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Brittany Force, Robert Hight dominate at NHRA SpringNationals

by Mike Haag | Posted on Sunday, April 14th, 2019

Brittany Force and Robert Hight. NHRA photo

 

By Mike Haag

BAYTOWN, Texas – It was a John Force Racing kind of day Sunday at the 32nd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park.

And it was pure domination at its best for Brittany Force and her brother-in-law Robert Hight as they both swept the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel and Funny Car classes.

Brittany Force. NHRA photo

“All of John Force Racing was on a mission this morning,” Brittany Force said. “My dad and I were No. 1, the first time father and daughter have ever qualified No. 1 at an event. That’s something very special my dad and I will share. We were looking for a win but to be able to do it with Robert Hight by my side in that Auto Club car, that’s pretty awesome.”

The victory was Force’s ninth career win, first this season and first with her new team, which is now led by David Grubnic and Mac Savage.  She won here in 2018 after bouncing back from a horrific crash at the season opener in Pomona last year.

Force, driving the Advanced Auto Parts dragster, started the day No. 1 and reached the final round by defeating Cameron Ferre in the first round, Doug Kalitta in the second round and Clay Millican in the semifinals.  Her final round appearance against three-time world champion Antron Brown was the 21st of her career and second this season.

“A lot was going on in my head,” Force said.  “In that semifinal run, I screwed up. My team gave me a race car and I got lucky. I got so lucky. I think it was a .002 light. You’re not supposed to have that in a Top Fuel car. Luck was on our side then and after that run I went and talked to my dad, to Robert and David Grubnic sat down and talked to me. He said, ‘Get it out of your head and let it go or you’ll come up there and do the same thing.’ We sat down, we talked, I got it out of my head and we pulled it off so it’s a lot of people involved, it’s the support system I have around me and all of the JFR drivers. I talked to them all and got my head back in the game.”

Brittany Force. NHRA photo

Force outraced Brown in the finale and recorded a winning pass that was clocked at 3.749-seconds at 302.14 mph. Brown crossed the line in 3.995 at 233.48 mph after hazing the tires halfway down the track.  He reached the final round by defeating Mike Salinas in the opening round, Leah Pritchett in the second round and then scored a holeshot win over defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence in the semifinals.

“Coming into this season with all of the changes, a whole new team with David Grubnic, Mac Savage and a whole new group of guys, that’s a lot to wrap your head around,” Force said.  “To go out to Phoenix and try to find a routine and figure out what works and make some runs down the track.”

Force added, “Really it’s about finding a routine.  I knew it was going to take us awhile but we started turning a corner in Gainesville and that’s where I screwed up. We had a good race car. Then we went to Vegas and were runner-up so I knew things were turning around. It just takes time to find that and move forward with the team. To be able to come out here as the number one qualifier with that 3.66, that’s just an outstanding run with David Grubnic, Mac Savage and all the guys. To win this thing, I’m very excited. It’s our first win together as a team.”

Robert Hight. NHRA photo

In the Nitro Funny Car class, Hight continued to dominate by claiming his third win in five races this season in his AAA Texas Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car and his third career win at Houston.  It was also Hight’s 48th career win. His previous wins here were in 2005 and 2014.

Hight reached the final round by defeating Jonnie Lindberg in the first round, J.R. Todd in the second round and No. 1 qualifier John Force in the semifinals.

“I had a tough road,” Robert Hight said.  “Jonnie Lindberg, he’s a tough competitor. Second round against J.R. Todd, he’s the current champion and John Force, he’s looking for his 150th win. Nobody will ever, ever match that or even come close. Then I had Matt Hagan in the final.”

Hight added, “It was a tough day and it was kind of funny because Tiger Woods goes out and wins the Master’s today and they look at him as an old man. He’s 43 years old. Well, I guess in this sport I’m older than most of the guys I race other than the boss and it shows that the older guys can still get it done.”

Robert Hight. NHRA photo

The final round pitted arch rival Matt Hagan in a classic John Force Racing versus Don Schumacher Racing drag racing showdown.  Hight outran Hagan and posted a winning time of 3.941-seconds at 310.84 mph. Hagan spun the tires at halftrack and crossed the stripe in 3.966 at 311.70.  Hagan reached the final round by defeating his teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in the opening round, Blake Alexander in the second round and his other DSR teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals.

