.002 OF A SECOND AWAY LAST YEAR, HIGHT RE-LOADED FOR ATLANTA Auto Club Driver Hopes to Reverse Recent Trend ATLANTA, Ga. - Last season, as a first year driver in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Robert Hight quickly identified ...
.002 OF A SECOND AWAY LAST YEAR, HIGHT RE-LOADED FOR ATLANTA
Auto Club Driver Hopes to Reverse Recent Trend
ATLANTA, Ga. - Last season, as a first year driver in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Robert Hight quickly identified the similarities between driving a 330 mile-an-hour fuel Funny Car, which he does for John Force Racing and the Automobile Club of Southern California, and target shooting, a sport he mastered as a teenager in Alturas, Calif.
"Both require hand-eye coordination and concentration," Hight said, "and you have to be able to handle pressure. When I was shooting, I went to a lot of eye specialists. They taught me how to see things quicker. I've got lots and lots of tapes on eye exercises that teach you how to focus. It helps."
Hight managed those skills well enough to become a world class trapshooter, one who once completed a Grand Slam, hitting 200 straight targets from the standard distance (16 yards), 100 straight from the maximum handicap distance (27 yards) and 100 straight doubles (two targets at once).
He also used them last season to help him claim a category-best six Skoal Showdown No. 1 qualifier bonuses, win two races, finish fifth in POWERade points and claim the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as driver of the Jimmy Prock-prepared Team Castrol/Auto Club Ford Mustang.
Yet, on the eve of this week's 26th annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, a race in which he was denied victory by an almost imperceptible .002 of a second last year, Hight suddenly has become more aware of the differences between his two chosen sports than the similarities.
He has found, for instance, that in drag racing, there are a lot more variables than there are in shooting.
Unfortunately, knowing that some things are beyond his control hasn't made the soft-spoken 36-year-old's recent slump any easier to accept.
After opening the season with a dramatic victory in the CARQUEST Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., a "home track" success that propelled him into the points lead, Hight has been ousted in the first round in four of the last five tour events including three in succession.
In two of those races, he was so far ahead at halftrack that track announcers already were penciling him into the second round. Unfortunately, races still are contested for a full quarter mile.
At Houston, Texas, the track on which he won his very first race, a brand new supercharger drive belt snapped in two while he was driving away from rival Bob Gilbertson in round one. At Las Vegas, adjustments that should have slowed the car down in response to condition changes instead sped it up, resulting in a loss of traction at half track.
"We're not doing anything wrong," Hight said, "but that doesn't make us feel a lot better. The worst thing is we know we have a really fast car and we're so much better as a team right now than we were at this time last year. It's frustrating but that's part of it. You have to be able to deal with the disappointments and just come back stronger.
"But it's a pretty helpless feeling being out at half track without power, just waiting for the other guy to drive around you."
Shooting, Hight said, is more of an individual sport.
"If anything goes wrong, you really can't blame anyone else," he said. "It's just you out there. It's a lot different in racing which requires so many different people doing their jobs exactly right - and that includes me."
For five seasons, Robert was the clutch specialist on John Force's all- conquering Castrol GTX® Funny Cars. During his tenure, the team won 35 of 94 races and five series championships.
The gun Robert Hight uses for trapshooting is an Italian-made Perazzi. Trap differs from skeet in one basic way. "Skeet goes left to right in front of you," Hight said. "You know exactly where every target's going to go. No surprise. Trap goes away from you and the machine is oscillating. You don't know when you call for it whether it's going to be left, right or straight."