Pomona II: Robert Hight preview

HIGHT EYES NATIONAL RECORD IN LONGSHOT BID FOR TITLE Is Auto Club Ford Capable of 4.664 Quarter Mile Time? POMONA, Calif. -- Realistically, Robert Hight knows his bid for the NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship likely ended two weeks ago...

HIGHT EYES NATIONAL RECORD IN LONGSHOT BID FOR TITLE
Is Auto Club Ford Capable of 4.664 Quarter Mile Time?

POMONA, Calif. -- Realistically, Robert Hight knows his bid for the NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship likely ended two weeks ago when a five-cent component in the supercharger drive failed as he executed a burnout before a first round match at Las Vegas, Nev.

That said, the 37-year-old resident of Anaheim Hills isn't yet ready to concede the title to his father-in-law -- drag racing icon John Force.

"I know it's a longshot," Hight said of his bid to overcome a 73-point deficit in this week's 42nd annual Automobile Club of Southern California Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, "but this team has a history of beating the odds."

Indeed, Hight outpaced conventional wisdom last season when, after spotting everyone else six races, he still managed to earn the eighth and final position in the Skoal Showdown bonus race.

He further defied the odds by earning the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award as the NHRA Rookie of the Year even though he never had driven competitively in any form of racing prior to 2005.

He then began the current season by rallying from a No. 12 start to win the season-opening CARQUEST Winternationals even though his crew had to commandeer a Mustang body from a static display to complete the event. Furthermore, he was the unlikely top qualifier for this year's Skoal Showdown, knocking Force from a perch he had occupied for 16 consecutive seasons.

Bottom line, the former world class marksman isn't one to give up easily. He and crew chief Jimmy Prock have a plan for their Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford Mustang, the cornerstone of which is the drag racing equivalent of the Hail Mary pass.

"We're going after the national record," Hight said. "What have we got to lose?"

Indeed, setting an NHRA national record is worth 20 bonus points, the equivalent of winning a round of racing. The upshot is that, if he is successful, Hight could cut his deficit from 73 to 53 before the start of eliminations, compelling Force to win more than a single round to his 14th championship.

"This car is capable," Hight said. "It just depends on conditions. "Ideally, we'll go out and run quick enough on Thursday (to eclipse Force's current mark of 4.665 seconds). Then we'd have three more runs to back it up (within one per cent to satisfy the NHRA's rigid certification requirements)."

Coming off quarter miles runs of 4.687 and 4.677 seconds at LVMS, the latter the third quickest in history, Hight thinks such performance is possible.

"Jimmy said if we had been running at Pomona, the 4.67 we ran at Las Vegas would have been a 4.64 (because of the difference in altitude)," Hight said. "The problem is we know John can run that quick, too. He did it already (dipping to a track record 4.664 last February)."

The No. 1 qualifier a category-best nine times this season and 15 times in his first 45 races Hight actually could earn enough points in the preliminary phase to move around Ron Capps into second place.

Entering the season's final race, he trails Capps and the Brut Dodge by two measly points, a deficit he could erase by qualifying either first or second, which he has done 14 times this season, just as long as Capps doesn't qualify in the top four.

Until the mechanical failure at Las Vegas, Hight had been riding a wave of momentum borne of victories in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., and the O'Reilly FallNationals at Dallas, Texas. He's hoping there's still a little left in the tank.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Robert Hight