HIGHT BLAZES TO PROV. NO. 1 AT FOUR WIDE NATIONALS CONCORD, NC --- There is not a lot Robert Hight has not done behind the wheel of his Auto Club Ford Mustang in his relatively young career. In just over five seasons he has been named Rookie of...
HIGHT BLAZES TO PROV. NO. 1 AT FOUR WIDE NATIONALS
CONCORD, NC --- There is not a lot Robert Hight has not done behind the wheel of his Auto Club Ford Mustang in his relatively young career. In just over five seasons he has been named Rookie of the Year, won 14 NHRA national events, been the No. 1 qualifier 33 times and in 2009 he secured his first Full Throttle World Championship. He has made the quickest run in Funny Car history at the ¼ mile and 1000 distances. The last category to check off the list is a national elapsed time record.
On Friday night at the Inaugural NHRA Four Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway Hight got a leg up on that goal making a blistering 4.024 second run at a personal best 314.24 mph. That run secured the provisional No. 1 spot for Hight. His run was the third quickest recorded at the 1000 ft. distance behind only his 4.005 second run from Richmond, Va., in 2008 and Ron Capps' 4.023 second run in 2009 at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Ariz.
"I think with the expected conditions tomorrow that if I don't run better than 4.02 that may not stay No. 1. I have been in this position quite a few times making these killer runs and never backed it up for a national record. I have made the quickest runs at ¼ mile and the quickest runs at 1000 feet. I have never backed it up," said Hight.
"Tomorrow our goal is to back this run up. I know that (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) is probably picking this run apart on the computer right now thinking that he can run 4.00 or 4.01. When you do that you risk smoking the tires. I would really like to go out there tomorrow and duplicate that (4.02) and get a national record. Now NHRA acknowledges national records and that is 20 more points towards this championship. That is big right now."
If Hight can run within 1% of that time tomorrow or Sunday he will establish a new national record and more importantly grab 20 very valuable Full Throttle points.
Last year zMax Dragway was where he started his run at the title after a disasterous regular season. The 2009 champ has a lot more confidence at this point this season thanks to the consistency of his Auto Club Mustang.
"We are definitely in a lot better shape than we were last year. We were struggling. This whole four wide deal is exciting. It is something new and something to learn. So far the first two runs that I have made have been flawless. NHRA has done a great job with setting up the tree so it is easy to see who is where when we stage. Jimmy Prock lives this race car night and day. He just put a ton more fuel in it. We have been burning the thing up. On the first run he said this thing should have run 269 mph at half track and it was only 265 mph."
"He said the only thing more he knew to do was put a lot more fuel in it. Sure enough it went 271.41 mph at half track (on the second qualifying run). It has been almost four years when we had cars that were 150 pounds lighter before our accidents and our issues that we have run that fast. Jimmy did a great job. I really want to say that the NHRA is doing a great job at the top end of the track. They have really done their homework. It is very smooth getting on and off the track. There are a lot of things to think about."
Hight's teammates were also on top of their game at the inaugural event. Most notably John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, already had one four-wide run under his Simpson fire suit belt thanks to his participation in last year's exhibition run in September. For the 14-time champion and winner of over 1,000 rounds of racing the excitement of racing four-wide was barely equally by his interest in watching from the starting line. Force ended the first day of racing as the No. 4 qualifier with a solid 4.067 second run.
"Right now our three Mustangs are right up at the top. Robert with Auto Club is No. 1. I'm 4th and Ashley (Force Hood) is 5th. I watched the dragsters and there is a lot of confusion on guys going deep and putting out lights. It is what it is. Boy it has my energy up. Good or bad I don't know. I am going to see it through here," said an excited Force.
"I have learned to keep my focus. So has Robert. Ashley is just doing her thing. Amber. Step. My focus will help but there are a lot of other good guys out there like Robert getting good lights. I don't know how this is going to play out. It is sure exciting to watch."
Ashley Force Hood, the 2007 rookie of the year and youngest driver in the John Force Racing Funny Car stable, was not overwhelmed by the new racing dynamic. She chose to follow the sage advice of her crew chief tandem of Dean "Guido" Antonelli and Ron Douglas which was to keep to her same routine. After her first run four-wide the former cheerleader and Cal-State Fullerton graduate was non-plussed by the racing situation.
"Everything went really well. It went a lot smoother than I thought it would go. Staging was a little confusing but not anything too tough. I think the challenging part will be any kind of odd things that can happen. Those are the little things that can mess you up but as long as in the back of your head you know the different scenarios we have prepared ourselves for that," said the No. 5 provisional qualifier. "We'll just do the best we can do. Once I launched it did not feel any different. The only difference to me was the staging and the shut off area."