NORWALK, OH (June 23, 2011) --- With four of the 60th anniversary commemorative pewter “Wally’s” in his trophy case already this season 2009 Full Throttle NHRA Funny Car champion Robert Hight is looking to add a season career high fifth win this weekend at the 5th annual NHRA Summit Equipment Nationals. Last season Hight picked up his 4th win at Denver’s MOPAR Mile High Nationals in late July. This season after only nine races Hight has four wins and his Auto Club Ford Mustang is the car to beat heading into the hot summer months.
“We made eight great runs (in Bristol), but when we needed it the most, (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) pulled it out,” said Hight, the No. 6 qualifier in Bristol. “He had some confidence, and we got (teammate Mike) Neff in the second round. (So far this season that) is six races, six of the nine we’ve won. This time of the year, it’s unreal. And the way Jimmy Prock looks at it, we’re just now getting started. We’re just now getting the hang of this. Going into the summer months, it gives you a lot of confidence. And I love it that we’re going into Norwalk this next weekend. “
Hight’s victory in Bristol was even sweeter for the crewman turned driver when you consider he picked up his first career national performance record. In the semi-finals versus Jeff Arend Hight ran 316.45 mph and in the final against Jack Beckman he backed up that national speed record time within the NHRA mandated 1%. In previous seasons Hight has recorded the quickest or fastest times in history at both the ¼ mile and 1000 ft racing distances but he has never backed up those runs. Last Sunday Hight and the Auto Club Mustang got it done en route to victory.
“The speed record; that is huge. I’ve never had a record. I’ve made the quickest run at a 1000-foot, quickest runs at quarter mile, never backed them up,” said Hight. “Never had a record, speed record or anything. I know speed record is no points or anything, but there’s some bragging rights. And it’s great to have it with the Auto Club. It is also cool to keep that record with John Force Racing. Ashley - teammate Ashley Force Hood - had the record and now I have it.”
Heading to Norwalk Hight is hoping that familiarity with the Ohio race track will finally breed some success. Hight has made a ton of runs at Summit Motorsports Park even though the NHRA has only contested a national event at the Norwalk facility since 2007. Hight has tested and competed for an additional three years at the annual Night Under Fire match race event which rivals an NHRA national event for atmosphere.
“We have only had four national events at Norwalk but it feels like more to me since I’ve raced at Night Under Fire before 2007. The Baders put on a great show that weekend and the fans are the best,” said Hight. “I really learned a lot match racing and that is really how John (Force) got so good. You race on a different surface since the track prep is a little different so you have more experience in difficult conditions. That helps the driver and the crew chief. I am looking forward to making laps again and I love the fact that we were just racing a few days ago. It really helps keep you in a groove and not just me but Jimmy and my crew guys.”
Hight was the No. 1 qualifier the first two years of the NHRA Summit Equipment Nationals and since then he has been No. 2 and No. 4, respectively. In 2008 he lost a close final round to former John Force Racing teammate Tony Pedregon and the past two year he has been eliminated by 15-time Funny Car champion John Force, once in the second round (2009) and once in the semis (2010).
So far this season Hight has not recorded a No. 1 qualifier but that has not been a negative for the 38-time top qualifier.
“Jimmy Prock is a pretty smart guy and he is getting on all sides of this tune up. You saw it in Bristol. On Friday night he could have shot for the moon and most likely we would have gotten the No. 1 spot or it might have smoked the tires. We have a plan and that is to get as many runs as possible. If we have to make a small sacrifice to get there we will do it,” said Hight.
“Trust me, when we have to step on it either in qualifying or eliminations Jimmy will tune this Mustang up. The run in the second round against Neff was one of those times. Neff has the Funny Car to beat in my opinion. We needed to run a quick number and in the heat of the day Jimmy did that. He said if it would have been ten degrees warmer on the track we still could have run that quick. That is awesome.”
Hight is only fourteen points behind Jack Beckman in the Full Throttle point standings. If he gets around Beckman he will have some work to do to catch up to Neff for the top spot in the Funny Car standings. Neff currently has a sixty point lead over Beckman. So far this season Neff has been averaging 85 points per national event and Hight has been averaging 77 points. If Hight wants to get around Neff he’ll have to start picking up an additional round wins over the last half of the regular season.
“I always want to go into the Countdown from the No. 1 spot. You get a round and a half head start towards the championship that way. Neff will be tough to beat. We are going to do a better job of qualifying so we aren’t meeting in the early rounds we are racing each other for Wally’s like we did in Topeka for the 200th Funny Car win for John Force Racing.”