There are races that only need to be mentioned by their nicknames for race fans and historians to understand how important they are. Indy. The Gators. The World Finals. E-town. They don’t need sponsor pre-fixes or adjectives to translate their importance, just a strong memory of the historic moments drivers have recorded at each facility.
This weekend Full Throttle Funny Car points leader Robert Hight will be looking to add another “major” win to the stat sheet for his Auto Club Ford Mustang by winning his first Toyota SuperNationals title at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Earlier this year Hight won the historic NHRA Tire Kingdom Gatornationals, outrunning Johnny Gray in the final to pick up his second win of the season. He went on to two more consecutive wins and near insurmountable points lead halfway through the NHRA regular season.
“There are races you want to win and have on your resume at the end of your career. The Gatornationals was one I hadn’t won until this season and the Supernationals in Englishtown is also on that list,” said Hight. “Englishtown has so much history you just want to be able to say you won there. I have won Indy a couple times and getting the championship in 2009 was my biggest achievement. I want another championship this season and getting big wins gives your whole team confidence.”
Confidence has been the key word for Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang team this season. After a surprising first round loss at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals Hight went on to win 17 consecutive rounds of racing including four races from coast to coast. He reached the semi-finals in Houston, then the finals in Atlanta before another semi-final exit in Topeka. If you drop out the season opening hiccup in the first round Hight has averaged three round wins per race every race of this season.
“I have so much confidence in my crew chief Jimmy Prock and the rest of my Auto Club crew guys. They are working so well together. Every time I get into that Funny Car I feel like we would run low ET. We are not going to let up. Our goal is to dominate all season and we want to get back into the winner’s circle starting this weekend in Englishtown,” said Hight.
In addition to winning half the races Hight has also been running well in qualifying. He has four No. 1 qualifying efforts this season and his lowest qualifying position
this season was No. 9 in Topeka two weeks ago. His average starting position this season is 3.75 which is impressive when you consider how diverse the racing conditions have been over the first eight races.
“My Auto Club Ford Mustang has been so consistent. We have 22 round wins and have gotten down the track just about every time I have hit the throttle, whether it is qualifying or eliminations.
Our goal coming into this year was to not beat ourselves. We want to qualify smart and race smart. We may not win every round, but we don’t want to give away round wins. I look at it as kind of a Moneyball idea where the Oakland A’s were trying to squeeze the best play out of small budget players by looking at statistical performances. We are looking at making the most runs as quick as possible without pressing too hard when we don’t need to,” said Hight, an avid baseball fan.
Hight’s biggest competition for his first win at Englishtown most likely will come from within the John Force Racing camp. Last year’s SuperNationals winner Mike Neff has to be one of the favorites as well as rookie of the year candidate Courtney Force who is looking to add her name to the Traxxas Shootout by getting her first win. It is also impossible to count out 15-time Funny Car champion and four-time SuperNationals winner John Force. With eight races in the books for the 2012 NHRA season six of the wins have been captured by JFR drivers.
“I can’t say enough about how well the entire JFR team has been running this season. John started the season winning the Winternationals and he was in the final round of the Four-Wide Nationals. Neff has been to three finals and won in Houston,” said Hight, JFR president. “Courtney has been to a semi-final and we have matched up the last two races when she had one of the strongest Funny Cars. It has just been some bad draws that have kept her from winning more rounds. There is no doubt that Traxxas Funny Car is one of the toughest cars out here along with those two Castrol Funny Cars.”