This Week in Ford Racing, March 2, 2011
Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car has experienced the highs and lows of Funny Car competitions over the last two years. In 2009, Hight overcame early struggles to narrowly make the Countdown to One and then dominate the playoffs for his first NHRA Funny Car championship. In 2010, Hight was among the cars to beat entering the Countdown but he failed to win a single round in the final six races. Hight kicked the year off with a flawless performance at the 2011 NHRA Winternationals last weekend. This Week in Ford Racing caught up with the 2009 champion moments after his win at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
AFTER THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE COUNTDOWN IN WHICH YOU DIDN'T WIN A ROUND, STARTING THE YEAR WITH A VICTORY AT THE WINTERNATIONALS HAS GOT TO FEEL GOOD. "The biggest deal for me is how long it's been since we've won, even a round. It goes clear back to Brainerd of last year. The only thing that made last year good was John [Force] winning everything at the end of the year, Ashley [Force Hood] winning Indy and staying together as a team. What's really important to me is that this is the fourth year in a row that my guys have stayed together, the complete team, 100 percent of them. That makes it so easy to get out here and do what you need to do. You don't have to train new people. Everyone knows their job. It makes it that much more special when you win because you pulled together, you stayed together. I was on John's teams for a lot of years and we had the same nucleus of guys. You become a family. They're like brothers to you. That's what makes these times here so special. But to win the Winternationals, the first race of the year, it's been such a long winter, and to win at Auto Club Raceway is just awesome. One more thing, just to show you what kind of people we have, whatever differences John Force and Austin Coil have had, or have had in the past here, I get a text from him in the middle of the day from Austin that says go get 'em! You need to win. That just pumps you up so big because he's still behind us. He's following us. I know he was texting Zippy [Mike Neff] about the weather and saying you might only have one qualifying run, get it in."
"I had a little good luck charm today, besides my daughter Autumn. I had this coin. The Wood Brothers gave me this last year, their 60th anniversary. They went out and won Daytona. Sixty years they've been together and the No. 21 went out there, and they didn't get lucky, they went out there and they dominated, kind of like John Force Racing did today. It's the NHRA's 60th Birthday. Happy Birthday NHRA. To have this ride with me, and for Ford to go out and win Daytona, and now the Winternationals, this baby [coin] is going with me to Gainesville."
WHICH IS GREATER? THE FRUSTRATION THAT YOU HAD AT THE END OF THE LAST SEASON OR THE ELATION WHEN YOU GOT THAT WIN TODAY? "The elation because it's been so long. You just keep thinking about it all winter. Plus this winter has been longer than most for us. We had a good test session but there's still doubt. They announce that they're going to have these pewter trophies, you think man, I want one of those so bad. But you look at the depth of the Funny Car class, it ain't that easy to get them. Look at the guys that I had to beat today, Bob Tasca III, John Force, 15-time Champ, Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, it's not that easy. If we would have slipped up just a little in the final, we would have been dust."
"In the final, I was getting so pumped up in the car, and that's kind of how I get up. I see the people out in front of me, Jimmy Prock, Dean Antonelli, Ron Douglas, all of the guys coming up like go get him. I pumped myself up and I'm moving around, and somehow I unplugged my airline to my helmet. I was just so pumped up that I didn't even notice that when they turned it on I wasn't getting air. When I put my helmet on to stage, it was getting all fogged up. It kept fogging up all the way down the race track. Luckily they have good lights around here and I saw my win light come on, but honestly at one point I didn't know where I was on the race track. A lot of times you just know, you feel it. You don't feel it move or darting one way or another. It was definitely fogging up though. I don't want to do that again. I'm going to have a longer hose at Gainesville."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE LAST YEAR WITH THE FRUSTRATION? "Well you don't ever give up. That's kind of how we won the championship in 2009. Don't give up. We had a terrible first half and we just came to life. You've got to believe in the people around you. You can't fight. You've got to just work through those tough times. It would have been worse had John not been winning and won the championship and the championship would have gone to the other team over there, that would have made it a lot worse, but as one big team, John Force Racing, still pulled through it. That made it a little easier. You know what is funny, in 2009, after I had won the championship, John all winter long just kept at me saying hey I'm coming after you. Congratulations, good job, but he was going to take this away from me. I had a little fun this winter, I joked back and said hey I'm coming after you."
DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD HAVE NAMED YOU PRESIDENT [OF JOHN FORCE RACING] BEFORE THIS? "Somebody said today, if I was President, did that mean that John was my assistant. I said today, after I beat him, he's got to take over presidential duties because I have a race to win."
YOU CHOSE THE LEFT LANE FOR THE FINALE. MOST PEOPLE CHOSE THE RIGHT LANE, BUT YOU CHOSE THE LEFT. "My crew chief Jimmy Prock, he decides that. He came up to me and asked me are you cool with seeing the tree here. I told him don't worry about anything . You tell me what lane we're going in and I'll do my best. He just felt more comfortable in the left lane. We made three qualifying runs and two of those were in the left. All seven runs this weekend, this Mustang went down the track every run flawless so good job to him. He just knows what's out there."
- source: ford racing