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Posted: Sunday, March 16th 2014 at 11:19pm

Robert Hight bests John Force for Gatornationals Funny Car win

By Pete McCole
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Top Fuel winner Doug Kalitta, Funny Car winner Robert Hight, Pro Stock winner Allen Johnson and Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Steven Johnson celebrate in victory lane after Sunday's NHRA Gatornationals finals. / Photo: Rhonda McCole
GAINESVILLE, FL - Robert Hight beat out his boss John Force pick up his first Funny Car win of the season and spoil a huge comeback for the reigning Funny Car World Champion in Sunday’s final eliminations of Sunday’s NHRA Mellow Yello Drag Racing Series Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto Plus Raceway At Gainesville.

Allen Johnson scored his second win a row in the Pro Stock class, while Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Steven Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) picked up their first wins of the season.

The Funny Car final turned into an all-John-Force-Racing event as Hight and Force faced each other for just the fourth time in their careers as Hight took down team owner and father-in-law John Force after Force lit up the tires just past the start to hand an easy victory to Hight who went 4.074 at 314.46 to earn his 30th-career NHRA victory.

“This win was huge,” said Hight, who bested Tony Pedregon, Bob Tasca III and Ron Capps to reach the final round. “If you would have told me this morning that John and I would be in the final I don’t know if I would have taken that bet.”

The defeat capped a remarkable turnaround for Force this weekend, as the 16-time World Funny Car Champion just barely made the field after four dismal qualifying runs, making the show as the 16th qualifier and taking down top qualifier and longtime rival Cruz Pedregon while looking to become just the fifth driver in NHRA history to win an event from the 16th position.

“That guy (Force) has 16 championships and he is the best out here,” said Hight. “To add to that he is driving for my old team. There was some added pressure there and it is hard to go up there and get motivated and do your best job. You just have to focus. I wasn’t as focused in the first round and semis as I should have been. I was alright in the second round. We needed this win for the Auto Club. We got two finals in a row and now a win. This could not be a better start.”

Doug Kalitta gained a measure of revenge after his defeat at the hands of Antron Brown three weeks ago at Phoenix, beating the defending Gatornationals Top Fuel winner in the final round to collect his third Gainesville victory and 34th of his NHRA career.

Kalitta made it to the final round at the season-opening event at Pomona and then lost out to Brown in the semis at Phoenix after taking top qualifier at both events.

In their third-career final round meeting on Sunday, Brown was first off the line but his tires went up in smoke at the 300-foot mark and could only watch as Kalitta powered past, pulling a full run of 3.830 at 323.74 mph for his 34th NHRA national event win.

"We've been trying to get a win all year, and we've been right on the cusp," said Kalitta, who took out Brittany Force, David Grubnic and Steve Torrence in early-round wins. "We have great support amongst all four of our teams. It's great that they can all get in there and celebrate on the starting line.”

In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson scored a victory in the debut of the new Dodge Dart to post his second-consecutive Gatornationals victory as well as his second-straight win of the 2014 season, besting Erica Enders-Stevens on a hole-shot in the final round.

Johnson, who came into Sunday’s eliminations as the fourth qualifier, took down the entire Gray Motorsports team on his way to the finals – beating out Jonathan Gray in his Pro Stock debut, then defeating Jonathan’s brother Shane Gray and finally knocking off their teammate and top qualifier Dave Connolly to move onto his second straight final round.

Facing Enders-Stevens for the fifth time in the finals, Johnson was quicker off the line with a .017 light gain a slight edge at the start, and that was all he needed as he defeated Enders-Stevens by .015 seconds, going 6.566 at 211.73 mph over a quicker, but losing 6.551, 211.96.

“This shows what a great job the Mopar engineers and SRT did when they developed the new Dart," said Johnson. "It's also a testament to our crew. For the last two weeks they've worked non-stop, without a day off to make sure this transition was a success.”

Steve Johnson scored his second Gatornationals victory and his first event win since 2008 with a win over Scotty Pollacheck.

Johnson, who hadn’t scored a round win in his last seven events, won out over Katie Sullivan and Matt Smith before taking down defending Gatornationals winner Hector Arana, Jr., who beat out Johnson in the finals round of this event last season.

Starting in his first final round since that loss to Arana, Jr., Johnson fell behind right at the start as Pollacheck hit a .009 light, but Pollacheck suffered a shifting problem and Johnson streaked by for the victory, going 6.912 at 191.32 over Pollacheck’s 7.093, 191.32.

