Madison: Robert Hight preview

HIGHT TRIES TO GET BACK ON TRACK IN O'REILLY MIDWEST NATIONALS Auto Club Ford a Contender at Gateway International Raceway MADISON, Ill. -- Stung last week by a dropped cylinder that slowed his John Force-owned Automobile Club of Southern...

HIGHT TRIES TO GET BACK ON TRACK IN O'REILLY MIDWEST NATIONALS
Auto Club Ford a Contender at Gateway International Raceway

MADISON, Ill. -- Stung last week by a dropped cylinder that slowed his John Force-owned Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to 5.180 seconds in a first round loss to Tim Wilkerson, 2005 NHRA Rookie of the Year Robert Hight tries to put his POWERade title hopes back on track this week at Gateway International Raceway.

Hight, who had been on a record-breaking binge before unseasonably warm temperatures interrupted his run last week at Englishtown, N.J., rolls into this week's 10th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Midwest Nationals in third place in Funny Car points. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the second year phenom is 260 points back of pacesetting Ron Capps, whose five 2006 victories have enabled him to go more than two full races up on everyone -- except Force.

Nevertheless, Hight remains optimistic about his championship bid in the belief, shared by many in the Funny Car division, that Capps can't maintain his present torrid pace for the remaining 12 races.

"Obviously, if he can, then we're all racing for second," Hight said. "But if somebody else gets hot, hopefully John or Eric (Medlen, driver of the Castrol SYNTEC® Ford) or us, it could change really fast."

To improve his chances, Hight knows that he has to cut his own deficit this weekend, if only by 20 or 40 points, at a Gateway facility that has proven troublesome because of summer heat that typically sends track temperatures soaring into the 120s.

"There's nothing bad with the track," Hight said of GIR. "It's just unfortunate the time of the year that we come here. Last year they poured water on it (trying to cool it down). They've tried everything."

Hight is encouraged not just by his recent records at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Atlanta Dragway and National Trail Raceway (Columbus, Ohio), but also by the fact that he posted the quickest quarter mile time in the first round of racing at Gateway last year as a rookie (5.012 seconds).

Winner of the season-opening CARQUEST Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., he is the only driver other than Capps to have led the POWERade standings thus far this year.

Nevertheless, it's been a roller coaster ride for the former clutch specialist on father-in-law John Force's Castrol GTX entry.

After winning the opener, he exited in the first round at four of the next five events. He then went 9-4 in the next four-race stretch with runner-up finishes at Atlanta, Ga. (for the second straight year) and Joliet, Ill. (where he lost to Force in the 26th final round involved John Force Racing teammates).

That run ended with last week's loss at Englishtown, N.J., but Hight doesn't believe it is portent of trouble to come.

"Last week was just something that happens," Hight said. "That's the first time in three years that (the Auto Club Ford) has dropped a cylinder on the step (at the first hit of the throttle). We'll just go back to work this week and I'm sure Jimmy (crew chief Jimmy Prock) will have an answer for the conditions. It looks like it might not be quite as hot as they thought. We'll see."

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Robert Hight