HIGHT WANTS TO "LIFT-OFF" CHAMPIONSHIP MOMENTUM AT HOUSTON RACEWAY PARK HOUSTON -- Houston Raceway Park, site of the 23rd annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals, sits just 25 miles from Johnson Space Center and 2009 Funny Car champion...
HIGHT WANTS TO "LIFT-OFF" CHAMPIONSHIP MOMENTUM AT HOUSTON RACEWAY PARK
HOUSTON -- Houston Raceway Park, site of the 23rd annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Spring Nationals, sits just 25 miles from Johnson Space Center and 2009 Funny Car champion Robert Hight is hoping that he can launch his bid for a second Funny Car championship this weekend. Houston Raceway Park is the site of Hight's first career win and he is returning for the first time as Full Throttle Funny Car champion.
"That first win was probably one of the most special wins. The race track is good there. What I really like is that our 2010 Ford Mustang is really showing some aerodynamic advantages. Ashley [Force Hood] and John [Force] both ran 316 mph (in Charlotte) and I'm not sure you could have done that with the old body. The thing with Ford and their aerodynamic staff and all of their engineering, we're definitely moving forward in drag racing," said Hight. "That's a big race for us. AAA of Texas is owned by the Automobile Club of Southern California and they will be on our Mustang this weekend. It's always special the first race you win. We're going to go down there and we're going to be working with a local Ford dealer this weekend. We always try to work with a dealer every weekend. We're kind of on a roll here. John Force Racing is up there in the points and it does give me a bit of confidence going back to where I won my first race."
Last year Hight was the No. 12 qualifier and lost to eventual finalist Jack Beckman in first round. In 2008 he struggled in qualifying, was 20th quickest and failed to qualify. Hight and the entire JFR racing contingent skipped the event in 2007 in the wake of Eric Medlen's testing accident. In 2006 he was the No. 2 qualifier but lost in first round to journeyman Bob Gilbertson Hight's racing lone highlight at Houston Raceway Parkwas his rookie year, 2005, when he was No. 1 qualifier and beat Bob Gilbertson, Tommy Johnson Jr., John Force and Cruz Pedregon for first career win.
Hight is looking to capture that kind of momentum this weekend. Once again he will be campaigning a Ford Mustang promoting AAA Texas for the Houston and Texas market. He knows has the car, the crew and the confidence.
"Once you win a championship you now know you can go out there and do it again. It's just like winning your first race. You know you have the team to do it. Until the driver actually proves himself, there's an element of doubt in the back of your mind that you can do it. We won the championship last year and I always knew I could do it because of the team we're on with John Force Racing and Ford and all of the people that John put together, you knew it was good," said Hight. "Still, there's an element of doubt as a driver that you have what it takes to do it. We've done that, so the pressure now is trying to keep it. With the Countdown, anything can happen, but with the way John Force Racing is running early in the year here, it looks like we're doing pretty good."
Hight's performance in Charlotte during the Four-Wide Nationals turned heads when he blasted to the top of the qualified field with a season quick 4.02 second run. He and crew chief Jimmy Prock made an attempt to duplicate that run and establish an elapsed time national record but they just missed. His car veered to the left and wound up scraping down the side of fellow Funny Car competitor Jeff Arend. Hight was disappointed and more than a little frustrated.
"(Crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) told me that we had a shallow stage and try to squeeze every bit of ET out of that Christmas tree. In reality our car ended up being weak and it shook. That shows you how temperamental these cars are and that is what got me into trouble. Finally, I pedaled it three times and got it back up and thought I would be just fine. It lit three of the four cylinders all at once and that is what shot me over into Jeff Arend. That was really unfortunate and I really feel bad for those guys, but we were definitely trying to set a national record."
Hight is sitting No. 8 in the point standings heading into Houston just seven and 13 points behind fellow Ford drivers Tim Wilkerson (No. 7) and Bob Tasca III (No. 6). Everyone is chasing Hight's teammate and boss John Force who has two victories and a runner-up in the first four races. The 14-time champion has regained his dominant form and the high energy driver has the intensity level at an all-time high in the John Force Racing camp.
In addition to Force Hight also has to contend with sister-in-law and 2009 Full Throttle Funny Car Championship runner-up Ashley Force Hood who raced to a runner-up finish in Charlotte and set the national speed record at 316.38 mph.