Johnson’s win was the sixth of his career and his first since the US Nationals at Indianapolis in 2008.

"Last year, I got to the final here and lost to Hector Arana, Jr., and I felt like I should have won it,” said Johnson. “We've been close a few times, but we finally broke through. This time, Scotty was next to me, and then I saw him disappear.”

NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series
Auto-Plus Raceway – Gainesville, FL
NHRA Gatornationals – March 16, 2014

Final Finish Order

TOP FUEL
1. Doug Kalitta; 2. Antron Brown; 3. Morgan Lucas; 4. Steve Torrence; 5. David Grubnic; 6. Spencer Massey; 7. Tony Schumacher; 8. J.R. Todd; 9. Richie Crampton; 10. Brittany Force; 11. Khalid alBalooshi; 12. Leah Pritchett; 13. Shawn Langdon; 14. Bob Vandergriff; 15. Sidnei Frigo; 16. Clay Millican.

FUNNY CAR
1. Robert Hight; 2. John Force; 3. Courtney Force; 4. Ron Capps; 5. Del Worsham; 6. Tim Wilkerson; 7. Jack Beckman; 8. Bob Tasca III; 9. Cruz Pedregon; 10. Alexis DeJoria; 11. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 12. Tony Pedregon; 13. Blake Alexander; 14. Matt Hagan; 15. Jeff Arend; 16. Chad Head.

PRO STOCK
1. Allen Johnson; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens; 3. Vincent Nobile; 4. Dave Connolly; 5. Jason Line; 6. V. Gaines; 7. Jeg Coughlin; 8. Shane Gray; 9. Chris McGaha; 10. Jonathan Gray; 11. Rodger Brogdon; 12. Steve Kent; 13. Matt Hartford; 14. Robert Patrick; 15. Jimmy Alund; 16. Larry Morgan.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
1. Steve Johnson; 2. Scotty Pollacheck; 3. John Hall; 4. Hector Arana Jr; 5. Matt Smith; 6. Michael Ray; 7. Eddie Krawiec; 8. Andrew Hines; 9. Shawn Gann; 10. Katie Sullivan; 11. Chaz Kennedy; 12. Adam Arana; 13. Jim Underdahl; 14. Jerry Savoie; 15. Fredrik Fredlund; 16. Hector Arana.

Final Results

Top Fuel -- Doug Kalitta, 3.830 seconds, 323.74 mph def. Antron Brown, 5.106 seconds, 147.50 mph.

Funny Car -- Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.074, 314.46 def. John Force, Mustang, 6.435, 118.29.

Pro Stock -- Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.566, 211.73 def. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.551, 211.96.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.912, 191.32 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.093, 190.81.

Final Round-By-Round Results

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE -- Tony Schumacher, 3.820, 320.36 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.855, 318.24; Doug Kalitta, 3.795, 324.67 def. Brittany Force, 3.825, 321.58; Morgan Lucas, 3.846, 321.50 def. Richie Crampton, foul; J.R. Todd, 3.801, 325.30 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.296, 306.67; Antron Brown, 3.830, 319.14 def. Sidnei Frigo, 8.088, 88.66; David Grubnic, 3.935, 273.50 def. Clay Millican, 9.530, 78.21; Spencer Massey, 3.876, 317.64 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.561, 169.17; Steve Torrence, 3.790, 325.69 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.833, 320.66;

QUARTERFINALS -- Lucas, 3.841, 316.82 def. Massey, 3.933, 314.31; Brown, 3.810, 321.42 def. Schumacher, 5.798, 124.20; Kalitta, 3.829, 321.12 def. Grubnic, 3.800, 316.30; Torrence, 3.856, 312.93 def. Todd, 9.377, 83.54;

SEMIFINALS -- Kalitta, 3.856, 319.52 def. Torrence, 7.663, 88.07; Brown, 3.847, 315.71 def. Lucas, 5.410, 132.18;

FINAL -- Kalitta, 3.830, 323.74 def. Brown, 5.106, 147.50.

