INDY WINNER HIGHT PURSUES CAPPS, FORCE IN POINTS RACE Auto Club Driver Would Lead if 2007 Rules Were Applied ENNIS, Texas -- One of the biggest fans of NHRA's newly-announced "Countdown to the Championship" format, which will begin in 2007,...
INDY WINNER HIGHT PURSUES
CAPPS, FORCE IN POINTS RACE
Auto Club Driver Would Lead if 2007 Rules Were Applied
ENNIS, Texas -- One of the biggest fans of NHRA's newly-announced "Countdown to the Championship" format, which will begin in 2007, is Robert Hight, driver of the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang.
However, the 2005 winner of the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award, which designates the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, would make once critical change in the program -- he'd make it retroactive.
There is considerable motive in Hight's madness.
After all, if 2007 rules were in effect, the former world class marksman would ride into Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex for this week's 21st annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Fall Nationals, presented by Castrol SYNTEC, as the points leader -- 13 points ahead of Ron Capps and 41 ahead of boss, teammate and father-in-law John Force.
Instead, the 37-year-old phenomenon will be facing a 159-point deficit when he rolls to the starting line Friday for the first of four qualifying sessions.
That's the equivalent of eight racing rounds. It's a big deficit, but not an unmanageable one for a driver with Hight's resolve resources.
"I don't think (the championship) is out of reach," Hight said. "I don't want to wish any misfortune on John or Capps, but anything can happen. We've got momentum and we've got the best car out there."
While Capps, who's won five times this year, and Force, who is the NHRA national record holder at 4.665 seconds, 333.58 miles per hour, might disagree, there is plenty of documentation to support Hight's claim.
After all, the California native has started seven races this season from the No. 1 qualifying position, a performance that enabled him to earn the No. 1 seed for the Skoal Showdown Funny Car bonus race in which he became the first driver other than Force to earn the top seed in 17 seasons.
Moreover, over the last two campaigns, he's started the Jimmy Prock-prepared Auto Club Ford from the front 13 times, twice as often as any other Funny Car driver.
The problem has been consistency although Hight's Indy performance suggests that the team finally may have recaptured the form that produced season-opening victory in the CARQUEST Winternationals at Pomona, Calif.
In that race, Hight did just what he did at Indy. He put up the quickest quarter mile numbers in EVERY round of racing to overpower one of the most competitive Funny Car fields in history.
Now, he's focused on riding that newfound consistency to a championship and, along the way, becoming the first Funny Car driver to win a race this season from the No. 1 qualifying position.
No Funny Car driver has gone wire-to-wire in the last 25 races, not since Hight's teammate, Eric Medlen, driver of the Castrol SYNTEC® Ford, won from No. 1 at the 2005 Lucas Nationals at Brainerd, Minn. Nevertheless, Hight came close at Indy. He qualified second, just .001 of a second behind Force.
His next best opportunity will come this week in an Auto Club Mustang on an all- concrete racing surface on which he already has accelerated to 330.31 mph, a track record.
"As long as one of these Fords wins the championship, it'll be a successful season," Hight said. "We race as a team. We win together; we lose together."