JOLIET, Ill. (May 19, 2023) – Debuting his Cornwell Tools / AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car paint scheme, Robert Hight would be the provisional No. 1 qualifier Friday at the Gerber Glass & Collision NHRA Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK Performance at Route 66 Raceway.
Looking for his first No.1. of the season, 78th of his career, Robert Hight and the Cornwell Tools team made a splash in the NHRA return to Route 66 Raceway. Hight would hold on for a stellar 3.831-second pass at 335.07 mph to set both ends of the track record, which he previously set back in 2017.
“That run surprised me. Going up there, Jimmy and Thomas Prock, we were talking about trying to run 3.87 or 3.88 which is what we just ran in the finals at Charlotte. We figured that would be a good baseline to get us qualified and start the weekend,” Hight said. “Jimmy kept saying in Charlotte, that there was so much more left in this thing that we could pick up three hundredths. Sure enough, it did. It was just a smooth run and when they’re smooth like that they honestly don’t feel that fast. When they told me on the radio that it ran 3.83, I had to double-check that I actually heard that right. It’s amazing to come back to a race track that we haven’t raced on in this many years and to just pick up and run like that. It’s pretty impressive. It really goes out to the NHRA, you know, for whipping this place into shape and getting it ready for the fans and us to race on.”
This is the first of 11 races that Hight will be running the Cornwell Tools primary sponsorship on his Chevy Camaro.
“Doing that in the Cornwell Tools Chevy really made this special, because I think there was about 15 Cornwell people back there in the sponsor viewing,” Hight said. “They’ve just been so excited about this, and after Charlotte I got to go to Cornwell and visit their two factories that they have and I just met so many great people that are out in the middle of America. Just hard working, they really care about what they’re doing and the products they’re making. It’s pretty impressive. It makes me really want to do a good job for them and work hard for them because all of those folks work hard and love what they do.”
Gaige Herrera appears to have no interest in letting up on his fellow Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors.
To little surprise, Herrera and his Vance & Hines Mission Foods Suzuki had top honors in qualifying after dominating the first two events for the class this season.
Herrera was impressive with a 6.677, 202.45 to solidify his name into Route 66 Raceway history as the quickest and fastest at the track.
"I've been here many times to watch, but this was my first pass, ever, down this track," said Herrera, who resides just an hour away from Route 66 Raceway and was surrounded by friends and family for the first day of the event. "This is awesome for me and for the whole Vance & Hines Mission Suzuki team. I have all the confidence in the world in this whole team, especially Andrew. He's a six-time champion for a reason, and he's got a handle on that bike. I have the easy part."
Bo Butner arrived in Joliet ready to make a statement and was armed heavily with confidence. After some early season struggles, Butner powered to a 6.522, 208.94 to reset the track record for elapsed time and carries himself into the top spot. If it holds, the No. 1 would be the 12th of Butner's career.
"We missed this track, and I'm excited to be back at one of my favorite places," said Butner, who has raced at the facility as a Lucas Oil Series Sportsman competitor for many years. "We didn't miss a beat and got the track record that first shot, so we're very happy. The Elite team worked very hard testing this week, and that was a great run. It's so close, the whole field, but we got just a little bit of a gap, and I'm proud to have it."
Elite Motorsports took over the top spots on Friday in Chicago, with Cristian Cuadra No. 2, Aaron Stanfield No. 3, and Fernando Cuadra Jr. No. 4.
Finally, Mike Salinas reminded the Top Fuel faithful that he still has plenty left in the tank in looking past him will be a big mistake.
Salinas, whose most recent low qualifier award came at Bristol Dragway last summer, reeled off a 3.686-second pass at 333.41 mph in his Gerber Collision & Glass Top Fuel dragster to move into the top spot. Although his powerful time didn't break either end of the Route 66 Raceway track records, he is looking to get even more from his rocket on Saturday.
"That was really good," said Salinas, who has 11 previous No. 1 qualifier awards. "We did a lot of work the last few weeks, because we weren't happy with Vegas. We knew we had a great car, but we had a malfunction, and that was unacceptable. The next race, the driver didn't show up and made mistakes, and I just can't let that happen again.
"The run we just ran there, we did it three times in testing this week in Indy. We know we have a great car, we just have to close it out and run good tomorrow. It's a new day, and I think there will be some good runs. The track is really tight, and you can run fast here. It's going to be interesting."
The Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 Nationals presented by PEAK Performance at Route 66 Raceway continues with qualifying Saturday at 2:00 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday eliminations are set to begin at 11:00 a.m. Television coverage will be aired on Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 (FS1). Sunday eliminations are slated to begin on Sunday at 10:00 p.m. ET on FS1.
See the full recap at NHRA.com:
Check out Friday's photo gallery from NHRA National Dragster staff:
Content: JFR PR / NHRA