ROBERT HIGHT HIGHT ROCKS CHARLOTTE; LOOKING TO GET ON ROLL IN DALLAS DALLAS, TX (September 22, 2009) --- It takes a long time to turn grapes into a fine wine. There is a point along the process where the fluid is not quite wine and not really...
HIGHT ROCKS CHARLOTTE; LOOKING TO GET ON ROLL IN DALLAS
DALLAS, TX (September 22, 2009) --- It takes a long time to turn grapes into a fine wine. There is a point along the process where the fluid is not quite wine and not really grapes. It is in the final stages of becoming something special.
That is the position Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team emerged last weekend at the 2nd annual NHRA Carolina Nationals. Labor Day weekend Hight raced to the final round at the largest and most prestigious race, the Mac Tools U.S Nationals, and then two weeks later at the first Countdown to 1 race Hight steamrolled the competition and captured his first win of 2009 jumping from 10th place in the Countdown to 1 to 3rd place.
Just like that from a bunch of grapes to a fine wine. It appears to happen overnight but a good vintner will tell you it takes months and months plus lots of pressure. Hight know about pressure as he heads into the 24th annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec. For the first seven months of the season Hight and his Auto Club team felt the pressure as the perennial championship contending team continually came up short week after week. Finally team owner John Force got involved and shook up Hight and crew chief Jimmy Prock's world.
Force moved Hight to his Castrol GTX High Mileage team and under the control of his Hall of Fame crew chief tandem of Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly. A two race experiment was cut in half when Coil was admitted to an Indianapolis area hospital before the final regular season race. Hight moved back to his original team where a new attitude permeated the pits.
"I guess like John always says, its destiny. I would have still been in his car come Indianapolis had Austin Coil not been sick. With Austin not being there and him being in the hospital, John thought it would be best to go back with Jimmy Prock. The bottom line is, that I have been saying for a long time is that our car is close. We just have not had any luck, and we've had little things bite us, but we were never that far off. It just seemed like when John got in my car in Reading, Pennsylvania, that things finally came together for the team, and they have been rolling ever since," said Hight.
"I'm a big baseball fan and when I used to watch the Dodgers back in the '80s, I'd watch the manager, Tommy Lasorda, and he would coach third base some of the innings. Last year when he came to the Auto Club Finals he was the grand marshal of our race and I asked him what was all that about, and he said you've got to just shake things up a bit. When the batter looks out there at the third base coach for signs, and it's the manager, it probably gets their mind right," said Hight an avid baseball fan. "Maybe with John being in the car and Jimmy tuning, I don't know if he thought different or what, but that car has been on a string ever since. I've got to give it to John Force for making all this happen, and it was a great business decision too, because we have a lot of sponsors that give us a lot of money and to only have three of these cars in the Countdown, that's not good enough for us. We had to do better than that."
In Charlotte Hight picked up four valuable bonus points in qualifying by making the second quickest passes in the first and second qualifying sessions. The new 3-2-1 bonus points system for qualifying is something that has Hight and crew chief excited for the final five races of the Countdown to 1.
"It's big. It's huge. My crew chief, Jimmy Prock, never needed any incentive to try to set low ET every round, but this gave it to him. We've got to be smart about it. It's like trying to go up and hit a home run. If you go up and swing for the fences, you usually don't do it. If you just go up make good contact it seems to carry the ball, it's the same way with drag racing. If you try to run low ET and set a record, it usually doesn't happen. It happens when you're going down the track good and you just tune it up a little, that's when things come together," said Hight. "It's very important in qualifying that you go down the track three or four of the runs. Sometimes, I believe that it's not bad if you smoke the tires during one round of qualifying, trying a little too hard, then you kind of know what your boundaries are. You have to be smart and go down the track."
Finally Hight is returning to a track where he has a bittersweet relationship. In 2006 Hight stood in the winner's circle only to chalk up a DNQ in 2007. He is looking forward to getting on another all-concrete race track to show off the tuning skills of Prock and the Auto Club team.
"I've had good and bad luck in Dallas. I've won there before and two years before I failed to qualify when John had his big accident. Dallas is the first of its kind. It's an all-concrete track. It's been in existence for over 20 years and is still in great shape. You see a lot of the tracks like Charlotte now that are going to concrete, no asphalt. It's great and if we get some good conditions it's going to be fast. That's definitely what my Auto Club Ford likes. We like to tune this thing up and try to run in the oh's," said Hight.
At the end of the day hopefully Hight will be sipping the sweet nectar of the success from the winner's circle and a further move up the Full Throttle point standings.