UPDATED: Hight (FC), Kalitta (TF), Johnson (PS) and Johnson (PSM) storm to wins in NHRA Gatornationals

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It’s a good thing tomorrow isn’t Christmas because John Force might not give son-in-law and John Force Racing president Robert Hight a present.

After all, Hight got a bigger present Sunday, beating his boss and father-in-law in the Funny Car finals of the 45th Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals Sunday in Gainesville, Fla.

Hight beat Force, who had qualified last in the 16-car field, to the finish line with a performance of 4.074 seconds at 314.46 mph.

“If you’d have told me this morning that John and I would be in the final, I don’t know if I’d have taken that bet,” Hight said. “Our teams have worked really hard and work well together, but we were struggling.

“Fortunately for me, the Auto Club team did a good job. I wasn’t on my game in the first round or the semis. Luckily, I had a great race car.”

Force lost traction shortly after the starting line, shutting his motor down and coasting to a 6.435 seconds/118.29 mph finish.

The win evens the all-time elimination round record between Force and Hight at 15-15 overall and 2-2 in final rounds.

Hight has now won 30 times in 47 final round appearances. It was also his second win at Gainesville, having also done so in the 2012 event.

In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta defeated Antron Brown.

Kalitta turned in a performance of 3.830 seconds at 323.74 mph, compared to Brown’s 5.106 seconds/147.50 mph showing.

“We’ve been trying to get a win all year, and we’ve been right on the cusp,” Kalitta said. “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.”

Kalitta and Brown are now 1-1 against each other in final round appearances, but Brown still holds an 18-13 overall elimination round record vs. Kalitta, who earned his 34th national event win and third Gatornationals triumph.

In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson stormed to his second straight Gatornationals win, besting Erica Enders-Stevens.

Johnson recorded a time of 6.566 seconds at 211.73 mph, to Enders-Stevens’ showing of 6.551 seconds at 211.96 mph.

Johnson and Jeg Coughlin were the first Pro Stock drivers to debut a new Hemi-powered 2014 Dodge Dart this weekend, replacing the Dodge Avenger, which both drove the last three seasons. It obviously passed its first test for Johnson.

“This shows what a great job the Mopar engineers and SRT did when they developed the new Dart,” Johnson said. “It’s also a testament to our crew. For the last two weeks they’ve worked non-stop, without a day off to make sure this transition was a success.”

With his 22nd national event win, Johnson is now 3-2 in final round battles and 12-7 in overall elimination round finishes against Enders-Stevens.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, veteran rider Steve Johnson, who finished runner-up in last year’s Gatornationals, rallied back in this year’s event to defeat Scotty Pollacheck.

Johnson turned in a performance of 6.912 seconds at 191.32 mph, to Pollacheck’s effort of 7.093 seconds at 190.81 mph. It was the first win by a Suzuki rider in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle since 2011.

“Last year, I got to the final here and lost to Hector Arana Jr., and I felt like I should have won it,” Johnson said. “We’ve been close a few times, but we finally broke through.”

The win evens the career record between the two riders at 3-3, but it was the first time they had ever met in a final round.

It was also the sixth national event win in Johnson’s career, and his second win at Gainesville (the other time was back in 2005).

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER

Final finish order (1-16) at the 45th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.  The race is the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

TOP FUEL:

1.  Doug Kalitta; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Morgan Lucas; 4.  Steve Torrence; 5.  David Grubnic; 6. Spencer Massey; 7.  Tony Schumacher; 8.  J.R. Todd; 9.  Richie Crampton; 10.  Brittany Force; 11. Khalid alBalooshi; 12.  Leah Pritchett; 13.  Shawn Langdon; 14.  Bob Vandergriff; 15.  Sidnei Frigo; 16.  Clay Millican.

FUNNY CAR:

1.  Robert Hight; 2.  John Force; 3.  Courtney Force; 4.  Ron Capps; 5.  Del Worsham; 6.  Tim Wilkerson; 7.  Jack Beckman; 8.  Bob Tasca III; 9.  Cruz Pedregon; 10.  Alexis DeJoria; 11.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 12.  Tony Pedregon; 13.  Blake Alexander; 14.  Matt Hagan; 15.  Jeff Arend; 16.  Chad Head.

