Charlotte: Robert Hight preview

ROBERT HIGHT REGULAR SEASON OVER, HIGHT READY FOR COUNTDOWN CHARLOTTE, NC (September 14, 2009) --- Robert Hight is ready to race for his first Full Throttle Championship. Again. The perennial championship contender struggled throughout the...



CHARLOTTE, NC (September 14, 2009) --- Robert Hight is ready to race for his first Full Throttle Championship. Again.

The perennial championship contender struggled throughout the NHRA regular season finally clinching the 10th spot in the Countdown to 1 with a final round appearance at the prestigious Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. It was Hight's fourth consecutive final round appearance but he missed his third win when his sister-in-law Ashley Force Hood grabbed her first professional Mac Tools U.S. Nationals title.

For Hight the race was an affirmation of his predictions that his Auto Club Ford Mustang's performance had finally turned the corner. He qualified No. 1 on Friday and had the quickest ET every qualifying session except one.

"It looks like we're finally getting our act together at the right time. I guess it's better late than never, but we're happy to have all of our Ford Mustangs in there. That was a major accomplishment for us. It wasn't an easy thing. The way my Auto Club Ford Mustang is running now, we could actually win it from the number 10 spot. I can't wait for Charlotte; that race cannot come too soon," said Hight. "It would be nice to keep this roll going because our Mustang is running very well. It takes a lot of work and if you struggle a little like we did, you can get behind and almost not make it. I'm excited that six of the top 10 are Ford Mustangs and, you know what, one of us ought to win this Championship."

The pressure of grabbing the final Countdown position was constant for Hight. Team owner John Force shuffled drivers for the two regular season races but an unexpected medical emergency for Hall of Fame crew chief Austin Coil reunited Hight with crew chief Jimmy Prock for the must perform event, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. When it was all over Hight was simply relieved to have survived and reached the Countdown to 1.

"Very relieved, because basically if you don't make the Top 10 it means your season is over for all practical purposes. I guess you could look at it like you can start testing for next year, but I wasn't ready for my season to be over. It's just now getting started, the way I look at it. I'm very excited about that, relieved, but excited going into Charlotte, knowing that we could be moving up in this deal."

Throughout the struggles of the regular season Hight never got too down or too distracted. He and his Auto Club team simply put their collective noses to the grindstone and fought through the grind that is the NHRA regular season. When his Auto Club Mustang started showing consistent improvement in Reading, Hight knew a wave was building for his team. It crested at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, a track that Hight has dominated the past four years.

"I was never a big believer in the fact that some people just have luck at certain races, but I'm starting to feel that way because this is my fourth Mac Tools U.S. Nationals final in a row. Don Prudhomme has the record of six in a row. I've won two of them. I'm very proud of Ashley for winning, but, yes, momentum is a big deal, and hopefully we can get on a big roll starting (at Indianapolis). The way my car ran, dating back to Reading when John switched us and he was in the car, it went down the track all the runs, and all the runs in Indy. It qualified number one, and it doesn't get much better than that."

"Well, people probably got tired of hearing me, throughout all the struggles, say, 'We're close.' I would say that Jimmy -- crew chief Jimmy Prock- is not that far off, he's getting closer, and of course things would happen and we wouldn't do well. Little things would come up, mistakes were made, but everybody stuck together. I still have the same exact team that I had last year. We stuck together as a team, worked through it, and we believed in each other. We knew we were close, and we just kept working hard, and that's what it takes to win."

Last year at zMax Dragway Hight qualified No.2 and had the car to beat but in the semi-finals Jack Beckman, by his own admission guessed the light, and recorded a spectacular .002 reaction time (.000 is perfect) and he defeated Hight with a slower 4.15 second run to Hight's 4.10 second pass. Beckman went on to win the inaugural event and Hight ultimately finished fourth in his quest for his first Funny Car championship.

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Don Prudhomme , Jack Beckman , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Austin Coil