By Lee Elder
MADISON, Ill. (Sept. 22, 2018) – Robert Hight plucked the top qualifier award out of the early evening air in Funny Car as the field was set for the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Hight was part of the final pair of professional racers to go down the track Saturday and his 3.844-second, 326.16 mph trip down the thousand-foot strip earned him the top spot on Sunday’s eliminations ladder.
“My car made great runs in all four sessions and that give me a lot of confidence going into race day,” Hight said.
The other top Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifiers were Chip Ellis (6.764 seconds/196.76 mph in Pro Stock Motorcycle), Jeg Coughlin (6.496 seconds/211.76 mph, Pro Stock) and Steve Torrence (3.675 seconds/327.19 mph, Top Fuel).
It was the 60th time Hight has earned top qualifier honors in Funny Car competition.
“To be honest with you, the number that impressed me the most was the 3.90 we ran in the heat in the third qualifying session,” Hight said. “We’re not going to have Candyland conditions like we had in the fourth qualifying session (during eliminations).”
Coughlin said the racing conditions were, “Close to Disneyland conditions for the Pro Stock cars.”
The struggle for qualifying bonus points was all over the map in some categories and compacted among small groups in others. The top three drivers in each category earn points after each qualifying session, three for the top spot, two for second and one for third, leaving a total of 24 points available to the category and 12 possible for each driver. The first three drivers in the Top Fuel standings grabbed 21 of the possible 24 points. The first four drivers in Funny Car captured 21 points. Jeg Coughlin, who started the weekend sixth in the Countdown standings, earned 10 bonus points, by far the most in the category. Eddie Krawiec, who leads the Pro Stock Motorcycle standings, earned four bonus points and the next three drivers in the standings combined to earn three points.
Unofficial bonus point totals for Countdown-eligible drivers:
TOP FUEL: Clay Millican 10, Steve Torrence 9, Tony Schumacher 2.
FUNNY CAR: Robert Hight 9, Ron Capps 8, Courtney Force 3, JR Todd, Tim Wilkerson and Tommy Johnson Jr. 1 each.
PRO STOCK: Jeg Coughlin 10, Vincent Nobile 5, Erica Enders and Jason Line 4 each, Bo Butner 1.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines 8, Eddie Krawiec 4, LE Tonglet 2, Matt Smith and Angie Smith 1 each.
NOTES: Organizers announced Saturday’s racing attracted a sold-out crowd. … The Funny Car teams narrowly missed creating the quickest field in history. The bump spot was 4.06 seconds. The NHRA record for Funny Car is 4.029 seconds. … The essential pure nature of drag racing was on display in the third round of qualifying. Chip Ellis, a part time Pro Stock Motorcycle racer, collected the three points for leading a qualifying session and Billy Torrence, a part-timer in Top Fuel, collected a point by posting the third-best lap in session 3. … Four-time Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson was unable to start his car and did not make a Q4 pass. … The non-qualifier list included Karen Stoffer, Kelly Clontz (Pro Stock Motorcycle); Robert River (Pro Stock); Chris Karamesines, Lex Joon, Luigi Novelli (Top Fuel); Terry Haddock, Jack Wyatt (Funny Car).