Story By: SARA SLAUGHTER / JOHN FORCE RACING – POMONA, CA – Robert Hight and the Automobile Club of Southern California / Cornwell Tools / Flav-R-Pac Chevrolet Camaro SS team ended the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season runner-up in the championship chase after a quarterfinal exit Sunday at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip.
John Force in the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevy Camaro SS and Austin Prock in the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist dragster had quarterfinal exits while Brittany Force in the Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac dragster had a first-round exit.
Robert Hight and the Auto Club team finished the 2023 season sitting No. 2 for the second consecutive year. After picking up the No. 1 qualifier and a total of nine bonus points, Hight would take over second place in the points sitting only 12 behind eventual champion Matt Hagan and five ahead of longtime rival Bob Tasca IIII. Hight would take the first-round victory with the quickest pass of the round at 3.870 seconds and 333.41 mph bettering Jeff Diehl’s 4.035 at 304.25.
In the second round, after watching Tasca lose to Cruz Pedregon and Hagan fall to Blake Alexander, Hight needed to win to take the Funny Car championship. Unfortunately, Hight’s Auto Club Camaro would spin the tires down track to go 4.216 seconds at 246.39 mph coming up short to Chad Green’s 3.971 at 322.11.
“I thought I was far enough down the track that we had it made,” Hight said. “Usually, this Auto Club Chevy doesn’t spin the tires that far down. Congratulations to Matt Hagan. Those guys, they’ve won the most races this year. They’ve been on it all year. We’ve kind of been here just at the end. Proud of my Auto Club guys. We’re not going to give up; we’re going to keep digging heading into next year. You always hope that you’re here on Sunday, battling for the championship. That oil down (by Blake Alexander just after Tasca and Hagan lost), man that was the longest 15 minutes I have ever spent in a race car with all the thoughts that go through your head about ‘Can we get this done?’ I’m still proud of my team.”
Hight finishes the season with four victories and seven No. 1 qualifying positions. It is the fifth time he has finished runner-up in the championship hunt.
After picking things up in qualifying to enter race day from the No. 2 spot, John Force and the PEAK Chevy Camaro managed a first-round win with a 3.948-second pass at 326.56 mph to Terry Haddock’s 5.042 at 151.83. In the second round, Force’s 4.003 pass at 324.20 wouldn’t be enough to take down Tim Wilkerson and his 3.956 at 320.81.
“Well, we got knocked down in the points a few spots. We did the best we could with this PEAK Chevrolet. Robert Hight did the best he could with the AAA Chevy, we thought we were there, and we didn’t make it,” Force said. “That’s the nature of the beast. If you let that get you down, well then you aren’t ever going to make it. So, just positive thinking. We take a little break here and them get ready for next year.”
Force finishes the 2023 season seventh in the points standings after two runner-up finishes and a No. 1 qualifier that extended to 32 the number of seasons he has had at least one No. 1 qualifying position.
Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist dragster team’s streak of consecutive final-round appearances would come to an end on Sunday. After defeating Ron August Jr. who smoked the tires in the first round with a 3.898-second pass at 245.76 mph, Prock would come up short with a 3.774 at 319.52 to Justin Ashely’s 3.735 at 330.88.
“Definitely not the outcome we wanted for the las race of the season but so proud to be a part of this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team and what we accomplished this year,” Prock said. “I’m already looking forward to next year. We will come back stronger and smarter to make a run at a championship.”
Prock will finish off his third full-time season in the driver’s seat eighth in championship points after picking up John Force Racing’s only Top Fuel victory, two No. 1 qualifying positions, and lowered his career-best elapsed time to 3.636 seconds.
The 2023 season came to a close all too early for Brittany Force and the Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac dragster team. Force, the No. 9 qualifier, faced Justin Ashley in the first round. The Monster Energy dragster would drive into tire smoke early for only a 5.425-second pass at 128.54 mph while Ashley would have a clean 3.715 at 333.74.
“We finished our season seventh in points here at Pomona today. I always try to take away something, learn something from the tough years and looking at this season compared to last season, I realized it is really easy to stay positive and motivated when you’re winning and you’re leading the points like we did all last year. We didn’t do that this year, we struggled all season long. Yet, this Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac team, we carried it start to finish, there was positivity in our pits, we were motivated, and we pushed all the way to the end. We got beat first round today, but we pack up, head home for winter break and we’ll come back stronger next year.”
The 2024 Mission Foods NHRA Drag Racing Series season begins March 7-10 with the NHRA Gatornationlas at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida.