Neither a rain delay nor stiff competition could dampen the spirits of John Force Racing throughout Sunday’s Circle K NHRA 4-Wide Nationals. One of drag racing’s most accomplished teams shined brightest when the sun came out, using a Top Fuel win by Austin Prock and a Funny Car victory from Robert Hight to pull a nitro sweep at zMAX Dragway.
Brittany Force, Prock’s Top Fuel teammate, earned No. 1 qualifier honors on Saturday. When it counted on Sunday, though, it was Prock in command, scoring his fourth Top Fuel win and his first in four-wide competition. Prock bested finalists Leah Pruett, Steve Torrence and Josh Hart with a 3.684-second, 330.88-mile-per-hour pass to collect another coveted Wally.
“It was a great weekend overall,” Prock said. “I’ve never had any success here at Charlotte, and I went from basically going out in the first round every time here, to winning the whole thing. Now that I’m comfortable going four-wide, it’s going to feel weird going back to two-wide. It feels good to get a win early in the season like this, and it sets us up at John Force Racing to have a really good year.”
Hight’s heroics in a frantic final round of Funny Car action — bolstered by a quick .053-second reaction time — gave him the victory over Alexis DeJoria by a scant .0139 seconds. Neither Hight’s elapsed time of 3.888 seconds, nor his 328.30-mph speed across the line, were tops among the final four. Combining a quick reaction time to his run, though, gave the three-time champion the edge he needed.
“This is a big weekend for us,” Hight said. “There was a lot of great side-by-side racing. Good job to the NHRA Safety Safari. It’s not easy to prepare four lanes. We did change our car around (Sunday). We had two first-round losses in a row, and we stayed and tested (after the previous race in Las Vegas). To come in here and make seven respectable runs down the track, I’m proud to win. When you’re against groups like we had in the final, to win it is a big deal.”
Ron Capps set a new Funny Car track record for speed at 335.57 mph in Sunday’s first round of eliminations. John Smith finished second in his quad, but was disqualified for crossing the center line, handing John Force a trip into the next round. Force later advanced to the finals before falling to teammate Hight.
Deric Kramer ended a dry spell dating back to the 2019 Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, with his fifth career Pro Stock win. Kramer edged hometown favorite Dallas Glenn by .0047 seconds, using a 208.88-mph run in 6.555 seconds to record an emotional victory.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Kramer said. “Once you win one of these, there’s nothing you want to do more than win another. After you hoist (a trophy) and you don’t hoist one for a while, you feel like it’s never going to come. But we got it done today.”
Gaige Herrera swept the weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle competition. The 29-year-old Californian topped the charts in Friday’s opening rounds of qualifying, and bettered his result to earn a No. 1 qualifier on Saturday. Herrera finished the job on Sunday, holding off Matt Smith with a 6.71-second, 202-mph run — a Pro Stock Motorcycle track-record elapsed time — to earn his second career triumph.
NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Tony Stewart, who scored his first career NHRA Top Alcohol dragster victory two weeks ago at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, nearly made it two in a row on Sunday. Stewart advanced to the final round, finishing second by .0046 seconds to Mike Coughlin, who won thanks to a triple holeshot.
To purchase tickets to upcoming speedway events, including the Sept. 22-24 Betway NHRA Carolina 4-Wide Nationals, fans can visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. Children 13 and under are admitted FREE to NHRA events with a paid adult, and every ticket doubles as a pit pass.