“I’m proud of [my team], never disbelieved in them,” Hight said. “That’s why we have three wins already this season because they’re so good. Down at the other end, they said, ‘How do you keep your team in check?’ Really, it’s the other way around. They keep me in check. I’ve never seen a more focused group of individuals. They keep their heads down, work hard, don’t do a lot of talking and we got the job done.”

Today’s victories marked the third time in JFR history for the duo to score double-up wins in the Nitro categories.  The first win came in 2016 in Gainesville and the second in 2017 in Dallas, the same year both JFR drivers won championship titles in their respective classes.

Brittany Force and Robert Hight. Photo by Gary Nastase, Auto Imagery

“This is the third time Brittany and I have had double ups,” Hight said.  “Really fourth if you count the championship in 2017. Getting the championship, we seem to do really well together in these circumstances so it was really cool to be down there when she made the corner and throw a bunch of Mello Yello on her car as she came around. It was pretty cool.”

Hight almost didn’t make the field for Sunday’s race.  On Friday night he was sitting outside the 16-car field and with rain in the forecast on Saturday, any cancelation of the final two qualifying rounds and Hight could have been shut out of Sunday’s elimination rounds.  However, the weather cooperated on Saturday and Hight ended up qualifying fifth.

“I wasn’t nervous about qualifying,” Hight said.  “You believe in your team and you know they’re going to get it done but what I was nervous about was the weather. The forecast didn’t look so good for Saturday and anything can happen. It could rain out and we’d just not be in so luckily mother nature held on for us. We got two runs in yesterday and we even got two points each run so even though our backs were against the wall, my team went out and came out swinging and made real good runs for the conditions and got the little bonus points,”

Hight added, “I’m proud of them. I never disbelieved in them. That’s why we already have three wins this season because they’re so good. Down at the top end of the race track they asked me how I kept my team in check and really, it’s the other way around, they keep me in check. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs.”

Hight’s semifinal matchup against his team owner and father-in-law was also noteworthy.  It marked the fourth time this season they would face each other and the third time the pair had battled in the semifinals and for the third time the result was the same with Hight winning.  He defeated the 16-time world champion with a 3.924-second pass at 309.91 mph. Force crossed the line in 3.932 at 312.78.

“I know John wants me to go up there and have the same intensity when I race him as I do with anybody else but it’s tough,” Hight said.  “This sport is very humbling but it can also change in a hurry. John can go out and beat me the next four times I face him. That PEAK team is really coming around and running good. They were the number one qualifier.”

Hight added, “I hate beating the boss but who knows, maybe he’ll park me and I won’t go to Charlotte but I doubt it. I’ll be honest, it is a bummer to beat the boss. John Force has won 149 wins and 16 championships because he’s an intense competitor. He wants it as bad as anyone else and you just know that, every day he goes to the race track he’s looking for 150. I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for John Force.”

Media Center Interviews:

Brittany Force –

 

Robert Hight –

 

BAYTOWN, Texas — Final finish order (1-16) at the 32nd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil. The race is the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

TOP FUEL:

  1. Brittany Force; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Doug Kalitta; 6.

Leah Pritchett; 7. Scott Palmer; 8. Austin Prock; 9. Mike Salinas; 10. Jordan Vandergriff; 11.

Shawn Reed; 12. Terry McMillen; 13. Kebin Kinsley; 14. Richie Crampton; 15. Billy Torrence; 16.

Cameron Ferre.

FUNNY CAR:

  1. Robert Hight; 2. Matt Hagan; 3. John Force; 4. Ron Capps; 5. J.R. Todd; 6. Shawn Langdon; 7. Blake Alexander; 8. Bob Tasca III; 9. Jonnie Lindberg; 10. Terry Haddock; 11. Cruz Pedregon; 12. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 13. Jack Beckman; 14. Tim Wilkerson; 15. Jim Campbell; 16. Jeff Diehl.

BAYTOWN, Texas — Sunday’s final results from the 32nd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil. The race is the fifth of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel — Brittany Force, 3.749 seconds, 302.14 mph def. Antron Brown, 3.995 seconds, 233.48 mph.

Funny Car — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.941, 310.84 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.966, 311.70.

Pro Modified — Steve Jackson, Chevy Camaro, 5.675, 255.00 def. Todd Tutterow, Camaro, 13.471, 76.06.

Top Alcohol Dragster — Megan Meyer, 5.231, 279.15 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 5.266, 275.90.