PRO STOCK:

1.  Allen Johnson; 2.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 3.  Vincent Nobile; 4.  Dave Connolly; 5.  Jason Line; 6.  V. Gaines; 7.  Jeg Coughlin; 8.  Shane Gray; 9.  Chris McGaha; 10.  Jonathan Gray; 11.  Rodger Brogdon; 12.  Steve Kent; 13.  Matt Hartford; 14.  Robert Patrick; 15.  Jimmy Alund; 16.  Larry Morgan.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

1.  Steve Johnson; 2.  Scotty Pollacheck; 3.  John Hall; 4.  Hector Arana Jr; 5.  Matt Smith; 6. Michael Ray; 7.  Eddie Krawiec; 8.  Andrew Hines; 9.  Shawn Gann; 10.  Katie Sullivan; 11.  Chaz Kennedy; 12.  Adam Arana; 13.  Jim Underdahl; 14.  Jerry Savoie; 15.  Fredrik Fredlund; 16.  Hector Arana.

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FINAL ROUND RESULTS:

Top Fuel — Doug Kalitta, 3.830 seconds, 323.74 mph  def. Antron Brown, 5.106 seconds, 147.50 mph.

Funny Car — Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.074, 314.46  def. John Force, Mustang, 6.435, 118.29.

Pro Stock — Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.566, 211.73  def. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.551, 211.96.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.912, 191.32  def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.093, 190.81.

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SUNDAY’S ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS

TOP FUEL:
ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.820, 320.36 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.855, 318.24; Doug Kalitta, 3.795, 324.67 def. Brittany Force, 3.825, 321.58; Morgan Lucas, 3.846, 321.50 def. Richie Crampton, foul; J.R. Todd, 3.801, 325.30 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.296, 306.67; Antron Brown, 3.830, 319.14 def. Sidnei Frigo, 8.088, 88.66; David Grubnic, 3.935, 273.50 def. Clay Millican, 9.530, 78.21; Spencer Massey, 3.876, 317.64 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.561, 169.17; Steve Torrence, 3.790, 325.69 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.833, 320.66;

QUARTERFINALS — Lucas, 3.841, 316.82 def. Massey, 3.933, 314.31; Brown, 3.810, 321.42 def. Schumacher, 5.798, 124.20; Kalitta, 3.829, 321.12 def. Grubnic, 3.800, 316.30; Torrence, 3.856, 312.93 def. Todd, 9.377, 83.54;

SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 3.856, 319.52 def. Torrence, 7.663, 88.07; Brown, 3.847, 315.71 def. Lucas, 5.410, 132.18; FINAL — Kalitta, 3.830, 323.74 def. Brown, 5.106, 147.50.

FUNNY CAR:
ROUND ONE — John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.075, 317.12 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.102, 305.63; Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.080, 307.51 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, foul; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.140, 308.14 def. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.251, 296.24; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.135, 307.37 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.893, 163.16; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.102, 315.56 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.307, 226.92; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.132, 308.14 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.561, 194.07; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.061, 314.02 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.199, 271.95; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.117, 308.92 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.157, 303.78.

QUARTERFINALS — C. Force, 4.140, 310.27 def. Wilkerson, 5.622, 137.67; Capps, 4.136, 307.16 def. Beckman, 5.844, 121.34; Hight, 4.140, 306.05 def. Tasca III, 6.262, 111.01; J. Force, 4.134, 303.84 def. Worsham, 4.599, 232.35.

SEMIFINALS — Hight, 4.168, 301.20 def. Capps, 7.663, 89.63; J. Force, 4.240, 266.42 def. C. Force, 6.090, 112.74.

FINAL — Hight, 4.074, 314.46 def. J. Force, 6.435, 118.29.

