HIGHT WANTS HOMERUN DURING WESTERN SWING SEATTLE (July 5, 2010) --- As a long-time baseball fan Robert Hight understands the subtleties of the game. The 2009 Funny Car champion chose to play catcher in high school because he wanted to be...
HIGHT WANTS HOMERUN DURING WESTERN SWING
SEATTLE (July 5, 2010) --- As a long-time baseball fan Robert Hight understands the subtleties of the game. The 2009 Funny Car champion chose to play catcher in high school because he wanted to be involved in every pitch and help control the flow of the game. The subtleties of winning a second Full Throttle Funny Car championship have Hight in a similar position sitting in second place in the Full Throttle point standings behind 14-time champion and teammate John Force, Hight wants every round to count and he wants to have control of the outcome of every round when he is behind the wheel of his Auto Club Mustang.
In 2009 that was not the case as Hight struggled most of the regular season before getting on track in the Countdown. In Seattle last year Hight qualified 10th and was quickly dispatched by Tim Wilkerson in the first round. In his previous four races at Pacific Raceway he had never qualified lower than 3rd and three times was the No. 1 qualifier.
This season Hight, the former crewman turned world champion, and Force have been battling at the top of the point standings for the past two months. The boys of summer will now attack the Western Swing and as the regular season comes to an end Hight wants to finish on a hot streak.
"I have said all season that I want to dominate all year if I am going to have a shot at my second Full Throttle Funny Car championship. John dominated in the 90's and he is still dominating. He has more wins and more finals this season than anyone in the class. He is amazing and I am just trying to stay close to him. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock and I have a plan and we want to keep our Auto Club Mustang running at the front of the pack. It is so hard to do that this year in Funny Car," said the three time 2010 winner.
"At the last race in Norwalk we were running great on race day and then we ran up against John in the semi-finals. I don't know what happened at the start of that race. When I pull up, I don't look at the Tree. I am looking down track to make sure that my Mustang is straight. I see (Jimmy) out of the corner of my eye stop me and I stop. He does his deal and he walks away. When he walked away (this time), the bottom stage bulb flashed. I stopped in my tracks. I thought maybe he pulled me clear through the beams and (asked myself) 'am I way too far in?' I saw the flash and thought, 'how did that just happen?'
"I rolled forward and the top pre-stage bulbs lit. I blacked that out and never thought of it again until it was over with. I saw John pre-stage. I pulled my (fuel) pump on, took my foot off the clutch and started bumping in. I got staged I looked over and he was staged. I looked at the Tree and I never saw anything. He left. You can see on our video it did flash, the Tree did, but I swear I did not see it. It was a quick one," said a dejected Hight outside the Auto Club hauler."
"For some reason, something was weird and it was a quick flash. I don't know what took place. It wasn't anything more than driver malfunction. I have no idea. I did not see the Tree come down."
Force took the round win and Hight has moved on focused on winning the Seattle race and making a run at the Western Swing.
"John is the only Funny Car driver to win the Western Swing. Of course I would like to join him but there are probably ten or twelve other drivers out here capable of winning three races in a row so I am not going to guarantee anything. You can't call your shot in Funny Car. It is just too tough," said the three time No. 1 qualifier at the NHRA Northwest Nationals.
"I am going to start the Western Swing the same way I started the month of May; with a little baseball. I am going to watch the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night play the New York Yankees after a Full Throttle appearance at a local Wal-Mart. I threw out the first pitch in St Louis before we won the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals and then we went to the next three finals ultimately coming within one round of winning four races in a row."
In that stretch Hight won 15 rounds of racing in a row before being stopped by Matt Hagan in the Chicago final. He became just the fifth different driver in Funny Car history to win 15 rounds in a row. Only six Funny Car drivers had ever won three races in a row before Hight accomplished the feat this season, most recently Cruz Pedregon en route to his 2008 Funny Car championship.
Seven drivers including Hight have won three or more races in a row and overall since 1975 there have been 19 occurrences of a driver winning a minimum of three races in a row. In all but two instances the driver who won three in a row went on to win that year's NHRA Funny Car championship. In 2002 Tony Pedregon won three in a row but teammate John Force, another three in a row winner, won the championship. In 2005 Gary Scelzi won the championship at the last race of the season in spite for Force's three in a row run earlier in the season.
Hight is not thinking championship or Western Swing dominance right now. He has his eyes focused on going rounds and giving Prock and his team as much information as possible on his Auto Club Mustang.
"We made some changes at the start of June and really what we need is to make as many passes as possible. In May and early June during that four race stretch on Sundays I made sixteen passes going to those four finals. Last year during that same four race stretch I only went five rounds. We got three times as much information this year versus last year," said Hight. "Last year in the Western Swing I went to two semi-finals but lost in the first round in Seattle. A good start in Seattle could set us up for a strong run on the Western Swing and get us in position for the Countdown."