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE -- John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.075, 317.12 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.102, 305.63; Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.080, 307.51 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, foul; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.140, 308.14 def. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.251, 296.24; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.135, 307.37 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.893, 163.16; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.102, 315.56 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.307, 226.92; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.132, 308.14 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.561, 194.07; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.061, 314.02 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.199, 271.95; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.117, 308.92 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.157, 303.78;

QUARTERFINALS -- C. Force, 4.140, 310.27 def. Wilkerson, 5.622, 137.67; Capps, 4.136, 307.16 def. Beckman, 5.844, 121.34; Hight, 4.140, 306.05 def. Tasca III, 6.262, 111.01; J. Force, 4.134, 303.84 def. Worsham, 4.599, 232.35;

SEMIFINALS -- Hight, 4.168, 301.20 def. Capps, 7.663, 89.63; J. Force, 4.240, 266.42 def. C. Force, 6.090, 112.74;

FINAL -- Hight, 4.074, 314.46 def. J. Force, 6.435, 118.29.

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE -- Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.567, 211.30 def. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, foul; V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.571, 211.56 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, foul; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.571, 210.08 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.566, 211.53; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.582, 210.11 def. Steve Kent, Camaro, 6.609, 210.47; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.559, 211.83 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.593, 209.98; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.552, 211.03 def. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.649, 208.84; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.541, 211.93 def. Robert Patrick, Mustang, 6.667, 207.27; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.550, 211.89 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.599, 210.93;

QUARTERFINALS -- Johnson, 7.414, 149.88 def. S. Gray, 13.901, 60.96; Connolly, 6.584, 210.87 def. Line, 6.568, 211.39; Nobile, 6.580, 210.60 def. Coughlin, 6.591, 211.69; Enders-Stevens, 6.535, 212.59 def. Gaines, 6.571, 211.79;

SEMIFINALS -- Johnson, 6.569, 211.79 def. Connolly, 6.583, 211.20; Enders-Stevens, 6.569, 212.29 def. Nobile, 6.582, 211.16;

FINAL -- Johnson, 6.566, 211.73 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.551, 211.96.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

ROUND ONE -- Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.923, 191.02 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 9.750, 86.95; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.931, 192.44 def. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, foul; Michael Ray, Buell, 6.907, 191.54 def. Fredrik Fredlund, Suzuki, 7.274, 184.19; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.905, 193.24 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.934, 192.47; John Hall, Buell, 6.878, 192.11 def. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.945, 186.38; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.899, 193.96 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.943, 190.65; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.901, 195.31 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, foul; Matt Smith, Buell, 6.880, 195.08 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, foul;

QUARTERFINALS -- Pollacheck, 6.911, 193.02 def. Ray, 6.916, 192.41; Arana Jr, 6.915, 194.60 def. Krawiec, 6.935, 192.44; Hall, 6.900, 193.02 def. Hines, 6.944, 192.52; Johnson, 6.937, 193.60 def. Smith, foul;

SEMIFINALS -- Johnson, 6.874, 195.48 def. Arana Jr, 6.906, 195.70; Pollacheck, 6.865, 195.00 def. Hall, 6.847, 195.42;

FINAL -- Johnson, 6.912, 191.32 def. Pollacheck, 7.093, 190.81.

Point Standings

Top Fuel

1. Doug Kalitta, 309; 2. Antron Brown, 256; 3. Steve Torrence, 230; 4. Khalid alBalooshi, 197; 5. Spencer Massey, 180; 6. Shawn Langdon, 168; 7. Brittany Force, 158; 8. Tony Schumacher, 146; 9. David Grubnic, 138; 10. Richie Crampton, 123.

Funny Car

1. John Force, 316; 2. Robert Hight, 273; 3. (tie) Alexis DeJoria, 187; Del Worsham, 187; 5. Bob Tasca III, 184; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 168; 7. Ron Capps, 164; 8. Matt Hagan, 161; 9. Jack Beckman, 151; 10. Courtney Force, 146.

Pro Stock

1. Allen Johnson, 282; 2. V. Gaines, 244; 3. Vincent Nobile, 235; 4. Jason Line, 233; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, 226; 6. Dave Connolly, 211; 7. Shane Gray, 181; 8. Jeg Coughlin, 148; 9. Larry Morgan, 114; 10. Chris McGaha, 107.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

1. Steve Johnson, 114; 2. Scotty Pollacheck, 93; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 81; 4. John Hall, 75; 5. Michael Ray, 63; 6. Andrew Hines, 62; 7. Matt Smith, 60; 8. Eddie Krawiec, 56; 9. (tie) Hector Arana, 32; Adam Arana, 32; Shawn Gann, 32; Katie Sullivan, 32.
Associated Categories: Sports News, Professional Sports, NASCAR

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