Robert Hight, who barely advanced to the Countdown to 1, has now won the first two of the six championship playoff events.
Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations
ENNIS, Texas – Robert Hight continued his impressive post-season performance by racing to the Funny Car victory Sunday at the O’Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock); and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners in their respective categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Hight, who barely advanced to the Countdown to 1, has now won the first two of the six championship playoff events. He defeated Jack Beckman in the final-round at the Texas Motorplex, after outrunning Leif Helander, Tim Wilkerson and Ashley Force Hood in earlier rounds. Last weekend he beat Matt Hagan in the final-round to win the NHRA Carolinas Nationals near Charlotte, N.C.
“The first two weeks of the Countdown couldn’t have been any better for us,” said Hight, who posted a 4.218 second run at 296.44 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, to hold off Beckman’s Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge Charger in the final, which finished in 4.271 at 292.58. “We won them and went from worst to first, so it’s very exciting for me. It’s something I never thought was going to happen. I never lost faith in my team. You dream big, but this is huge.”
With the win, Hight moved into the series lead for the first time this season. Entering the final race of the regular season, Hight was 12th in the point standings and in jeopardy of not making the playoffs.
“This is probably the best race car I’ve ever had,” Hight said. “We’ve won races and been close to winning the championship, but we’ve never been this dominant, this consistent, this steady; it’s going down the racetrack every run.”
Schumacher defeated rival Larry Dixon in the Top Fuel final. Schumacher finished in 3.944 at 312.86 in his U.S. Army dragster for his fifth win of the season and 61st of his career, while top qualifier Dixon trailed with a 4.232 at 225.18 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. With the victory, Schumacher, who has won the last five Top Fuel season titles and six overall, moved back into the points lead.
“This was huge,” said Schumacher, who advanced to the final by outrunning T.J. Zizzo, Antron Brown and Spencer Massey in the first three rounds. “Beating Larry Dixon and Alan Johnson and my old team is just special; if you can’t rise to the occasion against guys like that who you know are great like that, you don’t belong in here racing cars.”
Anderson claimed his first playoff victory and second win of the season in Pro Stock by driving his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to a 6.684 at 207.11 to hold off former Funny Car racer Johnny Gray, who earned his second runner-up finish this season with a 6.713 at 206.64 in his Johnny Gray Racing Dodge Stratus.
Anderson qualified fifth and beat former employer Warren Johnson, Allen Johnson and top qualifier and series points leader Mike Edwards in a critical semifinal round.
“I can’t remember stealing one like we did today,” said Anderson of his 59th career victory. “I didn’t exactly wake up this morning brimming with confidence because Mike Edwards is making us all look bad. We like to be the performance leader and we’re not, and it’s driving us nuts. It certainly wouldn’t have been a big shock to exit early today. We just fought and clawed and found a way to win all four rounds and, honestly, if we had another first-round loss today we probably would have been done for the Countdown.”
Despite beating Edwards in the semis, Anderson only earned 26 points on the leader since Edwards earned the 12 maximum bonus points during qualifying, giving him 90 points for the weekend in his A.R.T. / Young Life GXP.
“We found a way to win today and bought ourselves a little time to try to find some performance in this car and get to where Mike Edwards is, or get closer to him,” Anderson said. “It feels good to win the race because, even though you can’t win the Countdown in the first race or two, you certainly can lose it.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana raced to his third consecutive victory and fifth of the season with a final-round performance of 6.979 at 190.67 on his Lucas Oil Buell to hold off championship rival and defending world champ Eddie Krawiec, who finished in 7.005 at 190.43 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. With the win, Arana increased his series lead to 27 over Krawiec.
“I’m really pleased with the performance of the bike and this S&S motor,” said Arana, who defeated Joe DeSantis, David Hope and three-time world champ Andrew Hines in the first three rounds. “It’s a helluva piece, and (Pro Stock driver) Larry Morgan’s guys are working hard to keep me winning rounds and races and the title, something we’ve always dreamed of. My team never slowed down, even in 90 degrees of heat. They just worked so hard. I have to thank Lucas Oil for sticking with me and believing in me, and allowing me to grow with them. It’s amazing how everything has turned around for me to win five races this season; now I just need to win three more and I’ll be good. I really don’t want to focus on the championship, just about getting the motor ready and going to Memphis.”
The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series championship playoffs continue next weekend (Oct. 2-4) with the O’Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park.