August 20, 2014

Elyria
Intermittent clouds
69°F
test

Theory of relativity

Force’s son-in-law tops in Funny Car

NORWALK — Robert Hight has been around the model of Funny Car excellence for nearly two decades, so it’s no wonder he finished as the No. 1 qualifier in the category Saturday at the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment Nationals NHRA event at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.
Hight is the son-in-law of 14-time Funny Car world champion John Force and was the legendary driver’s clutch specialist for half of his championship seasons. He eventually became the test driver for Force Racing, earned his Funny Car license in 2004 and finished runner-up to Force last season.
“I learned a lot during my time with him, that’s for sure,” Hight said.
Hight, who races for Force’s team, took the Funny Car pole with an elapsed time of 4.713 seconds and a top qualifying speed of 313.73 mph. Finishing second was series rookie Ashley Force, John’s second-eldest daughter and Hight’s sister-in-law, with an ET of 4.734 and a top speed of 320.13.
“She’s had a good car on the track every week,” Hight said. “Unfortunately last weekend we screwed up in qualifying and had to race her in the first round. We got our stuff together in the first round and had to beat her — she’d have beaten anybody else but us. Then in the next round we had a malfunction. She might have gone on to win it all.”
John, who is having a tough year by his standards, qualified 12th and would probably have to beat his daughter and son-in-law en route to a race championship today.
Hight, who has come to Norwalk several times with John for the track’s “Night on Fire” events, said the upgrades that have been made since the NHRA announced it would be racing here this season have been fantastic and the track surface is in great shape.
“You can run good in either lane,” Hight said. “I have the feeling that the right lane will be the lane of choice but it’s not going to be a big deal either way, trust me.”
Five works for Fuller
Rod Fuller stayed on top of the Top Fuel list, earning his fifth career No. 1 qualifying spot and third of the season.
“Five is my lucky number,” he said. “I’m No. 5, five was my number in both football and soccer and I’m 5-foot-5.”
Fuller came away with the Top Fuel pole with an ET of 4.533 seconds and a top qualifying speed of 323.50 mph. He finished fifth in the points race last season despite competing in only 15 events.
“It’s pretty awesome what our team has been doing and we just keep it going every race,” Fuller said. “I have a lot of confidence with my car and team.”
Fuller, who hails from Las Vegas, is one of the few drivers who had never been to the Norwalk park before.
“I’m just really impressed by this facility and the fans,” he said. “The place has a feeling of home to it, like I’m at a bracket race.”
Qualifying second was Clay Millican with an ET of 4.538 and a top speed of 316.67. Defending Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher qualified 14th.
Anderson tops in Stock; Connolly fourth
Greg Anderson continued his dominating performance in the Pro Stock category, capturing his eighth No. 1 qualifying spot of the season and 59th of his career.
Anderson took the Pro Stock pole in his opening run with an ET of 6.654 seconds and a top qualifying speed of 207.59 mph. He wasn’t happy with his final three qualifying attempts, however.
“We thought we did our homework, we came in here, came off the trailer and we laid down a great lap — spirits were high,” Anderson said. “But that quickly went downward because we haven’t done anything since. We obviously have some homework to do tonight. We pride ourselves on consistency and we’ve had a lack of it this weekend. Just minor errors, nothing we don’t feel we can take care of by (today).”
Anderson, like many of the NHRA drivers, said he’s raced at Norwalk before and gave a unique reason on why Summit Motorsports Park is such a beloved track.
“The crowd is a little bit closer to the race track than we normally see and you can really feel that,” he said. “When you pull up, you can feel the people right next to you and that makes it a lot of fun for a driver.”
Anderson has been having more fun than anyone in the Pro Stock division this year, having won half of the 10 events and capturing the top qualifying spot in the last six races.
“That shows you what we’ve got, what kind of equipment we’ve got, what kind of team we’ve got,” he said. “We expect perfection, we expect four perfect runs out there. All the other teams we’re racing want to see (Saturday’s bad runs) happen again (today).”
One of the drivers who wouldn’t mind seeing Anderson falter is Elyria’s Dave Connolly, who qualified fourth and is third in the series points race.