PRO STOCK:
ROUND ONE — Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.567, 211.30 def. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, foul; V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.571, 211.56 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, foul; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.571, 210.08 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.566, 211.53; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.582, 210.11 def. Steve Kent, Camaro, 6.609, 210.47; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.559, 211.83 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.593, 209.98; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.552, 211.03 def. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.649, 208.84; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.541, 211.93 def. Robert Patrick, Mustang, 6.667, 207.27; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.550, 211.89 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.599, 210.93.

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 7.414, 149.88 def. S. Gray, 13.901, 60.96; Connolly, 6.584, 210.87 def. Line, 6.568, 211.39; Nobile, 6.580, 210.60 def. Coughlin, 6.591, 211.69; Enders-Stevens, 6.535, 212.59 def. Gaines, 6.571, 211.79;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.569, 211.79 def. Connolly, 6.583, 211.20; Enders-Stevens, 6.569, 212.29 def. Nobile, 6.582, 211.16.

FINAL — Johnson, 6.566, 211.73 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.551, 211.96.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE — Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.923, 191.02 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 9.750, 86.95; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.931, 192.44 def. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, foul; Michael Ray, Buell, 6.907, 191.54 def. Fredrik Fredlund, Suzuki, 7.274, 184.19; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.905, 193.24 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.934, 192.47; John Hall, Buell, 6.878, 192.11 def. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.945, 186.38; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.899, 193.96 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.943, 190.65; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.901, 195.31 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, foul; Matt Smith, Buell, 6.880, 195.08 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, foul;

QUARTERFINALS — Pollacheck, 6.911, 193.02 def. Ray, 6.916, 192.41; Arana Jr, 6.915, 194.60 def. Krawiec, 6.935, 192.44; Hall, 6.900, 193.02 def. Hines, 6.944, 192.52; Johnson, 6.937, 193.60 def. Smith, foul;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.874, 195.48 def. Arana Jr, 6.906, 195.70; Pollacheck, 6.865, 195.00 def. Hall, 6.847, 195.42;

FINAL — Johnson, 6.912, 191.32 def. Pollacheck, 7.093, 190.81.

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STANDINGS

Point standings (top 10) following the 45th annual Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, the third of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel
1.  Doug Kalitta, 309; 2.  Antron Brown, 256; 3.  Steve Torrence, 230; 4.  Khalid alBalooshi, 197; 5.  Spencer Massey, 180; 6.  Shawn Langdon, 168; 7.  Brittany Force, 158; 8.  Tony Schumacher, 146; 9.  David Grubnic, 138; 10.  Richie Crampton, 123.

Funny Car
1.  John Force, 316; 2.  Robert Hight, 273; 3.  (tie) Alexis DeJoria, 187; Del Worsham, 187; 5; Bob Tasca III, 184; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 168; 7.  Ron Capps, 164; 8.  Matt Hagan, 161; 9.  Jack Beckman, 151; 10.  Courtney Force, 146.

Pro Stock
1.  Allen Johnson, 282; 2.  V. Gaines, 244; 3.  Vincent Nobile, 235; 4.  Jason Line, 233; 5.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 226; 6.  Dave Connolly, 211; 7.  Shane Gray, 181; 8.  Jeg Coughlin, 148; 9.  Larry Morgan, 114; 10.  Chris McGaha, 107.

Pro Stock Motorcycle
1.  Steve Johnson, 114; 2.  Scotty Pollacheck, 93; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 81; 4.  John Hall, 75; 5. Michael Ray, 63; 6.  Andrew Hines, 62; 7.  Matt Smith, 60; 8.  Eddie Krawiec, 56; 9.  (tie) Hector Arana, 32; Adam Arana, 32; Shawn Gann, 32; Katie Sullivan, 32.

