Robert Hight recorded the fastest Funny Car run since 2019. (Photo: NHRA)
ST. LOUIS – Based on the fastest Funny Car run since 2019, points leader Robert Hight held the No. 1 qualifying position in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday at World Wide Technology Raceway during the 11th Annual NHRA Midwest Nationals.
Hight, Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Kyle Koretsky (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all qualified No. 1 in the third of six races in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
The NHRA and World Wide Technology Raceway officials also announced a sold-out crowd during Saturday’s race action as the impassioned fanbase packed the track to wrap up qualifying in St. Louis. It is the seventh sold-out audience for the NHRA this season.
“Once again, our racing fans have performed in St. Louis and the Metro East,” said Chris Blair, Executive Vice President and General Manager of World Wide Technology Raceway.
“As we’ve shown time and time again, they love NHRA drag racing and the other big events we host at World Wide Technology Raceway. This weekend is magical because it has 10 years of date equity, perfect weather and thousands of loyal enthusiasts. World Wide Technology Raceway is the greatest comeback story in the history of sporting venues for one reason: we have the best racing fans in the world.”
Hight’s 3.853 second pass at 336.32 mph from Friday in his 11,000 horsepower Chevrolet Camaro SS held up through the final two sessions on Saturday, earning the three-time world champion his fifth No. 1 spot this season and 76th in his career. It was also the fastest run in the class in three years as Hight aims for his eighth win of the season on Sunday.
“That run last night, I’m glad it stuck and I’m really proud of the guys,” Hight said. “I love being here in St. Louis and nothing beats seeing the stands full. There are no better fans than here and we are going to put on a great show for them tomorrow. That shows that NHRA drag racing is exciting and hopefully we have a big crowd tomorrow. It’s been a crisis all year round and we’ve had big battles every weekend. You have to be at the start in our race and your car has to be good.”
John Force qualified second with a 3.853 at 334.15 and defending champion Ron Capps, who won at Charlotte last weekend, moved up to third to finish the day with a 3.863 at 331.94.
Four-time Top Fuel defending World Champion Torrence earned his third No. 1 this season in his dragster, thanks to a run of 3,655 at 327.43 on Friday in his 11,000 horsepower Capco Contractors dragster. That was the best run of the season for the defending winner of the event, who also scored some good runs on Saturday. That gave him a lot of bonus qualifying points en route to eliminations where he will open the day against Buddy Hull and try to make up some important ground in the loaded category.
“I’m looking forward to going into race day tomorrow. We have a good speed. The car drives well and we’re excited to see what we can do,” said Torrence. “It’s an opportunity for us to capitalize. We have to be there to try and make the most of things. We’ve worked quite diligently to trying to turn this thing around and in the direction we want it to go, and that’s what we’ve been focusing on.”
Josh Hart improved to second on the last pass of the day, 3.667 at 333.33 and Shawn Langdon took third on a pass of 3.679 at 329.02. Points leader Justin Ashley qualified seventh with a 3,698.
Koretsky was pushed into Pro Stock on Saturday, but he was up for the challenge, improving to a 6510 at 9pm in his Lucas Oil Camaro to take his second No. 1 qualifier in the 2022 campaign. His KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson , the defending world champion, ran an identical 6,510, but Koretsky was slightly faster to take first place in eliminations. Koretsky, who is currently fifth in points, will aim to take his first win of the season and gain some ground over points leader Erica Enders.
“We are in the Countdown and now is the time to line up your ducks and make each run as clean as possible. I think we did that this weekend and we will be good for eliminations tomorrow,” Koretsky said. “This is where it counts and every point counts, and consistency counts too. Our boys dig deep and we chase them hard. We’re definitely not going to give up.”
Anderson qualified second with a score of 6.510 at 210.97, while last week’s winner Aaron Stanfield was just behind third with a 6.511 at 211.33. Enders was fourth with her 6,511 on 210.34.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith’s track record of 6,709 to Friday’s 202.82 held on his Denso Auto Parts Buell, taking the defending World Champion this year to his fourth top spot and 51st in his career. It was also the best run of his career for the five-time world champion, who is gaining momentum in eliminations. Smith will try to jump back into the points lead on Sunday after falling in the second round at Charlotte last weekend. If that happened, it would mean the lead would turn into points for the sixth straight race in the class.
“I think we have the best bike here,” said Smith. “All in all, this Denso bike is fast and mean, and if I can do my job on Sunday, we can turn on four victory lights tomorrow. That’s our goal, but tomorrow is a big day and hopefully we can do our job.”
Eliminations for the NHRA Midwest Nationals begin Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at World Wide Technology Raceway.