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