GAINESVILLE, FL (March 8, 2011) --- Robert Hight is still riding high from his season opening win at the 51st annual Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals. In fact the 41 year-old former crewman has not even stopped to enjoy the win as he is still accelerating coming into famed Gainesville Raceway home of the 42nd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals this weekend.
“I don’t even feel like I have had a chance to really look at that new pewter Wally (in honor of their 60th anniversary all national event Wallys are pewter in 2011). After the race we were right back into the shop and then last weekend John (Force), Courtney (Force) and I went to Las Vegas for the NASCAR races. It was a whirlwind but worth it,” said Hight, a 19-time national event winner.
When Hight took the win light in Pomona to start the season in addition to grabbing the points lead he made a move around his boss, legendary driver John Force. Since 2005, his rookie season, Hight has a category best 19 wins. Second place John Force with 18.
“I couldn’t believe that number when someone told me. There are only a handful of driver that have won 20 NHRA funny car national events. I want to get that 20th win here in Gainesville. This track has so much history. “Big Daddy” Don Garlits’ Hall of Fame is here. I would love to be able to tell people I won the Gatornationals someday,” said Hight.
Hight’s driving career has been in overdrive since the first time he got behind the wheel. He raced to the winner’s circle in just his fifth start and has been a serious title contender every year since 2006. With two runner-up finishes (2006 and 2008) Hight grabbed his first Full Throttle Championship in dramatic fashion in 2009.
He entered the Countdown, NHRA’s play-off, in 10th place without a win to his credit but his Auto Club Mustang was peaking at the right time and Hight went on to win three of the final six races to secure his 1st and John Force Racing’s 16th funny car title.
“The championship in 2009 was a great accomplishment. The problem is it makes you want that second championship even more. We got off to a great start last season winning three races in a row in the heat and then we just sort of got lost. In the regular season I won a career high four races. Then we were terrible in the Countdown and the only thing that made the off-season bearable was the fact that John won the championship,” said Hight.
“I want to combine my 2010 regular season with my 2009 Countdown performance this year. That would be a dominating performance. (Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) has this Auto Club Mustang set up to run a national record every time I roll through the water box. That gives you a lot of confidence. Also my guys have been together for the last four seasons. They are so great it makes me want to be the best driver I can be whether it is in qualifying or eliminations.”
Last weekend in Las Vegas Hight was afforded the chance to talk with a number of NASCAR crewmen, drivers and team owners. The most important conversation he had was with the storied Wood brothers who own the No. 21 Ford that Trevor Bayne drove to the Daytona 500 win. Hight carried a Wood brothers commemorative coin in his fire suit throughout the Winternationals hoping some of that luck would rub off on his team. Hight was able to get Ford Racing off on the right foot in NHRA as well.
“Throughout the day on Sunday I would look at the Wood brothers’ coin and think I want to get that first win. When I beat John in the second round I knew I had to go all the way. You can’t beat the boss and a driver like that and not get the win,” said Hight. “After the race I told the media about carrying the coin but last weekend I wanted to be sure to thank the Wood brothers for the luck and the coin. I’ll have it with me in Gainesville for sure but I am not putting any more pressure on myself.”
Hight will get the race weekend started with a media tour in Tampa/St Petersburg on Thursday afternoon and then that evening he’ll be at Common Grounds in Gainesville supporting one of his wife’s passions: Civil Defense Music, a record label his wife has helped launch.
“Adria loves music and especially loves to help bands and musicians get started. I don’t understand the music industry but it is incredibly tough for acts to get noticed. Civil Defense Music is really just getting started and they have three acts that are playing on Thursday night in Gainesville so I am going to go and check them out,” said Hight.
The three acts Julie Gribble, The Hollowboy Hellraisers and Kill Miss Pretty will hit the stage at Common Grounds starting at 9 p.m.
Hight will hit the track Friday for the first round of qualifying at 12:45 p.m. at Gainesville Raceway.