The symphony in Robert Hight’s ears at the end of his second round qualifying run for the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway wasn’t music being piped in over the team’s radio. It was the roar of the engine in his John Force Racing Funny Car.
But Hight loved it as he cruised across the finish line with a run of 4.062 second at 313.07 mph that gave him the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot.
"That’s just the best sound in the world, when it revs up at the other end and the motor’s not hurt," Hight said. "It’s like music to my ears. It’s unbelievable that sound. You know when it’s right and it’s running good."
Hight clearly has been running well in 2011, as he’s won two of the three Funny Car events. But this would be his first No. 1 qualifying spot of the season if it holds up. And it could hold up, given the 80 percent chance of rain on Saturday, when third- and fourth-round qualifying is scheduled.
Cruz Pedregon is currently the No. 2 qualifier with a 4.064 at 307.44 mph run, with Hight teammates Mike Neff and John Force third and fourth, respectively.
Going for victories and No. 1 qualifying spots is nothing new to Hight and his go-for-it crew chief, Jimmy Prock.
"John (Force) has always said, 'You just do what you know how to do,'" said Hight, who has qualified No. 1 38 times in his 142-race career. "If you learned to shoot pool drunk, that’s what you do – you shoot pool drunk. If you race aggressive like Jimmy Prock does, why back off? … That’s why we have a lot of No. 1 qualifiers, that’s why we’re No. 1 in points right now.
"But as a driver, that makes you nervous because there are a lot of good cars out there. In all honestly, I didn’t think that would stand up."
Hight and the other No. 1 qualifiers Friday – Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel and Greg Anderson in Pro Stock – are all hoping the rain holds off Saturday and they get in some more passes, and not simply because they selfishly want to hold on to their top spots.
Because this is the only national event that uses four lanes, drivers are still getting used to the starting-line procedures. NHRA is using a new Christmas Tree for this event, with four blue lights aligned vertically across the two trees corresponding to each of the four lanes.
Drivers say the new tree is better, but racing four-wide once a year takes some getting used to.
"It is definitely a step forward," Anderson said. "It’s definitely better than last year, (and) it’s a little less confusing. But at the same time, for me anyway, it’s a lot to take in. It’s a lot of lights. You’re just so set in your ways: One light here, one light there. So you find yourself talking to yourself the whole time up there."
Anderson made a 6.566-second pass at 210.37 mph to pace Pro Stock, edging Jason Line’s 6.576 at 210.77 mph run. Rodger Brodgon was third.
In Top Fuel, Kalitta wondered whether his team could pick up the pace for the second round, and he picked up all the way to the top spot. His run was 3.822 second at 322.04 mph. Larry Dixon was second, with Del Worsham third.
"Real relieved there after that run," Kalitta said. "Dixon and some of the other cars on that first run really put down good number. I went back and talked to my crew chief Jim Owen and was wondering if he could step this thing up a little bit so we could run with those guys. He did a great job with it, obviously."