Hight, Ashley and Enders Lead Friday NHRA Pomona Qualifying

After a disappointing 2021, Funny Car standout Robert Hight (photo above) got off to a strong start to open the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, rocketing to the provisional No. 1 spot on Friday at the 62nd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Justin Ashley (Top Fuel Dragster) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the first of 22 races during the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Hight, a three-time world champion, powered to an impressive run of 3.882-seconds at 330.89 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS to take the top. If it holds, it would give Hight—who struggled to an eight-place finish last year—his 72nd career No. 1 qualifier and an ideal start to what he hopes is a rebound season.

“My team really worked over the winter to look at what we did in 2021 and how that went so badly,” Hight said. “We had no consistency. We could throw down a few times and won a couple races, but there was no consistency.

“Basically, we went back to our whole clutch set-up we had in 2019, when we kind of just ran away with the (title) and so far, so good. It’s a good job by the team and things are good at JFR right now with the four cars, and we’re looking forward to the whole season.”

Now racing for the new Tony Stewart Racing team, Matt Hagan raced to the second spot with a run of 3.886 at 329.34. Hagan is a three-time Winternationals winner and will look to add to that this weekend, while reigning world champ Ron Capps is third after his run of 3.903 at 328.30. Capps, who is the defending event winner, is also in new territory after forming his own team in the off-season.

Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.882, 330.39; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.886, 329.34; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.903, 328.30; 4. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, 3.945, 326.95; 5. J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.985, 324.59; 6. Bobby Bode, Ford Mustang, 3.993, 291.07; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.021, 295.21; 8. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.092, 287.23; 9. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.127, 305.22; 10. Tony Jurado, Mustang, 4.249, 215.82; 11. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.256, 230.96; 12. Chad Green, Mustang, 4.570, 190.16; 13. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 6.004, 113.59; 14. Alex Miladinovich, Camry, 6.859, 92.51; 15. Paul Lee, Charger, 7.818, 84.68; 16. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, broke. Not Qualified: 17. John Force, broke; 18. Bob Tasca III, broke.

Justin Ashley

Ashley paced the field in Top Fuel with an impressive run of 3.676 at 331.45 in his Phillips Connect dragster. Ashley, who advanced to the final round of the Winternationals a year ago, is seeking his first career No. 1 qualifier and the young racer closed in on that achievement with his run on Friday. After a strong close to his 2021 season, it was precisely the start Ashley—the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year—was looking for to begin 2022.

“The run felt great and it’s exciting to get back in the race car,” Ashley said. “When you’re able to go down there and go right to the top and run as good as we did, it’s exactly what we were looking for. It’s a great way to kick off the weekend.

“I think this is the best Top Fuel field in a decade. So to be able to qualify No. 1 would be amazing. We still have tomorrow to go and we’ve got a lot of really good cars behind us that are going to try and improve, but our Phillips Connect team is going to try to do the exact same thing and even improve upon today.”

Rob Flynn-tuned Mike Salinas is currently second after running only one thou behind with a 3.677 at 329.02. Mike’s daughter Jasmine also sits second in Top Alcohol Dragster.

Brittany Force, who had 12 No. 1 qualifiers a year ago, is third with a 3.722 at 332.10. Four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence sits in the fourth spot.

Top Fuel — 1. Justin Ashley, 3.676 seconds, 331.45 mph; 2. Mike Salinas, 3.677, 329.02; 3. Brittany Force, 3.722, 332.10; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.725, 315.34; 5. Doug Kalitta, 3.733, 326.87; 6. Antron Brown, 3.756, 324.83; 7. Clay Millican, 3.789, 317.12; 8. Austin Prock, 3.794, 289.94; 9. Doug Foley, 3.820, 312.35; 10. Jim Maroney, 3.960, 294.24; 11. Ron August, 4.375, 194.74; 12. Scott Farley, 5.754, 103.31; 13. Shawn Langdon, 6.144, 107.61; 14. Tony Schumacher, 6.780, 87.51; 15. Josh Hart, 6.874, 96.20; 16. Leah Pruett, 8.425, 77.00.

Erica Enders

Four-time Pro Stock world champ Enders started her 2022 season off in impressive style, jumping to the No. 1 spot with a stellar run of 6.521 at 210.44 in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. With hopes of competing for a fifth world championship, Enders will look to open the year with her 24th career No. 1 qualifier in what is Pro Stock’s 900th race.

“We were definitely excited, considering how the year ended last year,” said Enders, who is seeking her first Winternationals win. “We knew we had to go to work and had to find some power in the engine department and getting our Rick Jones Race Cars tuned up. My guys went to work really hard. It takes an army of people to get this stuff right.

“The KB Racing guys had big, big power last year. Greg (Anderson) was on the pole the majority of the races then it still came down to the wire on winning the championship. Our goal was to come out swinging. I feel like we have something to prove and we’re not backing down.”

Aaron Stanfield, who is the defending winner of the event, is currently second after going 6.527 at 210.37 and Kyle Koretsky is a spot behind with his run of 6.528 at 209.20. Defending world champ Greg Anderson, who is also seeking his 100th career victory, sits fourth.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.521, 210.44; 2. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.527, 210.37; 3. Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.528, 209.20; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.536, 209.59; 5. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.547, 209.01; 6. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.551, 210.11; 7. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.555, 208.23; 8. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.563, 209.69; 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.563, 209.14; 10. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.574, 209.46; 11. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.577, 209.65; 12. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.581, 208.68; 13. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.599, 209.20; 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.622, 207.56; 15. John Cerbone, Camaro, 6.647, 205.19; 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 7.083, 197.19. Not Qualified: 17. Alex Laughlin, 8.964, 106.87; 18. Fernando Cuadra, 20.366, 41.53; 19. Troy Coughlin Jr., 20.860, 55.38; 20. Matt Hartford, broke.

Qualifying continues at 12 p.m. PT on Saturday at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

story and photos courtesy of NHRA

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