St. Louis: Robert Hight preview

'HOT WEATHER HIGHT' HONES IN ON THIRD STRAIGHT TOUR WIN Auto Club Ford Driver Closes in on Points Leader Capps MADISON, Ill. -- It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which means that on the eve of this week's 11th annual ...

'HOT WEATHER HIGHT' HONES IN ON THIRD STRAIGHT TOUR WIN
Auto Club Ford Driver Closes in on Points Leader Capps

MADISON, Ill. -- It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which means that on the eve of this week's 11th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway, POWERade points leader Ron Capps should consider himself flattered.

After all, it was watching Capps dominate in last year's summer heat that prompted Robert "Top Gun" Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock to embark on a program that has transformed the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang into a Funny Car capable of supplanting Capps' Dodge Charger as the tour's best hot weather hot rod.

"Last year, in the heat, Capps just took care of everybody," Hight said. "That's what we wanted to do. We wanted to be able to win when the conditions were good, but we also wanted to be able to win when they weren't."

So far, that plan is working just fine.

Hight's victory last week on a hot track in Atlanta, Ga., was his second in succession in a season in which he has reached the finals in all but one of the events for which he has qualified. He attributed the win, the seventh of his career, to a test session two weeks before in Las Vegas, Nev.

"We actually decided on Sunday night after we won (the SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway) that we were only going to test on Monday if it was hot out," said the third year pro.

"The guys were all tired and there was no sense in just going out there and running fast again, because we kinda already knew how to do that. So we all went to bed hoping for hot weather, because we wanted to run the car knowing what was coming up (summer heat).

"We made four good runs on a 120-degree racetrack," he said, "so we were very, very pleased leaving there with what we saw. It's awesome to have a car that can run good in all conditions like this one.

"Last year, we'd qualify well and then we'd go out and beat ourselves," said the 2005 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, "but Jimmy has learned a lot and so have I. He's really paid attention. We bought a clutch dyno and he's on that thing every week. He's making little adjustments to this car and it responds.

"The thing is, that's not easy to do with a fuel car because they're so finicky. They make so much horsepower and there are so many variables. So to have a car that he can tweak just a little bit and see (an improvement) is awesome. His has a great handle on this thing."

That can't be good news for Capps or anyone else with aspirations on the 2007 championship.

Actually, Hight has been the hottest driver in the Funny Car division since last September when he won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind. In the 10 races beginning with Indy, the 37-year-old Californian put his Auto Club Mustang in the finals seven times with four wins.

During that streak, briefly interrupted last month when John Force Racing withdrew its cars from the O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston, Texas, following driver Eric Medlen's death in a testing accident, Hight qualified worse than second just one time, starting from the No. 7 spot Reading, Pa., in 2006.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Robert Hight