HIGHT IN FIGHT FOR FINAL COUNTDOWN SPOT READING, PA (August 18, 2009) --- With two races before the NHRA Countdown to 1 Robert Hight finds himself on the outside looking in. Prior to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Hight had been making slow ...
HIGHT IN FIGHT FOR FINAL COUNTDOWN SPOT
READING, PA (August 18, 2009) --- With two races before the NHRA Countdown to 1 Robert Hight finds himself on the outside looking in. Prior to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Hight had been making slow but steady progress in reeling in the two drivers in front of him, Cruz Pedregon and Matt Hagan. In Brainerd the unthinkable happened when persistent rain showers rolled in on Saturday washing out the final qualifying session before Hight was in the field.
Hight was forced to watch Sunday's racing action from the sideline. It could have been much worse. Teammate Mike Neff was the last funny car to make a lap down the track on Saturday and his 4.12 second effort was enough to put him at the top of the field and shuffle everyone back. The shuffle moved Cruz Pedregon into a first round match-up with Matt Hagan. For Hight this meant that at least one of the drivers he was chasing would only gain one round on him.
Cruz Pedregon defeated Hagan but it set up a race with his teammate and brother Tony Pedregon. The next big break came when Cruz lost to his brother Tony Pedregon in the second round. When it was all said and done Hight spotted Hagan 20 points and Pedregon 40 points on race day with only two races left before the Countdown.
"We caught a break when Tony beat Cruz," Hight said. "That was big for us. We are only three rounds behind Cruz from the 10th spot. We have two races and I am up for the challenge. I have been in pressure situations before and I am confident in my abilities. Not qualifying was tough. Trust me. I want to be out there racing for Auto Club, Castrol, Ford, Mac Tools and the rest of our sponsors. We are not out of this Countdown by a long shot," said Hight.
"It all boils down to doing everything right no matter what racetrack you are at. If you do that, you put yourself in position to win. We definitely need to qualify and go rounds. Winning would be nice, and that is what we are going for."
Teammate and father-in-law John Force raced to the semi-finals at Brainerd and put a little more distance between himself and number ten Cruz Pedregon. At the conclusion of the event Force's crew and Hight's crew were furious making adjustments to Hight's Auto Club Ford Mustang and Force's own Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. In an unprecedented move Force and Hight will be trading teams this weekend at the TOYO Tires NHRA Nationals as well as the fabled Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
"I said I wouldn't shuffle my crew chiefs for three races," Force said, "but I am moving a driver. I earned enough (points) to get my Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang into the Countdown. It's not secure, but it's close enough. To be safe, I should have gone one more round. I have about a 100 point lead with two races to go. Somebody is going to really have to do some damage to catch me, but we've got to get Robert back in the hunt, so I'm going to move Robert over to my car and I'm gonna drive the (Jimmy Prock tuned) Mustang."
Hight reached the finals at Reading in 2007 but he has never qualified higher than 7th at Maple Grove Raceway. Last year he dropped a tire smoking battle with teammate Mike Neff in the first round. This year Hight will be looking to maximize the opportunity team owner John Force has given him.