INDYCAR: What Drivers Said after Friday’s two practices at Barber

IndyCar
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Here’s what drivers had to say after Friday’s two practice sessions for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama (there’s one final practice plus qualifying on Saturday):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion): “It’s great…home track for me. It wins the war between this place and Indianapolis (Motor Speedway) because it’s an hour closer, so I think that’s why I call it the home track. Unfortunately, we don’t race in Nashville anymore. But I’ve always loved Barber. It is a special place for me. It’s the place I got my first win with CFH (Racing) back in the day, and it’s a place I won my first race for Team Penske. It’s had a couple firsts for me, so it’s been good for that. Good memories. I love this racetrack. I think it’s one of the best that we get to drive at from sort of a style standpoint. It’s very technical, but it’s got a lot of flow to it. It feels kind of like a roller coaster to me is the best way to describe the style of it. I have a lot of fun here. I think it’s great. We’re going to try and have a good weekend. We had a pretty good start for the most part. We had some issues in the first session. Just kind of been dealing with a couple things that I think we got sorted out for the second session there, but we seem like we’ve got some speed. I think our other cars got some speed, as well. Simon (Pagenaud) looked like he suffered from maybe a similar problem, and I don’t think Will (Power) had a very good lap, so I think those guys will be right there with us. Team Penske I think is going to be strong tomorrow, I’m sure.

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “We’re struggling with understeer in mid-corner, so we need more rotation in the car. If we can fix the mid-corner understeer, we’re going to have a fast car tomorrow. We’ll keep working on it, and hopefully we’ll have a great weekend.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “We learned a lot today. We tried to come test here a few weeks ago, but unfortunately Mother Nature had a different plan, so we didn’t get a lot of running in. We came into this weekend with a bit of an evolution from what we tested, still were a little bit off, and over lunch, the Arrow Electronics guys made a couple of great changes. It doesn’t look great on the time sheets because our fast lap was when that red flag came out, so they took it away from us. I think we’re decently inside the top 10, which is a big jump from this morning.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “We lost water pressure somewhere in the Lucas Oil car, so we’re playing it safe. No water pressure means no water circulation to the engine, then it overheats and blows up. We’re taking the precautions to keep the engine alive, but unfortunately, we stopped after a couple of laps. It’s an hour free practice and we only did two competitive laps, so we’re just watching everyone else improve their cars and we aren’t able to right now. It’s pretty disappointing.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “We’re in the ballpark at the front, which is a good start for the No. 9 PNC Bank team. The Penske cars are up front and I think that’s a result of them doing some additional testing here. We kind of expected that to start. We did a qualifying run and the car was just too loose for some reason. And then we were fighting understeer this morning, so we’ve seen both sides of it. Now it’s up to us to get it right for qualifying tomorrow.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a difficult end to the day for us. I think after starting well this morning, we struggled in the afternoon. It could have been the heat that affected us, I’m not really sure. Tonight, we’ll have to look at the data and what we learned from the NTT DATA car, talk to Scott (Dixon) and look toward tomorrow. I’m optimistic because we have a good base setup and we just need a little bit more work to get it right.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think once again the temperature of the track really makes it tough in these cars. It was very nice this morning and was easy to get lap times. And then all of a sudden this afternoon, even on reds (Firestone alternate tires), it’s very difficult to get the car right. We’re going to have to go back and have a good think about it.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It’s a difficult day. We’re struggling a lot. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “Today was OK. I didn’t think that we were great there in the second practice, but if you’re off a little bit, it can make a five-, six-, seven-spot difference. It’s going to be really tight (on the time sheets) there tomorrow, so we’ve got to work on it and get it a little better.” (About whether qualifying performance is even more important if rain falls during the race:) “Qualifying will be important, but I think if it’s rainy, I think you will be able to make moves and you will see a lot of guys make mistakes.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): “I am not quite sure what to think about the whole day. We are not super happy with the car, but in the meantime, it is decently fast. We made some gains and at least the car is doing one thing, so that’s the good thing. The SealMaster Honda No. 18 is in the ballpark. It seems like all we are doing right now is preparing for qualifying because it is definitely going to rain on Sunday. We are going to have to think very hard on what we are going to do in those conditions. We just have to keep working and see what we get tomorrow.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “We didn’t have a great morning aboard the No. 19 Paysafe car as we struggled a bit with the balance, but the second practice session was a lot better. We ended up P12, but had the potential for a lot more. When we went out on the Firestone red (alternate) tires near the end of the session, a red flag came out and that didn’t help us. I think we definitely could have been in the top 10, maybe even the top five. Overall, it’s encouraging heading into practice and qualifying tomorrow.”

