CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals
Rookie Hight on the fast track
It's rare air for a driver competing in just his 10th professional event, especially one who, until he climbed into the cockpit of the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang last February at
That experience, which regularly put him in the cockpit of one, and sometimes two, of the JFR Fords for Monday test sessions, gave the former trapshooting champion a head start on most rookies in the series and he has made the most of it.
With crew chief Jimmy Prock working his mechanical magic on the Auto Club Ford, the most consistent car in the series over the last 15 races, the 35-year-old Hight started three of the season's first nine races from the No. 1 qualifying position including the most recently contested event the O'Reilly Summer Nationals at
Now, he gets his first crack at a track that has emerged as the quickest and fastest on the circuit, one on which Force set the current NHRA national Funny Car records last fall when he was clocked in 4.665 seconds at 333.58 mph. Hight believes he has a car not only capable of matching those numbers, but one good enough to win the $400,000 POWERade championship.
"We have a car that definitely can win the championship," Hight said. "If there's a weak link, it's me because I'm still learning every time down the track. "I know if the driver performs, we've got a chance to win every race because Jimmy definitely has a handle on the tune-up."
Ironically, Hight might never have been afforded the opportunity to realize his dream if his battery-mate at JFR, Eric Medlen, hadn't delivered such a strong performance in his rookie season in the Castrol Syntec Ford.
"If Eric had failed, Robert wouldn't have gotten his chance," Force said. "Because of Eric (who won last year at
An added benefit has been Medlen's interaction with Hight. The two already had a relationship, having served together on Force's crew, but the bond has been reinforced since they have become "student drivers" – along with 22-year-old Ashley Force – in a program calculated to create the Next Generation of JFR champions.
"Eric went through all the rookie stuff a year ago," Hight said, "and he's walked me through every bit of it. I never would be where I am without him." Although he would love to get a shot at the kind of conditions that allowed Force to lower the NHRA national record three times in the last four years at Route 66 Raceway, Hight won't be terribly disappointed in the weather is hot and sticky.
"We've run 4.70s in the cool and we've run 4.70s in the heat," Hight said, "so I think Jimmy will have an answer for whatever we see in
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