HIGHT HEADS INTO WINTERNATIONALS NO.1 POMONA --- 2009 Funny Car Champion Robert Hight's day was full of surprises at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. On Thursday night he predicted that his 4.059 second pass would not hold up to keep him in the no.
HIGHT HEADS INTO WINTERNATIONALS NO.1
POMONA --- 2009 Funny Car Champion Robert Hight's day was full of surprises at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. On Thursday night he predicted that his 4.059 second pass would not hold up to keep him in the no. 1 qualified position. After two more days of qualifying the two-time Winternationals champion was still atop the field with that time. Hight was also surprised today by his primary sponsor Auto Club's efforts to promote their affordable rates to the packed crowd at the 50th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals. The Southern California based company flew two huge banners over the Fairplex for most of the day, one of which featured Hight holding the Full Throttle World Championship trophy.
"The Auto Club has done so much to promote this championship. They are flying banners around and (they ran) USA Today, LA Times and Dallas Morning News ads on Thanksgiving weekend. It just shows how involved they are in NHRA Drag Racing and John Force Racing," said Hight. "It was pretty funny today. They had two banners flying over the race track offering lower rates for Auto Club at www.autoclub.com and one with a picture of me winning the championship. (John) Force said he got in his car and drove down the street to see the other side of the banner to see if his picture was on the other side of the banner."
"It really means a lot and it was a big surprise. Auto Club has done so much for us. They are as excited about this championship as we are. What is cool about the Auto Club is they are not putting any more pressure on us to go out and repeat. Tom McKernan (Auto Club of Southern California president) has said that is why the Auto Club has been so successful. They just keep going out and doing what they do every day. They don't ever back down or give up a little. They keep their guard up and just keep working hard and the success will come. That is what my team is going to do this year," added the 14-time national event winner.
In the first session today Hight and his Jimmy Prock tuned Auto Club Ford Mustang made the second quickest run of the session. Hight was especially excited because he felt that run was more representative of race conditions and his team would be ready to go for tomorrow.
"What is awesome is we got one good run today. We were second the first session. (Matt) Hagan ran a .09 and we ran .10. Ours was backed off pretty good. That is really what is going to win this race tomorrow is runs like that. You want to go down the race track with a 4.09 or a 4.10. That will win this race. I think we are set up for that. There are no easy rounds. I am racing the 2008 Funny Car champion in the first round. Cruz Pedregon. We know he is always tough. We are just going to do the best we can."
Following Hight in the John Force Racing qualified pecking order is 14-time champion John Force. Force piloted his 25th anniversary Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang to the 3rd qualifying spot on the strength of his 4.066 second run yesterday. The owner was thrilled with his teams overall performance from the Funny Car ranks all the way to his two BrandSource A Fuel Dragsters piloted by his daughters Brittany and Courtney Force.
"I am excited for all my Funny Cars and for Brittany and Courtney to be no. 1 and no. 2 in A Fuel. It is the beginning of the season. It is the 50th anniversary. The show that was put on this weekend not just by the fuel Funny Cars but by the nostalgia funny cars is important. I saw the Pisano car, Candies and Hughes, Beach City Chevrolet, and I raced those guys. It is unbelievable the fuel altered. To have my race cars run was great. I was able to show my kids where I came from was also awesome," said the 126-time national event winner.
Force won the 50th anniversary NHRA national event in 2001 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Another win at this 50th annual event would be icing on the cake for the winningest driver in NHRA history.
"I won the 50th NHRA anniversary race. I have had pretty good luck at these specialty races. I am back in my game. I am strong and so is Robert our champion. He is hot. Ashley is right behind him. (Bob) Tasca (III) got in there right at the end. God bless America. I want to thank our troops for what they do to allow us to do this. We are going to give the fans a great show and this is going to be a great year because when you kick of Pomona with no rain buddy you have done something," concluded Force.
2009 Funny Car championship runner-up Ashley Force Hood is looking forward to tomorrow's first round where she will square off with friendly rival Tim Wilkerson. For a driver who has captured a number of firsts in her young career getting her first win at the Winternationals would merely add to the female success at this storied track.
"I would love to get off to a win here at the Winternationals. They showed a video on the ACDelco Vision screen and it asked which female has never won the Winternationals and the answer was me. Melanie Troxel has won here. Shirley Muldowney has won here. I would really like to get a win here for me and my team. It will not be easy. I have Wilkerson in the first round and he is a great buddy of mine. I am bummed we match up against each other for the first round of the year but at least no matter what a Ford will go to round two," said Force Hood.
Starting the season off on the right foot would be a big boost for Force Hood as she continues her quest to be the first female to win the Full Throttle Funny Car World Championship. That goal will not be easily met considering how competitive the Funny Car class is.
"Getting off to a good start tomorrow would be really nice to get that boost of confidence. I am a little nervous about tomorrow. I would like to be a little more comfortable with my Mustang. We made some changes this year to my gear and the body I didn't think they would make as big of a difference as they have. Every driver is different. We are working those out and it is getting better every run. You have to put those things aside," said Force Hood.