Funny Car racer Robert Hight’s early-season woes continued at last weekend’s Dollar General Four-Wide NHRA Nationals at Concord, N.C.
He was fortunate enough to qualify No. 16 but not before an engine concussion blew the carbon-fiber body of his Auto Club Ford Mustang into the grandstands during Saturday qualifying. No one was injured, although a statement from the sanctioning body said emergency medical personnel examined and released two fans following the incident.
With the last of only two chances to qualify, after rain robbed the class of two Friday sessions, Hight was 15th — and especially worried with the four-at-a-time format.
He said he knew he needed a strong run if he were to repeat his Funny Car victory at this event. But he had to corral his wild Mustang as it put out cylinders during the 1,000-foot qualifying run at zMAX Dragway.
He said he fought the car as it put out cylinders and noticed the motor was making an ominous sound.
“I didn’t know if I was qualified and I had to stay with it. It just blew up,” he said. “Luckily no one was seriously hurt.”
Said Hight, “I hit the throttle and it instantly goes to the right, and I knew it had a cylinder out. The last few runs it has done that, it has gone right down the racetrack. It doesn’t even put a mark on a piston. I am fighting it back to the left then all of a sudden it puts a cylinder out on the left side and it goes towards the center line but I get her straightened out. Everything is good but the motor didn’t sound right, without a doubt. I didn’t know if I was qualified and I had to stay with it. It was obviously a malfunction.”
Hight lost in Round 2 Sunday and heads to Houston this weekend in sixth place in the standings.