Drag Race Central - NHRA
Tue, 16 Apr 2013, 18:47 PM

Hight Looks to Recapture Magic at The Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2013 Auto Imagery, Inc.

Fueled by Full Throttle


Hight, Capps Force and C. Pedregon
in the Funny Car final last year.
Athletes often talk about being in the zone. That special feeling where every shot goes in the basket, every putt drops in the cup, every at-bat is a homerun and for drag racers, every time they get into their machines they know they will take the win-light. The 2009 Funny Car world champion, Robert Hight, was in the zone in the spring of 2012 when the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series visited zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, N.C.

Hight, in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, defeated Cruz Pedregon in the finals of the first of two NHRA races held annually at the multi-purpose motorsports facility to record his fourth consecutive win of the early season.

With that win he became the fifth Funny Car racer to win four consecutive events in NHRA history, joining Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Pedregon and John Force. Hight relished the streak and the confidence it brought him and the team.

"You never wanted to leave the track when we were in the middle of winning four in a row," Hight said. "It was cool because we never really felt any pressure even when we were trying to win the fourth in a row going into Charlotte. We had a lot of confidence, but we weren't over confident."

Hight and his team celebrate the win last year.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to zMAX Dragway, April 19-21 for the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Fueled by Full Throttle, one of the most intense NHRA events during the course of the 24-race schedule. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) join Hight as the defending winners of the event that will be televised on ESPN2HD. Also competing at the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals for the second time will be the Pro Stock Motorcycle category, which were last featured at this event in 2010, with Tar Heel state native Matt Smith taking home the win.

Hight is coming off the most recent event in Las Vegas which saw him record the 44th No. 1 qualifying position of his career and the first of the season. The effort also broke a 19-race stretch without a No. 1 qualifying position. He and his Auto Club Ford Mustang team are seeing steady improvements and they will be looking to break into the win column for the first time in 2013 and the first time in 22 events.

"What is cool to me is seeing what an E.T. (elapsed time) slip will do for your team," Hight said. "It helps the morale of the team so much. My team has been pretty beat up and they have been working really hard testing. They have been putting in a lot of hours. You start getting a couple positive E.T. slips and everything gets better. It is magic."

For Hight to once again enjoy success at the state-of-the-art track he will have to outlast a field of Funny Cars that features some of the toughest competitors in recent history. His John Force Racing teammate Courtney Force leads the points and has one win and one runner-up finish this season. Don Schumacher Racing teammates Johnny Gray and Ron Capps also have wins under their belts this year and Capps won the fall event at zMax Dragway. The 2011 Funny Car world champion and fellow DSR racer Matt Hagan has one win at the track and in 2011 became the first Funny Car racer to break the four-second barrier (3.995 seconds). Snap-on Tools Toyota driver Pedregon, fresh off his win in Las Vegas, Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria and Jack Beckman will all be looking to take home the NHRA Wally on Sunday.

Tony Schumacher
Photo copyright 2013 David Allio, LVMS
zMAX Dragway is one of the most modern and fan-friendly tracks on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing circuit and is located in the heart of stock-car racing country. The fan base in the area has extensive knowledge of motorsports and is one of the most passionate in the country.

"We love going into NASCAR country," Hight said. "John Force calls NASCAR our big brother. I think every year we turn more fans into NHRA fans. We aren't asking them to choose one sport or the other. NASCAR fans can be fans of both and I think a lot of them like what we do and follow us on ESPN2 and online. Every year we have more and more people coming up to our ropes talking about other races they watched or attended since the last time we were in Charlotte. That is what you want; year-round fans."

The Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals is the one event during the season where the NHRA races in a four-lane configuration. When the pair of Christmas Trees go green, four high-horsepower machines launch off the starting line with thousands of horsepower thundering down the track in a simultaneous burst of sheer power. For fans it has quickly become a bucket-list event. But for the racers, the points awarded are the same and the weekend can go a long way to securing another world championship title.

"You try and make it like a regular event, but there is a lot going on with the staging," Hight said. "I just try and do my routine and be smooth. You do have to be patient, but really having done it a couple of times I feel pretty good. When you are in the middle lanes, you can feel Funny Cars on both sides of you. It is awesome and I know the fans get a thrill out of feeling 40,000 horsepower launch at zMAX Dragway. When we take off under the lights all those header flames also put on an awesome show."

2010 Pro Stock Motorcycle final.
M. Smith, Arana, Phillips and Johnson
In Top Fuel competition, Tony Schumacher is leading the way in his U.S. Army dragster. The seven-time world champ has won two races this season and has been to six consecutive final rounds dating back to the final two events of 2012. Defending world champ Antron Brown is also at the top of the points order in his Matco Tools dragster as he won the recent Gatornationals event in Florida. Others to watch in Top Fuel include defending event winner Massey, past zMAX winner Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas and Clay Millican, who posted a runner-up finish at the Gatornationals in March and is hungry to get his first career victory.

Pro Stock is full of talented drivers looking to score big at the Four-Wide Nationals, which includes defending event winner Anderson, last year's world champion Allen Johnson, Pro Stock's most successful female driver Erica Enders-Stevens, outstanding top qualifier Mike Edwards in his I Am Second Chevy Camaro, Jason Line, Vincent Nobile, V Gaines and Shane Gray.

Pro Stock Motorcycle returns to the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals after a two-year hiatus. Lucas Oil Racing Buell rider Hector Arana Jr. started off the Mello Yello Series season with a win at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla. He will square off with some tough riders if he hopes to get win No. 2 which includes father, Hector Sr., Rookie of the Year candidate Adam Arana, three-time champs Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec on their Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidsons, Michael Ray, Shawn Gann, husband-and-wife duo Matt and Angie Smith, Scotty Pollacheck and past zMAX winner Steve Johnson.

Children 13 and younger will receive free general admission tickets with a paid adult. As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as every ticket is an exclusive pit pass, allowing them firsthand to see the highly skilled mechanics service their race machines between rounds. While visiting the pits, interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway are two popular areas fans won't want to miss.

• SCHEDULE: Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, April 19 and continue on Saturday, April 20 at 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at noon on Sunday, April 21.

• TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Fueled by Full Throttle online at www.zmaxdragway.com or by calling zMAX Dragway at (800) 455-FANS (3267).

• TELEVISION: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, April 20 and three hours of eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 21.

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