Kragen O’Reilly NHRA Winternationals
Championship contender Hight ready for title run
Pomona, pre-race: For championship trapshooter and funny car driver Robert Hight close is never good enough. The past three seasons he has been in the championship hunt on the last day of the season and come away without the top trophy. Last year was especially hard on the 2005 Rookie of the Year when his Auto Club Ford Mustang dropped a first round match-up to 2007 Funny Car Champion Tony Pedregon giving the 2008 title to Pedregon’s brother Cruz.
A new season means everyone starts with a 0-0 record and Hight is looking forward to getting back on the track and making another run for his first Full Throttle Championship.
“I think we are in better shape as far as going out and contending for a championship and winning races because last year was so chaotic. Last year, a week before we went testing in January, we were still putting together all the cars that we had completely redesigned. It was a total redesign of the chassis after all the accidents we had in ’07,” said Hight. “At that point, performance and winning races wasn’t really the focus of ours. This year we are still focused on safety, we haven’t put that on the back burner at all, but we are also looking at where we needed to improve in ’09 from ’08. What was the main problem that we all faced? We have put all our heads together, all the crew chiefs and focus on being more competitive and getting back on top, which is where we believe we belong.”
When Hight looks back at his past three seasons he sees what he needs to do to improve and also where his team’s strength lies. His biggest strength is the consistency his team has shown over the past years.
“It is a consistent run to be on the cusp three straight years, but it also goes back to the fact that we need to be in the driver’s seat come the last race of the year. We need to be the guy that everyone else is chasing and not have to wait until the last day to catch up or be right there to win. We want to lock this thing up early. It will take a lot of hard work and a lot of technology to be successful,” added Hight.
Hight has been to the past three finals at the Winternational grabbing two wins. He knows that the key to being in the hunt for a championship is to get off to a fast start.
“I won the first event last year and I was in the final at the next event and I still didn’t win the championship. I do think it is big, but with the new Countdown to 1 it isn’t as important as it used to be simply because the points reset mid-year and you have a fresh start. For the morale of everybody involved with the program it is important to get out there and get a few wins under your belt early.”
Hight will be taking the fight to the rest of the Funny Car class with three other teammates and he knows that there is strength in numbers. He will be joined by team leader 14-time champion John Force, 2007 Rookie of the Year Ashley Force Hood and 2008 Rookie of the Year Mike Neff. All four JFR drivers qualified for the Countdown to 1 last year finishing in the Top Ten.
“The four-car team only works because of the people that John has assembled. If we were butting heads and didn’t all get along and race and work together it wouldn’t be a good deal. To his credit, John has put together four teams of good people that work well together. It is a big advantage to share data and one team can try something and if it is good we can share with each other and really it is a continuous learning curve. The key is the interaction and in our case it is four teams working as one,” concluded a confident Hight.
Return to Team Reports Archive
Return to the Home Page