“From Q1 to Q4 we ran some pretty solid runs,” Connolly said. “We left maybe just a little bit on the table (Friday) night and probably could have gotten maybe one or two more spots, but we’re happy with what we’ve done so far.”
Connolly was asked if he’d trade a better overall qualifying time on the first run if he had three bad runs after, the thing that seemed to upset Anderson so much.
“I always have wanted to perform better on the second day because the track conditions are more like they are on a race day,” Connolly said. “I guess I’d rather just stay consistent for the whole weekend.”
Connolly raced at Norwalk many years ago and noticed the many changes.
“I guess the question is, ‘What ain’t different?’” he said. “They’ve done so many improvements with the paving and the whole pit area and the grandstands and the suites — it’s always been a nice facility, but they’ve really stepped up.
“It’s top-notch.”
Smith hot to trot
Matt Smith came away with the No. 1 qualifying spot for the Pro Stock Motorcycle class with an ET of 6.965 seconds and a top qualifying speed of 189.60 mph — his third Pro Stock Motorcycle pole of the season and seventh of his career.
Smith said the warm weather didn’t affect him too much.
“For as hot as the track is right now, there’s still a lot of bite out there,” he said. “We put a new tire on for the last pass and it shook and it spun, but I think it’ll be all right for (today).”
Chip Ellis qualified second with an ET of 6.983 and a top speed of 189.36.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com.
TODAY’S PAIRINGS
Number represents qualifying position, number behind name is driver’s car number, next number is elapsed time and final number in parenthesis is the driver’s top qualifying speed in mph.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
No. 1 Matt Smith (5) 6.965 (189.60) vs. No. 16 Matt Guidera (25) 7.084 (185.13); No. 8 Peggy Llewellyn (499) 7.014 (190.43) vs. No. 9 Craig Treble (10) 7.017 (192.60); No. 4 Angelle Sampey (3) 6.997 (190.86) vs. No. 13 Michael Phillips (412) 7.062 (190.62); No. 5 Chris Rivas (748) 7.001 (188.20) vs. No. 12 Geno Scali (9) 7.053 (189.60); No. 2 Chip Ellis (4) 6.983 (189.36) vs. No. 15 Hector Arana (235) 7.077 (186.05); No. 7 Karen Stoffer (6) 7.008 (189.76) vs. No. 10 Eddie Krawiec (88) 7.036 (190.30); No. 3 Andrew Hines (1) 6.995 (190.16) vs. No. 14 Paul Gast (133) 7.073 (188.12); No. 6 Antron Brown (2) 7.005 (190.65) vs. No. 11 Steve Johnson (751) 7.050 (189.36).
Pro Stock
No. 1 Greg Anderson (2) 6.654 (207.59) vs. No. 16 Erica Enders (401K) 6.705 (205.35); No. 8 Kurt Johnson (5) 6.673 (206.76) vs. No. 9 Jeg Coughlin (25) 6.673 (206.67); No. 4 Dave Connolly (3) 6.663 (206.70) vs. No. 13 Warren Johnson (208) 6.683 (206.57); No. 5 Tom Hammonds (20) 6.664 (205.41) vs. No. 12 Greg Stanfield (8) 6.679 (205.66); No. 2 Richie Stevens Jr. (9) 6.659 (206.04) vs. No. 15 Larry Morgan (357) 6.692 (206.35); No. 7 Max Naylor (103) 6.670 (206.57) vs. No. 10 V Gaines (10) 6.673 (206.35); No. 3 Allen Johnson (6) 6.660 (205.72) vs. No. 14 Jim Yates (7) 6.689 (206.01); No. 6 Jason Line (1) 6.667 (207.18) vs. No. 11 Justin Humphreys (1568) 6.676 (206.57).
Top Fuel
No. 1 Rod Fuller (5) 4.533 (323.50) vs. No. 16 Melanie Troxel (4) 4.666 (321.35); No. 8 David Grubnic (6) 4.583 (329.58) vs. No. 9 Luigi Novelli (394) 4.598 (322.65); No. 4 Larry Dixon (91) 4.561 (323.89) vs. No. 13 Doug Kalitta (2) 4.618 (320.13); No. 5 Cory McClenathan (9) 4.564 (323.89) vs. No. 12 Bob Vandergriff Jr. (12) 4.614 (312.13); No. 2 Clay Millican (255) 4.538 (316.67) vs. No. 15 Hillary Will (10) 4.661 (320.58); No. 7 Doug Herbert (11) 4.577 (326.56) vs. No. 10 Whit Bazemore (73) 4.607 (320.20); No. 3 Brandon Bernstein (3) 4.554 (325.37) vs. No. 14 Tony Schumacher (1) 4.633 (311.92); No. 6 Scott Palmer (5050) 4.572 (306.12) vs. No. 11 J.R. Todd (8) 4.611 (322.42).
Funny Car
No. 1 Robert Hight (2) 4.713 (313.73) vs. No. 16 Del Worsham (750) 4.873 (290.76); No. 8 Mike Ashley (180) 4.778 (329.58) vs. No. 9 Jim Head (388) 4.804 (318.47); No. 4 Tommy Johnson Jr. (503) 4.759 (305.42) vs. No. 13 Cruz Pedregon (10) 4.862 (301.60); No. 5 Jack Beckman (711) 4.773 (326.16) vs. No. 12 John Force (1) 4.832 (299.00); No. 2 Ashley Force (7321) 4.734 (320.13) vs. No. 15 Gary Densham (782) 4.870 (308.35); No. 7 Ron Capps (28) 4.775 (317.42) vs. No. 10 Kenny Bernstein (404) 4.813 (315.12); No. 3 Tony Pedregon (5) 4.757 (320.81) vs. No. 14 Tony Bartone (427) 4.866 (317.49); No. 6 Tim Wilkerson (347) 4.775 (324.67) vs. No. 11 Jeff Arend (170) 4.830 (318.54).

today
WHAT: Final Eliminations, Inaugural Summit Racing Equipment Nationals
SCHEDULE:
8:30 a.m. — Spectator gates open; 9 a.m. — Sportsman eliminations; 10 a.m. — Prerace ceremonies; 11 a.m. — Final eliminations
WHERE: Norwalk
TV: 8 p.m., ESPN2 (tape-delayed)