Top Alcohol Funny Car — Brian Hough, Chevy Camaro, 5.705, 263.31 def. Annie Whiteley, Camaro, 10.066, 89.54.

Super Stock — Pete Peery, Olds Calais, 9.198, 138.97 def. Darrin Christen, Chevy II, 9.922, 129.85.

Stock Eliminator — Jacob Pitt, Plymouth Barracuda, 10.468, 122.93 def. Brett Candies, Ford Mustang, 9.367, 142.16.

Super Comp — Veron Rowland, Dragster, 8.890, 166.52 def. Chris Vang, Dragster, 8.873, 171.12.

Super Gas — Robert Rowan, Chevy Corvette, 9.908, 161.92 def. Koy Collier, Chevy Camaro, 9.882, 151.51.

Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com — Ross Laris, Dragster, 6.106, 227.38 def. William Kruse, Dragster, Foul – Red Light.

Top Fuel Harley — Jay Turner, JTR, 6.792, 163.63 def. Mike Scott, JTR, 7.027, 164.55.

Mountain Motor Pro Stock — John DeFlorian Jr, Chevy Camaro, 10.434, 90.12 def. JR Carr, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

BAYTOWN, Texas — Final round-by-round results from the 32nd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Austin Prock, 3.717, 325.85 def. Jordan Vandergriff, 3.747, 324.51; Clay Millican, 3.765, 316.60 def. Richie Crampton, 5.644, 90.35; Brittany Force, 3.766, 321.19 def. Cameron Ferre, Foul – Red Light; Antron Brown, 3.735, 325.69 def. Mike Salinas, 3.727, 321.96; Steve Torrence, 3.720, 327.19 def. Kebin Kinsley, 3.855, 313.58; Leah Pritchett, 3.736, 322.73 def. Shawn Reed, 3.755, 326.16; Scott Palmer, 3.807, 319.82 def. Billy Torrence, 6.295, 116.08; Doug Kalitta, 3.768, 313.44 def. Terry McMillen, 3.784, 279.96; QUARTERFINALS — Millican, 3.730, 319.82 def. Palmer, 3.802, 305.22; S. Torrence, 3.732, 322.73 def. Prock, 4.739, 162.18; Force, 3.678, 323.74 def. Kalitta, 3.744, 320.36; Brown, 3.750, 320.89 def. Pritchett, Foul – Red Light; SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.746, 320.28 def. S. Torrence, 3.744, 315.71; Force, 3.738, 314.31 def. Millican, 11.114, 66.60; FINAL — Force, 3.749, 302.14 def. Brown, 3.995, 233.48.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, 3.959, 298.34 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 6.727, 83.56; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.895, 322.27 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 3.961, 310.63; John Force, Camaro, 3.858, 326.71 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.162, 267.53; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.950, 318.54 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 12.698, 69.80; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.930, 318.99 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 8.381, 71.17; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.946, 318.62 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.807, 166.87; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.944, 316.23 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.335, 203.77; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.949, 316.60 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 5.321, 137.23; QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 3.938, 315.78 def. Langdon, 3.983, 318.17; Hight, 3.914, 314.75 def. Todd, 3.940, 318.62; Force, 3.977, 311.34 def. Tasca III, 4.060, 258.47; Hagan, 3.948, 312.93 def. Alexander, 4.011, 306.40; SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.613, 225.79 def. Capps, 7.818, 98.67; Hight, 3.924, 309.91 def. Force, 3.932, 312.78; FINAL — Hight, 3.941, 310.84 def. Hagan, 3.966, 311.70.

BAYTOWN, Texas — Point standings (top 10) following the 32nd annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park powered by Pennzoil, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –

Top Fuel

  1. Doug Kalitta, 367; 2. Brittany Force, 349; 3. Steve Torrence, 343; 4. Mike Salinas, 320; 5.

Leah Pritchett, 303; 6. Clay Millican, 302; 7. Antron Brown, 278; 8. Billy Torrence, 265; 9.

Richie Crampton, 264; 10. Terry McMillen, 231.

Funny Car

  1. Robert Hight, 476; 2. Matt Hagan, 366; 3. J.R. Todd, 341; 4. John Force, 339; 5. Jack Beckman, 332; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 315; 7. (tie) Ron Capps, 286; Tim Wilkerson, 286; 9. Bob Tasca III, 250; 10. Shawn Langdon, 223.
About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.

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