with the second-round matchup against Prock. Force would leave first on the starting line but come up short in the pedal fest.

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“This Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy team is leaving Charlotte sitting No. 6 in the points standings after a strange, tough weekend for everyone out here. We were trying to move up in points and make progress and we had two out of three good qualifying runs to finish fourth when it was all said and done. Completely swapped conditions into race day, from a cool killer track to a hot track. There were a lot of adjustments and changes for the tuners to make but in round one we had a solid run down there at 3.73 and in the second round we couldn’t get off the line and it was a pedal fest with my teammate Austin Prock. Luckily, it was against a teammate so he got to move on. Just wish it had been in the final round.”

Force who qualified in the No. 4 spot, landed a first-round match-up against Alex Laughlin. The PEAK Chevy Camaro would smoke the tires early and coast to a 9.366-second pass at 79.86 allowing Laughlin to take the win at 4.138 at 306.46.

“Not the day I thought we’d have after how qualifying went. It’s tough, but we’ll move forward. Still four races left and things are tight in the points,” Force said. “A lot of upsets first round, there’s a lot of variables. We aren’t out of it, just have to keep our heads down and keep working hard.”

The halfway point of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship will be at World Wide Technology Raceway for the NHRA Midwest Nationals Sept. 29 – Oct. 01.

This story was originally published on September 25, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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