POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 9, 2018) – Reigning NHRA Funny Car World champion Robert Hight began his title defense Friday at the season-opening 58th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals. The two-time champ powered his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS to a 3.889-second pass at 331.12 mph during the first round of the day, for a fourth-place spot heading into Saturday.

“First run was good. Second run, put a cylinder out right at the hit and shut it off.  We didn’t make a lot of full runs in testing because we were trying things so it was nice to make a full run to the finish line,” Hight said. “I think we were top speed that run. Look for Q4 tomorrow to see some low 80s for these Funny Cars.  (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock, he’ll be shooting for that number.”

The 16-time world champion, John Force, sits in the 16th qualifying position with a 4.139 pass after a wild ride during the second qualifying session. Nearing the finish line, his PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS suffered an engine explosion causing the body to come off the car. Force exited the vehicle with assistance and walked to the ambulance on his own power. He was responsive and speaking with medical personnel and was transported to a local hospital as a precaution.

“I’ve got a young team with Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch. I’ve had some hiccups, we struggled at testing but everyone is working to get it right,” Force said. “That run just showed you the proof that these race cars, my PEAK Chevrolet Camaro, are built to protect the driver. Anytime I can walk away from an explosion I know these cars at John Force Racing and all our Simpson safety gear are doing their job. I’ll be out tomorrow, the doctor cleared me and I’m ready to race and entertain these fans. Ready to start winning, that’s what PEAK pays me to do.”

Courtney Force will be continuing qualifying from the eighth position after a 3.948 pass at 328.94 during the second run of the day. Force, who was the No. 1 qualifier at the event last season, jumped three positions with her second pass.

“Feels great to be back in our Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro and to be back at our home track here at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.  We didn’t have the best run in Q1. Actually we dropped a hole down there and I had to shut it off. Made a pretty solid pass in Q2 to get us in a safe spot. I’ve already talked to my crew chiefs, Dan Hood, Brian Corradi, and we hope to improve on those times tomorrow.”

After putting the championship No. 1 on her Monster Energy dragster surrounded by her team and fans, reigning Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force made two runs to gather information. She currently sits in the 13th position even though she was unable to make a clean pass down the track during the first two rounds of qualifying.

Qualifying at the 58th annual Winternationals continues with two sessions Saturday at 12:45 and 4 p.m. PST.