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “This morning was really good and we made some good progress. For this afternoon’s session, we changed a couple of things to see if they helped. We’re keeping the tradition, though, of not getting a lap time on reds (Firestone alternate tires), between traffic and red flags and yellows. We are farther down than I think we should be. We should be quite a bit quicker, probably seven or eight tenths faster than what we were. We’re not a million miles away. We just need a few more small improvements to get me a bit more comfortable with the car.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “That was a really good session. It’s nice to end up at the front here at Barber. It’s one of my favorite tracks, I really enjoy it. The session was good right from the get-go on black (Firestone primary) tires. We were quite fast, then when we put the reds (Firestone alternate tires) on, the car just gained more grip. Sometimes when you put them on, it can really change the balance, but this time it felt really good. We were able to get a little more out of the car in pretty much every corner. I’m very happy with the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy so far, hopefully we can keep it up there.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “The car is really fast. It was a really good session to start. But unfortunately, we had a bit of a spin on the reds (Firestone alternate tires) trying a little too hard, I guess. That’s what you have to do before qualifying. You have to find the limits, but I’m very happy with the Menards car. I think we’ll be in great shape tomorrow.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda): “So far, it’s just been really nice to have experience at this track, which makes it a little easier coming in. We’ve been trying a lot of things today and I think we were a little stronger in the morning than this afternoon. We have a bit to go back and look at, but compared to where I was here last year, it’s night and day difference. I’m just happy to have the opportunity that we do, and we’re going to keep pushing forward.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “This morning was definitely a struggle for all of us. I think the No. 27 car was the most outside of the window, but we made a lot of improvements over lunch. We have something to be positive about going into this evening and looking forward to tomorrow. I think we need to take one or two steps in a similar direction, but if we can do that, I think the Kerauno car will be good enough for the Firestone Fast Six.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I think we made steady progress through the day. We started out with the rear of the car way too exposed, too loose through most corners. We needed to bring it more into the window, which I think we did in the final session, considering we didn’t get a full run on new red tires due to a red flag. I think the DHL car has some good pace in it, so hopefully we can make the next step tomorrow.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “The second session was better. I think we made some good progress from the first one. The first session was a little bit of finding the right direction to go in and it seems we found one. Still, we have a little work to be done Saturday. Having said that, there was quite a few yellows and red flags that interrupted the session. I know everyone is in the same boat, but our best lap was like a rerun and we were never able to do a long run, so it’s a little gray on how we will be for Sunday (in the race). We lost some downforce compared to last year and the tires have quite a good drop-off, or degradation, so after you use them the first or second timed lap, the tires are losing a lot of grip. It’s not a huge amount, we’re talking about a small amount, but it’s enough to make a difference. We are trying a different kind of philosophy in terms of the mechanical setup, trying to match the balance and grip level of where we were last year, so that’s why everyone is trying different things. Some people struggle, some people find a happy place.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “I think that the practice went well in the beginning. We did find some improvement, so it went better and better. Then we put the red tires on and I tried to push hard and maybe a little too much. I then lost the car, it went straight into the wall. It was a little bit too late with my hands, taking them off the steering wheel, so my left hand hurts a little bit.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Tough day for us today. We had a mechanical issue towards the end of Practice 2, so it cut our time on track short. I know the Harding Racing guys are working hard to make sure everything will be good to go tomorrow for Practice 3 and qualifying. We’ll keep at it tonight to be ready to push tomorrow.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Kerauno / Curb Honda): “The Kerauno car was decent today, and coming out of Friday in the top 10 is a good place to start the weekend. We have a few things we want to work on overnight that I think will help the car be even better, and that’s what we’re going to focus on. Hoping to make it into the Firestone Fast Six tomorrow and challenge for the pole.”