HIGHT¸ CAPPS IN POINTS DUEL AS TOUR MOVES TO ATLANTA
Auto Club Ford Driver Favored in Summit Southern Nationals
ATLANTA, Ga. – He's not the defending champion; he's not the POWERade points leader; he's not the NHRA national record-holder and, yet, it would be ludicrous to establish anyone other than Robert Hight as the Funny Car favorite in this week's 27th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals.
Coming off an emotional victory two weeks ago in Las Vegas, Nev., the 37-year-old Hight is looking more and more like the heir to father-in-law John Force's drag racing legacy especially at tracks like Atlanta Dragway.
The 2005 NHRA Rookie of the Year, Hight was a Southern Nationals finalist in each of his first two Atlanta appearances in the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang he drives for John Force Racing, Inc.
He lost the 2005 title (to Force) by .002 of a second. He lost last year by .009 of a second. That's .011 away from a perfect record. Oh, yeah, he's also the track record holder at 4.680 seconds.
Presently locked in a battle for No. 1 with Ron Capps, the driver with whom he dueled down the stretch last season before both were beaten by Force, Hight enjoys more than just a performance advantage. He also has an emotional edge, having dedicated his season to the memory of friend and teammate Eric Medlen, who succumbed last month to injuries suffered in a testing accident at Gainesville, Fla.
Although he missed an entire event (the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas), he trails Capps by just 88 points in the NHRA's new Countdown to the Championship format.
With Force languishing in 20th place after failing to qualify in Las Vegas, Hight has stepped boldly out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
He has qualified his Jimmy Prock-prepared Ford either first or second for every race he's run this year, has gone to the finals in three of four events and has posted the two quickest quarter miles in Funny Car history at 4.636 and 4.646 seconds.
If there is a downside to the soft-spoken former mechanic, it's that he's too intense, but that may be changing, too.
"It's pretty tough to come to the races without your teammate and one of your best friends," Hight said of Medlen, with whom he worked for seven seasons as a crewman on Force's Castrol GTX entry before both got the chance to drive.
"It's amazing how many people Eric touched," Hight said. "He was a great guy. More than winning races, he was a champion because he made everyone around him happier. He made everyone smile.
"That's what I want to show people? I want to show them that I enjoy doing what I am doing as much as Eric enjoyed what he was doing. He definitely loved driving these race cars and being with the fans. That is what I want to start doing is smiling more and showing how much I love this, because I do love it. I'm very fortunate to be able to do it (for a living)."
Married to Force's oldest daughter, Adria, Hight also is the father of the 14-time champion's only grandchild, two-year-old Autumn Danielle Hight.
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Did You Know:
Robert is one of only a handful of individuals to have achieved the target shooting Grand Slam consisting of 200 straight targets from 16 yards, 100 from 27 yards (the maximum handicap distance) and 100 doubles (two targets at once). A former California State Junior trap shooting champion, he bypassed an opportunity to try out for the 2004 Olympic team as a marksman because it would have conflicted with his job at John Force Racing, Inc.
Although he trails Ron Capps in the POWERade points standings, Robert has a slightly better points-per-race average 92.5 to 91.6 for the Dodge driver. Capps leads the standings because neither Robert nor teammates John and Ashley Force participated in the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas, earlier this month.
Robert has started from No. 1 in more than one-third of the races he has entered since assuming the controls of the Auto Club Ford Mustang in 2005 (17 of 51). His average starting position? Third (3.3).
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