NHRA Funny Car point leader Robert Hight escaped injury Friday night at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, when his Chevrolet Camaro SS exploded just as he left the starting line in the first round of qualifying.
Hight, who was racing Matt Hagan, said he knew there was a problem just as they started to lower the car’s body after executing his burnout.
“I heard it, and it sounded like it had a hot cylinder, like it needed more fuel,” Hight says. “I just told myself, well I’ll drive it down the track and if it isn’t right, I’ll lift and that way it won’t throw the rods out. But I didn’t think it was something like this. This had to be a valvetrain failure or something to blow up like that, that fast.”
Hight said the only things that were hurt were his feelings.
Even if Hight had been able to complete the run, he said he didn’t have anything for Hagan, who posted an E.T. track record of 3.825 seconds.
“We were probably trying to push for an.85, somewhere in that range, which would have been very respectable,” Hight says.
The explosion left Hight outside the top 14 after the first round of qualifying. Two qualifying rounds are scheduled for Saturday.