Hight is looking for a win at Texas Motorplex AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals
Robert Hight liked where his team sat at this point last year. They had won four races in the NHRA Funny Car season, and were second in points going into the Countdown to 1. But Hight and his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang team faltered down the stretch. They didn’t win a single round in the Countdown, and ended up in eighth.
This year, Hight finds himself in a similar position — he has won four races and sits second in points with one race to go before the Countdown field is set. And Hight, the 2009 Funny Car champion, is optimistic that his team won’t repeat the 2010 disaster. “We just bombed last year in the Countdown,” said Hight, who drives for John Force Racing. “We were still in test-mode and trying new things and trying to refine things. This year, we have a better combination and know what we’re doing. We’re not trying things and changing things. We’re at the point where it’s either going to be good enough or not.”
Hight got off to a solid start this season, winning the opening race at Pomona, Calif. His teammate, Mike Neff, won the second event in Gainesville, Fla., and Hight then won the third race of the season at Las Vegas. That start helped Hight forget about the struggles of last season, and he went on to victories in Topeka, Kan. and Bristol, Tenn. “It was a long three months during the off-season, but getting that first win was big just to get back on track,” Hight said. Now, Hight is eyeing the Countdown.
The key, according to Hight, is simply winning races. When he won it back in 2009, he went into the Countdown in 10th position but won the championship by winning three of the six races. Once the Countdown field is set, NHRA resets the points regardless of where the qualifying drivers are at the end of the regular season. The points leader has a 30-point advantage over second place, and 10 points separate the rest of the field. The Countdown, which is similar to NASCAR’s Chase, was implemented for the 2007 season, and Hight believes it has worked well, even though he would have won the outright title under the old format in 2007. But, in ’09, he wouldn’t have had a chance to win it without the Countdown in place. “I’ve been on both sides of it,” Hight said. “But it’s exciting for the fans and especially the last couple of races with all the drama. It’s going to go down to the last day of the season. Nobody is going to sew this thing up early on; it’s too competitive for that. So it does add so much excitement that I think it’s been good.”
The Countdown includes a stop at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis on Sept. 22-25 for the 26th annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals. The race week includes appearances by drag racing legends Kenny Bernstein, Billy Meyer and Raymond Beadle as part of the 60th anniversary of NHRA. Hight is already looking forward to the race, which is the second race of the Countdown. “AAA Texas is the sponsor of the race, it’s also my sponsor, it’s in the Countdown, so we need to win,” Hight said. “That would top it off, the AAA car winning that race, so that’s what we’re going to focus on.”