BRISTOL, TN – June 14, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Robert Hight might not have gotten the results he wanted out his new 10,000-horsepower Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car last weekend in Englishtown, N.J., but the former world champion remains upbeat when he considers the possibilities.
Hight’s new Camaro Funny Car is only two races old and his John Force Racing team is still making adjustments to the considerable change. But Hight has already seen the potential in places and that has him excited about his world championship chase.
The next step is building consistency and going rounds at this weekend’s 16th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at picturesque Bristol Dragway, where Hight won in 2011.
“We didn’t have good results (in Englishtown), but I feel really good about my car based on qualifying and based on what we changed coming in here,” said Hight, who is currently seventh in the points standings after a first-round loss in Englishtown. “It just didn’t go our way (on Sunday). I really believe we’ve got a good car. I don’t ever go to the starting line feeling we’re going to get outrun. We’ve got a good car and we just have to put it all together.”
Richie Crampton (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the event that will for the first time be telecast on FOX Sports 1. It marks the 11th of 24 races during the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and Hight will be seeking his second victory of the year.
That in itself is an improvement over a year ago, when Hight’s first victory didn’t come until the penultimate race of the regular season in Brainerd, Minn. Early success, including a win this season in Gainesville, Fla., has been beneficial, allowing the opportunity for Hight and his team, led by standout crew chief Mike Neff, a chance to get accustomed to the new car.
“Last year we didn’t get our first win of the season until Brainerd and it was the last chance for us to lock up a Traxxas Shootout spot,” Hight said. “That is a lot of pressure and this year we have our spot guaranteed thanks to the win at Gainesville and now we can focus on getting consistent and getting geared up for Indy, the Traxxas Shootout and the (Mello Yello) Countdown (to the Championship). This stretch of the season will be a good test for our team to get into a groove of racing every weekend and hopefully going rounds on Sunday.”
The possibilities of the new Camaro are enticing, especially after going 3.915-seconds at 333 mph to qualify third in Englishtown. But Hight also wants to start putting together deep runs in eliminations with the new car after back-to-back first round losses.
Hight, whose 37 career victories rank fourth all-time in Funny Car, hasn’t been to the semifinals since the victory in Gainesville, but his confidence hasn’t wavered a bit. The glimpses of outstanding runs are all Hight needs to see to know that many more will be coming soon.
“We are making progress and even though we had a short day on Sunday that doesn’t take away from my confidence,” Hight said. “My crew chief Mike Neff is a smart guy and my crew guys are some of the best guys out here. We have been making good runs in qualifying since we got the new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car body but there is an adjustment period for sure. Plus we are trying a couple other things and getting everything to work together is a process. I am excited to be getting back to Bristol. I love the fans there and the track is awesome.”
That’s a definite draw for all the stars on the NHRA circuit and having the race fall on Father’s Day weekend is an added bonus. Hight will have some special company with him to add to the excitement of the weekend, but getting his second victory at scenic Thunder Valley will be difficult against the loaded Funny Car field.
Ron Capps has been red-hot in taking over the points lead on the strength of back-to-back victories, while other top challengers include Hagan, who won for the first time at his home track in 2015, Hight’s JFR teammates John Force and Courtney Force, reigning world champion Del Worsham, two-time 2016 winner Tim Wilkerson, Jack Beckman and Las Vegas winner Alexis DeJoria.
“It would be pretty special this year because my daughter is with me and we’re staying on the road for these four (races) in a row,” Hight said. “I’ve done well at Bristol and being with your family and kids, there’s nothing better. The fans are all really tight there and it’s another Bruton Smith track that is unreal.”
In Top Fuel last year, Crampton claimed his third victory en route to five wins a year ago. Crampton is after his first win in a loaded Top Fuel class topped by points leader Doug Kalitta, who won three straight races before the NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H. Others to watch include five-time Bristol winner and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, defending world champion Antron Brown, who won in Epping, two-time 2016 event winner Brittany Force, Steve Torrence, who won at Bristol in 2013 and also last weekend in Englishtown, J.R. Todd, Clay Millican and Shawn Langdon.
Enders, the back-to-back and defending Pro Stock world champ, has two straight Bristol wins, but is searching for her first victory of 2016. Ken Black Racing teammates Jason Line and Greg Anderson have raced to victory at every Pro Stock event so far this season. Line, the current points leader, has five of those wins and has raced to nine final rounds this year. Others to watch in the new era of Pro Stock, which includes fuel-injected engines, shorter wheelie bars, flat hoods and a 10,500 RPM rev-limiter, include Bo Butner, who is third in points, five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin, 2014 top rookie Drew Skillman, 2012 world champ Allen Johnson, Chris McGaha and Vincent Nobile.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series returns to Bristol for its fifth race of the 2016 season. The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 17 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 18, at 1 and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 19.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Bristol Dragway at (423) 989-6900. Tickets also are available online at www.bristoldragway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 16th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. Competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series and the NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Bristol Dragway, Bristol, Tenn. From Interstate 81 North, take Hwy. 11E. Take the Virginia Exit 3 and Hwy. 11E will take you directly to the dragway. From the I-81 South, take Tennessee exit 69 and go south on Hwy 394 directly to the dragway.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 1,475 feet above sea level; Track direction is southwest to northwest.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, June 17-19
FRIDAY, June 17 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 6:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5 and 7:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, June 18 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 12:15 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 2:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1 and 3:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 19 – Pre-race ceremonies, 11 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon.
SATURDAY, June 18, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 2 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, June 19, FS1 will televise three hours of finals coverage at 4:30 p.m. (ET)
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Richie Crampton, Top Fuel; Matt Hagan, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: Tony Schumacher, 5, TF; Mike Edwards, 4, PS; John Force, 4, FC; Doug Kalitta, 3, TF; Ron Capps, 3, FC.
Top Fuel – 3.745 sec. by Tony Schumacher, June ’15; 331.04 mph by Larry Dixon, June ’15.
Funny Car – 3.978 sec. and 323.43 mph by John Force, June ’15.
Pro Stock – 6.621 sec. and 208.78 mph by Shane Gray, June ’14.
Top Fuel – 3.676 sec. by Brittany Force, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets call Bristol Dragway at (423) 989-6900. Tickets also available at www.bristoldragway.com.
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the tenth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
1. Doug Kalitta, 847; 2. Antron Brown, 798; 3. Steve Torrence, 782; 4. Brittany Force, 693; 5. Tony Schumacher, 577; 6. J.R. Todd, 528; 7. Clay Millican, 507; 8. Richie Crampton, 483; 9. Shawn Langdon, 478; 10. Leah Pritchett, 377.
1. Ron Capps, 758; 2. Jack Beckman, 731; 3. Courtney Force, 687; 4. Tim Wilkerson, 660; 5. Del Worsham, 639; 6. Matt Hagan, 615; 7. Robert Hight, 586; 8. John Force, 581; 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., 558; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 516.
1. Jason Line, 1,133; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,065; 3. Bo Butner, 719; 4. Allen Johnson, 614; 5. Drew Skillman, 550; 6. Chris McGaha, 491; 7. Vincent Nobile, 480; 8. Jeg Coughlin, 424; 9. Alex Laughlin, 413; 10. Erica Enders, 406.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Eddie Krawiec, 436; 2. Jerry Savoie, 310; 3. Angelle Sampey, 297; 4. Andrew Hines, 290; 5. Chip Ellis, 269; 6. Hector Arana, 239; 7. LE Tonglet, 196; 8. Karen Stoffer, 150; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, 149; 10. Steve Johnson, 147.