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Keeping Pace

Hight Wants To End Slow Start At Thunder Valley

Robert Hight is also looking to capture some of the magic his boss and teammate John Force grabbed in Bristol in 2007. The 14-time Funny Car champ was also in a slump heading into Bristol but roared to a win in Bristol then onto a runner-up in Seattle, a win in Sonoma and a win in Brainerd to race into the Countdown championship chase.


Bristol, pre-race:  As the saying goes “No Pain, no gain.” In the case of Robert Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang team huge gains should be right around the corner considering how painful his season has started. Off to the slowest start of his five year career the perennial front-runner for the Funny Car championship is in the midst of a rough stretch to start the 2009 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Heading into St. Louis two weeks ago Hight was not going to let his team get discouraged. A tough qualifying effort cut short by rain had Hight only getting two qualifying passes and then he was eliminated in the first round on Sunday. Only getting three shots on the track when he really needs as much track time as possible was less than ideal for his Auto Club team.

“We just need to go down the track without any problems. Losing Friday qualifying in St. Louis was a killer. We only got two shots on Saturday, qualified 12th and then made too early of an exit on Sunday,” said Hight.

The 2005 rookie of the year and perennial championship contender has been off his game in 2009 opening the season with his longest winless drought of his career. Entering the eighth race of the season Hight hasn’t even reached a final which has the former trap shooting champion at a loss.

The upside for Hight is that in 2008 he turned his personal Bristol history around by racing all the way to the semi-finals after never getting out of the first round in his previous three attempts. Hight started the race with an event low ET, 4.746 seconds in the ¼ mile, in the first round versus Del Worsham to grab his first round win at Bristol Dragway. That ET was a track record and bested the previous record of Hight’s late teammate Eric Medlen. He ran teammate Mike Neff in the semis in a tough battle that saw Neff advance to his second career final round.

“Last year was big to set the track record and finally got past the first round. Losing to Neff in the semis was tough but he had a great Mustang that day and he just had some bad luck in the final,” said Hight.

Hight is also looking to capture some of the magic his boss and teammate John Force grabbed in Bristol in 2007. The 14-time Funny Car champ was also in a slump heading into Bristol but roared to a win in Bristol then onto a runner-up in Seattle, a win in Sonoma and a win in Brainerd to race into the Countdown championship chase.

“I remember 2007 for John. He was coming off his 14th Funny Car championship and they were struggling a little bit. (Co-crew chiefs Austin) Coil and Bernie (Fedderly) got his Mustang running that weekend and then they got hot for the rest of the season. I am hoping to get some of that Bristol magic for myself.”

Hight also reiterated the position he is in heading into the 9th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

“In the past four seasons I had won at least one race by now. The longest I ever went before winning a race was 2007 when I won in Las Vegas then Atlanta and I had reached a final in Pomona and Phoenix that year as well. Not having a win by now is tough but I know we have a team that can get hot and start winning at any minute,” said the only Funny Car driver to have led the points at least once the past four seasons.

To put Hight’s drought in perspective in his rookie year heading into Bristol Hight had a win and runner-up, Houston and Atlanta, respectively. In 2006 Hight opened the season with a win in Pomona and a runner-up in Atlanta. Last season Hight again opened the season with a win in Pomona and a runner-up in Phoenix.

This year Hight has two semi-final finishes (Pomona and Las Vegas) to Ron Capps the current points leader to go along with four first round losses and one second round defeat. He is currently tied for 10th place, his lowest career position, with teammate Mike Neff in the Full Throttle point standings.

“Coming into Bristol 10th in points is not where I want to be. We are going to keep fighting and hopefully we’ll get all four qualifying sessions in and then get four runs on Sunday. Getting eight solid runs on the Auto Club Ford Mustang would be huge for us,” concluded Hight.


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Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.

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