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Keeping Pace

Robert Hight eyes No. 1 Countdown spot

Robert Hight enters Brainerd, the last race before the Countdown to 1, as one of two drivers who can clinch the No. 1 spot in the championship hunt as well as a 30 point lead going into the last six races.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

Brainerd, MN-Last year Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team rolled into Brainerd with high hopes of getting on track for the 2009 Countdown to 1 championship hunt. A disastrous weekend that included a nearly devastating DNQ by Hight forced team owner John Force to shake up his teams and it took a strong race day performance at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals for Hight to slide into the Countdown as the No. 10 driver.

This year Hight enters Brainerd, now the last race before the Countdown to 1, as one of two drivers who can clinch the No. 1 spot in the championship hunt as well as a 30 point lead going into the last six races.

With four wins in 2010 including his first at Denver’s mile high racetrack, Bandimere Speedway, three weeks ago Hight is poised to make a strong run at his second Full Throttle Funny Car championship.

“I want to do well in Brainerd for a couple of reasons. Last year we didn’t qualify and that was just terrible. It put a lot of pressure on the team but we pulled through and I think ultimately it made us stronger,” said the 2009 Funny Car champion. “The other reason I want to do well in Brainerd is that 30 point lead as the No. 1 Funny Car going into the Countdown. The No. 1 driver will be either me or John Force. I have more work to do than him but we will give it our best shot.”

Having more success than John Force at Brainerd International Raceway is a tall order for any driver. Force has won the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals 11 times and been in 13 finals. Both Hight and Force have a class leading four wins in 2010 so the regular season rubber match could be a clash of the JFR titans.

“Every driver gets up for racing John Force. I’ll be honest it is a little tougher for me because he is the reason I am in the driver’s seat. This is his 25th anniversary with Castrol so this is a big year for him. Castrol is on my Auto Club Ford Mustang too so this is a really a win-win situation. One of us will be the No. 1 funny car for the Countdown and the other one will be No. 2. For those last six races it will be a battle I can tell you that,” said the 18-time Funny Car winner.

“The other thing is you can’t just focus on John because Ashley’s (teammate Ashley Force Hood) Mustang has been running so well too. She has just run into some bad match-up and had some bad racer luck. If she gets hot in the Countdown that could be trouble for all of us.”

Along with the three John Force Racing Mustangs Ford Racing will also be represented by Bob Tasca III and Tim Wilkerson in the Countdown to 1.

In addition to collecting a total of eight wins this season between Hight and Force JFR has also collected 12 No. 1 qualifiers. That means twenty lucky fans have been lucky winners as part of the BrandSource “Win with Force” promotion. Anytime a JFR driver is No. 1 qualifier and/or winner a fan wins either a Whirlpool washer & dryer set (No. 1 qualifier) or a 52” Mitsubishi flat screen TV (race winner). At the last race Matt Hagan snuck around John Force for the top spot but Hight was able to race into the winner’s circle and hand Dusty Springer from Rifle, Colorado a new TV.

“It is cool when you win but it does make it even more special when you can share the winner’s circle with a fan who won a sponsor promotion like the BrandSource “Win with Force” drawing. We had Dusty in the Denver winner’s circle and I would love to have seven more winners join either me, John or Ashley in the winner’s circle the rest of the season,” said Hight.

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

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