Last season Robert Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team were struggling coming into the Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals. Prior to that race Hight said it was a “make or break” event for his team. They went on to win a rain delayed event with an outstanding lap on Monday morning and catapult his team back into championship contention.
This weekend will end a streak of six races in six weekends and after two of those races Hight and his team have added an additional test day. To say his team has put in the effort is an understatement they just have not been able to see the fruits of their labor on Sunday.
“There is no doubt we have struggled and not executed on Sunday during the first three races of the Countdown. The positive I take away from this situation is we have been here before. In 2009 we came into the Countdown in 10th place and in two races we had the points lead. We moved around nine other teams in two races,” said Hight in reference to his Countdown wins at Charlotte and Dallas in 2009.
The Full Throttle point deficit Hight has to overcome this year is bigger when you consider the winningest driver since 2005 is 182 points out of first place. The fact that weather conditions will be cool and fast in Reading definitely puts a national ET record in play for the Funny Car class. You combine that extra 20 points with a dominant qualifying effort and going into eliminations Hight can cut into the point lead in dramatic fashion.
“This Countdown is about pressure and how you handle the pressure. I think there is more pressure on the top couple of teams to hold onto their lead. I know I felt pressure in 2009 and it was really tough. The times that I have won the Mac Tools US Nationals rolling for the finals I felt pressure. The first time I won the US Nationals in 2006 my knees were knocking during my burnout. I’ve been there and this team has been there. We are not going to give up on chasing this championship until Sunday in Pomona,” said Hight.
One thing that gives me a lot of confidence has been Jimmy Prock and my guys. We have all been together for so long we are really holding each other accountable. We are supporting each other and we are not going negative. The Countdown is half over but that means we still have three races, twelve rounds, and hopefully twelve more qualifying sessions to get the job done. There are a lot of points still out there and we just need to go get them,” added Hight.
Hight has a strong record at the final three races in the Countdown. In 2011 he won Reading defeating a surging Johnny Gray and reached the final round of the Auto Club Finals in Pomona dropping a close race to eventual champion Matt Hagan. In 2009 he took the Wally at the Las Vegas national event sealing up his first Full Throttle championship in the process. Hight knows there are some race tracks that you just feel better at and for whatever reason you perform at a higher level. The final three races of the season will have Hight in a comfort zone that gives him reason to be optimistic.
“We have won multiple races in a row. Earlier this year we won four in a row. Getting three wins in a row most likely will be what we need to do to grab this championship. I love racing at all three of these race tracks and I have won at all three of them. A couple of teams have pulled away but they haven’t put anyone away yet. I am excited about this weekend and Jimmy Prock and I have a game plan that we think will be successful. It will be tough but we are up to the challenge,” said Hight.