This Week in Ford Racing
Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club for Mustang Funny car knows all about the joys and frustrations of the NHRA’s Countdown to One. In 2009 Robert was the last car to qualify for the Countdown and then dominated the six race championship winning his first Funny Car championship. In 2010 Hight went into the Countdown with the most wins and he failed to win a single round. After two round (Charlotte and Dallas) Hight’s frustration was growing, but that all changed at Reading as Hight captured the Wally in the rain plagued event and reignited his championship hopes. This Week in Ford Racing caught up with the 2009 champ who was still basking in the victory at Reading.
AFTER YOUR MOST RECENT WIN, TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE COMEBACK AND HOW YOU’RE BACK INTO THE CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT.
“We knew coming into Reading that this was our last chance race. If we’d had another bad showing – it was over. You put yourself in such a hole when you lose first round at the first two races in the Countdown. Then there’s that on chip on your back from last year. We didn’t even win a single round in the Countdown and we won four races before that. So start out this deal, so that’s eight races in a row in the Countdown that we had lost in the first round. You gotta get that off your back. We’ve been struggling, that’s no secret. My crew chief, Jimmy Prock, he’s worked so hard. We have to thank Mike Neff and all the team. They work so well together. Neff kind of helped us get back on track. And once Jimmy gets it, he’s got it. And I’m looking forward to it. We’re heading out west, back home for the final three. We’re back into this deal. This is a career for me. Five wins in a season. That’s the most I’ve ever had. We’ve been in five finals. So we’re 100%, batting 100. We were racing a tough car over there, Johnny Gray. They threw down some major league numbers over the weekend. You can see it that really eats at Jimmy Prock. He wants to be out there running those numbers. But he’s gotta hold himself. We have to keep taking baby steps and moving forward. We can’t go out there and give it away. If we would’ve really pushed and tried to run .01, something we hadn’t done all weekend, we might’ve been like them and smoked the tires. It wasn’t my greatest run of the day either. I got it a little outside down track. And man once you do at this place, it pulls you. For second I thought, ‘Man, I am right on the wall’. And it started to spin a little bit and I lifted. But I saw that win light and you get to hear your guys. That’s the worst part of being a Funny Car driver or any driver for that matter, once you see the win light now there’s no celebrating. It’s all back on the starting line. And you’re down there by yourself. It’s a great feeling to hear Eric Lane tell you ‘You won’. And what it ran, 4.06.”
“We struggled a little bit. The Friday night run it slowed way, way down. And we were on one on Saturday morning that we figured could run .02 real easy and it welded the clutch. So Jimmy had to fix that. But we haven’t been making good runs like that and throwing down. So it was kind of a learning curve for us. We had to do it as we went and make baby steps, but we finally got it. It was smooth all day. That’s what really I’m impressed about is when my car would go the last few weeks it would rattle and shake and it just wasn’t friendly to drive. But now this car is smooth as can be and it’s fast. There’s no way we’re going to win this championship with any of these JFR (John Force Racing) cars if we’re not all running good. We can’t just have Mike Neff pulling the team and holding us up. We’ve gotta be there for him and he’s gotta be there for us. John’s back in the game too. They made some real good runs in qualifying, little bad luck on first round, but I believe JFR has a good shot at this.”
BEFORE THE FINAL YOUR TEAM WAS REALLY HUDDLED UP ON THE LEFT SIDE. DID YOU THINK JOHNNY GRAY WAS GOING TO PUSH YOU UP ON THE LEFT?
“He told us, we figured they were playing a little game because I knew they weren’t coming out of the left. They had been running well over there and they really hadn’t done much in the right and our guy Lanny Miglizzi who is out there on the track. He gets up in the morning and he’s there from 7am until midnight. And he lives it out there. So he said there was nothing wrong with that left lane. They’re just probably playing a little game with us. So luckily we went out there and looked and found a path down both sides so we were ready. So I’ve gotta give it to my guys. We’ve got enough people at JRF that are out there and working hard and have their head in the game.”
IN 2009 YOU BEGAN YOUR TURN AROUND AT READING WHEN JOHN AND YOU SWAPPED CARS AND THAT SHOOK THE WHOLE TEAM UP AND YOU WENT ON NARROWLY MAKE THE COUNTDOWN AND EVENTUALLY WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. COULD THIS BE ANOTHER TURNING POINT FOR YOU AT READING? HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DO YOU HAVE COMING OUT OF THIS RACE GOING TO PHOENIX, GOING TO VEGAS, GOING TO POMONA?
“I’ve had great success at all three of those races. I’ve been to the final twice in Phoenix and I’ve made the quickest run in history for at a quarter mile in Phoenix, so but it’s a new surface out there and it’s gonna be a learning curve for all of us. It’s probably going to be hot, so what you learned here you throw it out the window, and you go back to your hot setup. And we’ll have to step that up a click. But if you can run in conditions like this, I believe we can back it down and still run in any conditions. But this is a turning point for us without a doubt. Our season was over if we couldn’t pull this off.”