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Funny Car: Hight goes from worst to first

Robert Hight powers his funny car to first place in qualifying Friday at the NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. Hight reached a speed of 313.39 MPH with a low ET of 4.085. (Dispatch Photo/Steve Kohls)

From worst to first.

Points leader Robert Hight catapulted from the 17th and last qualifying position in the first round of Pro Stock to No. 1 after two rounds Friday in the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Hight roared down the drag strip in 4.085 seconds at 313.29 mph to hold off runner-up Cruz Pedregon, who went 4.093 at 308.21. John Force was third at 4.099 at 311.77 mph.

The 44-year-old Hight said it's not uncommon to be last one run and first on the next.

"But it also can go the other way," he said. "You can be No. 1 the first session and not even be in the field the second session when it really cools off, so it can swing and get you both ways."

In his second run, Hight was matched up with Bob Bode, whose engine blew, scattering debris on the track, shutting it down for several minutes.

"At this time of day, that track temperature is just dropping," Hight said. "That's what you need to run good out here so hats off to my guys. It was a pretty awesome run given that we messed up the first run.

"In talking to (Mike) Neff my crew chief before the (second) run, I was looking on his computer and he had a run up from Sonoma of 4:08 and we go out there and run 4:08. That shows he has a great handle on this car. He can make it do whatever he wants.

"This is totally different air than we have in Sonoma. Up here we have some humidity and it's hotter. I was pretty impressed with that run and how we ended up."

Hight's first run was a disappointing 6.509 at 100.75 mph. That motivated him to rectify his position in his second run.

"When you're not qualified you're not as amped up," Hight said. "You've got to make sure that you're not worried about cutting a light, making sure you drive that car right down the middle of your lane, and do the best you can, give your team the best opportunity for a good run.

"There's only a certain amount of area that has good traction so that was my focus, keeping it right down the middle and we did that.

"It was an unbelievable run. I looked up on the scoreboard once I got the chutes out and saw 4:08 and I thought 'That's good.' That's exactly what we needed to do.

"Did I think we would be No. 1? Not a chance."

With a chance of rain sometime this weekend, Hight said that puts additional pressure on drivers and their crews.

"You need to get in today," he said. "You don't want to be messing around and have rain get us Saturday. I'm not even sure that will happen, and I hope it doesn't, but when there's a possibility you've got to make sure (to qualify)."

In Friday's first qualifying round, Courtney Force was the No. 1 qualifier with an ET of 4.157 at 306.40 mph. That edged Tim Wilkerson, who had an identical ET but a speed of 304.53 mph.