ENGLISHTOWN, NJ (June 8, 2009) --- Robert Hight does not get too excited about anything. His workman-like approach to racing his Auto Club Ford Mustang has been described as “old-school” and “a throw-back.” He has also been pegged as a championship contender the past three seasons including the 2009 Full Throttle Drag Racing season. So far in 2009 his performance has not given him any reason to be excited but on Sunday after a close second round lose to eventual Funny Car winner Tony Pedregon Hight was close to being excited. At the very least he was very, very encouraged.
“We are definitely heading in the right direction. My Auto Club Ford Mustang is responding and coming around. It is definitely tunable for Jimmy (Prock). (Saturday night and Sunday) was the first time all year we made three solid runs in a row. If we can do our jobs and not make mistakes I think it will continue in that direction. We’ll get there,” said Hight.
The runs Hight was referred to were his last qualifying run on Saturday (4.141 seconds) and his two runs on Sunday (4.111 and 4.096 seconds). The three run average of 4.116 was especially strong considering how the team stepped up every session.
“The best thing we did was change our clutch. He can look back to 2006 and see how it is responding. We could never make that other clutch do that. Our Mustang is more like Guido’s and Ron’s (Ashley Force Hood’s co-crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and Ron Douglas). We can learn from them and they can learn from us. I really want to thank Ron and Guido for helping us out. They will also learn from us which helps everybody. We are going to keep taking baby steps.”
“We have a competitive car now and now we need to qualify in the top half of some fields and then just start tweaking it. We lost the second round but if we would have gone up there and pressed and smoked the tires we would not have learned anything. We tuned it up a little and it went from a 4.11 first round to a 4.09. I probably would have beaten just about anybody else,” concluded Hight.
To put Hight’s struggles into perspective as the second half of the season gets underway. His first round win over rookie Matt Hagan was his first round win in five races. It has also been five races since he has qualified in the top half of a Funny Car field. In his history at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park Hight has qualified in the top half three out of four appearances and the knowledge and performance that his Auto Club team is bringing from Chicago should help that average.
Heading into Chicago Hight knew he needed to work with his team to start moving in the right direction if they were going to get back into the championship hunt.
“We are a team that is used to winning. We aren’t doing that now obviously. We have sponsors like Auto Club, Ford, Castrol, Mac Tools, and Brand Source that pay us to go rounds and we didn’t get the job done in the first half of the season. Trust me I want to win. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock wants to win. We are going to really focus on the second half of the NHRA season before the Countdown. I think if we can average semi-final finishes the rest of the way we can get into the Top 5 in points,” said Hight.
While Hight has never reached a final round at Englishtown he has had success at seven of the remaining eight tracks before the Countdown cut-off, reaching at least one final at every one of them during his career. He has also qualified No. 1 nine times at the various NHRA facilities but again, Old Bridge has been elusive. His best qualifying performance came in 2006 when he qualified number two but then dropped a first round match-up to Tim Wilkerson, ironically the only time he has lost in the first round in New Jersey.
Hight is very proud of his team and particular crew chief Jimmy Prock as they continue to make progress heading into Englishtown.
“The best thing about our tune-up is we are not hunting for problems anymore. We can tweak it and see how that affects our performance. When you can tweak instead of hunt that is a big advantage as far as tune-ups go. We are on the right track and I think we will start performing like we did at the end of Chicago consistently,” said Hight.
Did you know…
- Robert Hight will be featured on the cover of an upcoming issue of Drag Racer magazine which will be on newsstands the first week of July.
- Hight and sister-in-law Ashley Force Hood are featured in an Auto Club of Southern California television commercial that is getting rave reviews on the Full Throttle Drag racing Series.
- Hight and his three teammates will be cruising to Cabo San Lucas for New Year’s Eve as part of the John Force Racing Fan Cruise III sponsored by AAA. Fans can get more information by calling 1-888-874-7222.
Get team info here: www.johnforceracing.com
Follow John Force Racing at www.twitter.com/jfr_racing