Robert Hight raced to his third Funny Car victory in a row and fourth overall this season on Monday at the rain-delayed Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals.
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Hight, the 2009 Funny Car world champion, defeated John Force Racing teammate Courtney Force in a thrilling final at Atlanta Dragway with a performance of 4.049 seconds at 315.05 mph in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. It was the sixth final round appearance in a row for Hight, who extended the John Force Racing team’s consecutive final round streak to 14 races.
“We’ve just got to take it one run at a time,” said Hight, who won his 33rd career event. “It’s a total team effort. First round I was able to save it and pedal the car. Second round my team definitely saved me. My brain got a mental overload. Luckily my team gave me a 4.05 that run. After that we got in sync, we were back as a team again. “
Hight was not lost on the potential history that would have been made had Force won the final. While the 100th pro win by a female driver in NHRA history is big news, Hight is seeking to make his own history with one of the best starts to a Funny Car season.
“It would have been a big win for Courtney, but, you know what, we’ve got some momentum,” said Hight, who stretched his points lead to 206 points over teammate John Force. “We want to make some history here. This is six straight final rounds. Man, I’ve never done this. Six out of seven, I never would have guessed this. I’ve won three in a row a few times. I want to win four, five. I want to see where we can go.”
Force was consistent in eliminations, posting passes of 4.13, 4.07, 4.13 and 4.11 as she sought to win the 100th race by a female driver in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Her Traxxas Ford Mustang completed the final pass with a 4.117 at 316.01.
“It’s tough,” Force said of her attempt at the 100th win. “For all that pressure that was on me, I wanted to get that win. Not only for my Traxxas team to get into the Traxxas Shootout, but for all the females out there. It’s a hard loss for sure.”
It was the ninth career final round appearance for Force, who was seeking her fourth career Funny Car victory. Force moved into a tie for seventh with Jack Beckman in the Funny Car point standings.
In Top Fuel, Massey beat Doug Kalitta with a 4.269 at 245.85 to claim his first win of the season and 15th of his career. Both Massey’s Battery Extender powered by Schumacher dragster and Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster lost traction at the start, but Massey won the pedalfest to earn his first professional win at Atlanta Dragway.
“In the final round, we tried standing on it again. With Kalitta running those awesome numbers in qualifying, we knew we couldn’t take them lightly,” said Massey, who climbed to fourth in points. “We spun the tire, got out there, and I tried grabbing a little brake again, got back on it, and got to the finish line first. It wasn’t pretty. There was a lot of smoke, a lot of fire, a lot of oil, but it is what it is.”
Massey became the third Don Schumacher Racing driver to win a Top Fuel event in 2014, joining teammates Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher. While it was only his first pro win in Atlanta, Massey has a special fondness for the track.
“I wish I could tell you [why I do well at Atlanta Dragway], but I do love racing here in Commerce, Georgia,” Massey explained. “My first Alcohol Dragster win was here in 2007, again in 2008. My first Top Fuel final round with Don Prudhomme was in 2009. I love racing at this track. It’s usually hot. It’s usually kind of muggy, but there again, I’m from the South. I like it hot. I like it muggy. I can still race in it and have fun.”
Kalitta was seeking his second win in a season for the first time since 2006. It was the fourth final round appearance this season for Kalitta, who took home the Wally in Gainesville earlier this season. With the runner-up finish, Kalitta regained the points lead from Antron Brown and heads to Topeka with a seven point advantage.
Jeg Coughlin powered his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart to his 57th career Pro Stock win with a 6.558 at 211.63, defeating rival Greg Anderson in the final. The win earned Coughlin, the five-time and reigning Pro Stock world champion, his third career victory at Atlanta and first of the season .
“We’ve been hit and miss a little this year with both cars [his and Allen Johnson’s], and both cars were a little sluggish here at the start,” said Coughlin. “We worked on them real hard going into Saturday, but the E.T’s weren’t there, so we changed engines going into race day. Our teams did one heck of a job on a rebound this weekend. We made some good calls, and it was great to get our first win of the season. Last year, we didn’t get our first win until Topeka, and this year we’ve been through some pitfalls and have been wanting to pull our hair out, but we’ve been patient, double-checking each other, and doing as good a job as we can to make this car efficient.”
Coughlin’s previous two starts prior to Atlanta were red light efforts in Charlotte and Houston, a streak Coughlin was determined to end. The Columbus, Ohio, native beat Johnson, Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens and Pomona winner Jason Line to advance to his final round matchup with Anderson.
“It’s great to have Greg back and racing with us,” said Coughlin, who is now ranked fifth in the Pro Stock points. “We stayed in touch as he was going through his recovery. Sure, we have different sponsors on the sides of our cars, but we’re a close family out here. Running Greg in the final, we knew he was doing a good job on the Tree sawing it down and knew we’d have to be on our best behavior in the final. We wanted to keep the yellow and black car ahead of him, and we did; it was a great final.”
Anderson, who was appearing in his second race since returning from heart surgery, drove his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro to consistent performances as he attempts to chase after a spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
Krawiec was the dominant racer all weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle, racing to victory as the No. 1 qualifier over teammate Andrew Hines with a final round performance of 6.806 at 197.45 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson. It was the first win of the season for Krawiec, a three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion.
“We’re happy to be back and winning,” said Krawiec, whose team had to make major changes to its engine program after off-season rules adjustments. “Going into the first year of the race, we were respectable but missed the tune-up on Sunday. We went to Charlotte and ran to what we were expecting but still hadn’t finished our R&D process and all of the new components we’d been working on all winter long. We weren’t totally happy and felt we needed more performance because we thought we’d have to be spot-on the tune-up to run with everybody. We went back to the shop and really put forth the effort.”
It was Krawiec’s third career win at Atlanta Dragway. He sits second in points behind runner-up Hines. Hines was in his second final of the season, taking victory at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte last month.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues May 23-25 with the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.).