Fast Chat with Robert Hight, Grand Marshal, 2007 Bakersfield March Meet, Mar. 9-11
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- (Mar. 5, 2007) -- Robert Hight, Grand Marshal of the 2007 Bakersfield March Meet, Mar. 9-11 at Auto Club Famoso Raceway, took time from his hectic NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series schedule to answer a few quick questions for the fans.
Question: How does it feel to be grand marshal of the Famoso March Meet?
Robert Hight: "It's unbelievable that they would pick me. I know it is because of the Auto Club sponsorship. It is an honor for me because the nostalgia stuff is really growing in popularity and I love seeing these old cars run, funny cars as well as dragsters. A lot of the older guys are coming back to racing. I am kind of envious of Ron Capps, because on his off weekends he gets to go drive a nostalgia funny car. That kind of stuff is just awesome."
Question: Are there any drivers from that era that influenced you?
Hight: "Well, John Lombardo stands out because his kids grew up in the town where I lived and that is how I first got introduced to drag racing. They would go down and spend the summers with their dad and go racing. They would come back to school and that is all they would talk about and they would bring me T-shirts. That is how I started following drag racing. (John) Force talks about John Lombardo a lot. He helps him out. John used to buy a lot of parts from him and one of the guys that I respect the most in drag racing, other than Austin Coil and our guys, is Steve Pfleuger. He was John's crew chief from way back when and the chassis builder for most of John's championships. Right now, he is building two nostalgia funny cars. The guy is an unbelievable craftsman. His cars are works of art. They are beautiful. He just couldn't keep up with the demand of what we needed with four teams. I think he wanted to slow down anyway. He built these cars from the ground up and he doesn't have a big shop. His cars are still beautiful. That is the kind of stuff I love about nostalgia racing and drag racing in general."
Question: When was the first time you attended the Bakersfield event?
Hight: "Honestly, I have never been. We used to test with John's funny car when I first came here instead of going to Vegas or Tucson. We used to test for our two test sessions at Bakersfield and Phoenix. Like the first three years I was with John Force we would go to Bakersfield, but because of conflicts we have always been racing during the Meet. Luckily this year the NHRA scheduled these events on off weekends. That will make it better because all the NHRA racers will be at the March Meet to watch and spectate."
Question: What are the difference between a nostalgia funny car and your Auto Club Funny Car?
Hight: "A lot of it I just learned over the winter when we rebuilt John's 'Brute Force' Funny Car (from 1976). The nostalgia cars are just simpler. Yet they had character. The paint jobs on them. They weren't so commercialized. I know that now you have to have that because of what it costs to race today. You have to have the big sponsors, but cars back then had a lot of character. They were named and the paint jobs were just so quality and a lot of great designs."
Question: Talk about your relationship with Auto Club and how important that is to your career as you move forward--
Hight: "They are an unbelievable company to work for. They stand for a lot of the same things that we do at John Force Racing. It is all about teamwork. The drivers get a lot of attention and accolades and then next is the crew chief, but from working on these cars, I know that if every single guy doesn't do his job properly it makes everything else everybody else does almost worthless. That is what the Auto Club stands for. I was fortunate enough to go to a company meeting after Indy. They get together every Tuesday. Everybody gets together in a circle and talks about what is going on with the Auto Club, what happened in the last week, what is coming up, and what projects they are working on. I was sitting next to (Auto Club President) Tom McKernan and he kept nudging me when other people were talking. At first I was thinking this guy is kind of rude but what he kept saying to me is, 'see why this company is so strong, it is the people in this room' and he showed me how proud he was of all the guys and all the people in that room that he worked with. That is how I am with my team. I am proud of every guy on this team and everything they do to get our car down the race track."
Tickets to the March Meet are available online, and will be available at the gate during the event. A three-day pass is $75. Tickets for Friday are $25; Saturday and Sunday are $30 each day. Auto Club members also receive a $2 discount off daily admission tickets by showing their cards when they purchase tickets at the track. Daily tickets for children ages 7 to 12 are $10 and kids 6 and under are free when accompanied by an adult with paid admission.
The March Meet, which inaugurated top-level drag racing in Bakersfield, features nostalgia drag racing in twelve classes. From front-engined Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars to Hot Rods, there's a class for every nostalgia racer who ever dreamed of competing. Reminder: Spring Forward: Daylight Savings Time goes into effect at 2 a.m., Sun., Mar. 11.
The Kern County Racing Association (KCRA) operates historic Auto Club Famoso Raceway (just north of Bakersfield, Calif.) and promotes a full schedule of races year round, including the world famous March Meet. Now in its 49th year of racing, the March Meet, Mar. 9-11, 2007, is the recognized Mecca of Nostalgia Drag Racing. For more details, visit www.famosoraceway.com.