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No record, but Hight still happy at No. 1

By SUSAN WADE
Published March 20, 2005


GAINESVILLE - Robert Hight didn't set a national or track record Saturday like the other three pro-class top qualifiers. But the Funny Car rookie earned his first No. 1 position in just the third start of his NHRA career.

This is the fourth time John Force Racing's Ford Mustangs have been 1-2-3 in qualifying. The other three times occurred in 2003.

David Grubnic (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) maintained the top spots they won Friday.

Hight had the quickest time, 4.749 seconds, at Gainesville Raceway's quarter-mile at 325.96 mph. He used to be Force's clutch specialist.

"To go from working on these cars to driving them, the stress level is unbelievable," Hight said. "I was happy to just qualify well."

Grubnic, a Team Kalitta driver who seeks the first victory of his 11-year career, will lead the 16-car field for the second straight time at Gainesville at 4.481 seconds, 331.85 mph - both track records.

Anderson (6.633, 208.23), seeking his first victory of the season in his Grand Am, called the Pro Stock lineup "the toughest-looking ladder I've seen so far."

Hines said his chances for a repeat victory for Harley-Davidson are better than average because his V-Twin is, too.

"The motors are definitely a lot more reliable this year," he said. "We have not changed a motor yet this weekend."

OUT OF LUCK: Funny Car points leader Phil Burkart failed to make the field of 16. He was 19th of 20 entries going into the final session but lost traction and didn't finish the run under full power. "We were on a high, and not qualifying for the show is pretty tough on us," he said. "Conditions threw a curveball at us (Friday), and we couldn't get it done."

SWINGING BY: PGA Tour veteran Nick Price, who lives in Hobe Sound, joined Top Fuel team owner Joe Amato and driver Morgan Lucas for his first trip to the dragstrip.

"The speed is phenomenal. You have no concept of speed when you watch on TV," Price said. "It is a real eye-opener. I walked through the compound and saw how fan-friendly everything is and how it is very close and hands-on for the fans. It's just a wonderful spectacle."

STRAIGHTENING OUT: Jeff Gordon's NASCAR crew watched Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. and his Top Fuel teammate, Larry Dixon, as guests of team owner Don Prudhomme.

PLANE TRUTH: Forrest and Charlotte Lucas, owners of Lucas Oil and sponsors of several teams, missed the event when an airline canceled their flight. So they decided to go shopping - for a jet of their own, said son Morgan, a Top Fuel driver.