DATE OF BIRTH: August 20, 1969
Robert Hight 2017
Championship race-car driver, top-flight business executive, world-class marksman – Robert Hight is a renaissance man in the world of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
And Hight has his sights set on adding to that impressive resume in 2017: Winning another Funny Car championship with his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS.
The talented Mike Neff returns as Hight’s crew chief for 2017, but he’ll be supplemented by two new co-crew chiefs. Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch add to an already deep race team, making Hight one to watch this season.
No driver in NHRA history – not John Force, not Don Garlits, not Don Prudhomme, not Kenny Bernstein, not even Tony Schumacher – began their careers by winning multiple races every season. But that’s precisely what Hight did the first 11 seasons of his career.
Hight also has earned a No. 1 qualifier in each of his 12 pro seasons, with his total of 49 No. 1s ranking him tied for 12th in NHRA history.
Hight added to those totals in 2016, with a victory at Gainesville and two No. 1 qualifiers, at St. Louis and Dallas – both Countdown to the Championship races. He finished eighth in the final points standings.
The journey to the top of the Funny Car world has included many twists and turns for the 47-year-old from Northern California. Hight developed a love of all things mechanical while working with his father in his hometown of Alturas, Calif. By the time he was 16, he already had restored a Plymouth Belvedere, a car that would serve as transportation to college in Sacramento, where he earned degrees in business and accounting while working part-time at Tognotti’s Speed Shop.
After college, Hight turned his attention to drag racing, working as a mechanic for the Top Fuel dragster team of Roger Primm Racing and driver Del Worsham. Hight turned down a first chance to work at John Force Racing because of opposition from his family, but he got a second chance in 1995.
He took over as clutch technician on John Force’s Funny Car midway that year – and celebrated in the winners’ circle his first week on the job.
Hight was named driver of the Auto Club Funny Car in 2005, a move that paid immediate dividends for JFR, as Hight won in his fourth start – and later earned the Auto Club Road to the Future Awards as the NHRA’s top rookie.
Although his worst-to-first 2009 title run was a career-maker, Hight should have won the championship two years earlier. That was the year he withdrew from an event in Houston, Texas, following a testing accident that claimed the life of friend and teammate Eric Medlen. He wound up losing the title by 19 points.
In 2012, Hight was named President of John Force Racing, overseeing all aspects of the race team. It’s a position he still holds today.
If there was a victim of Hight’s total commitment to his racing career, it was his “other life” as a world-class marksman. Hight was good enough to be considered for a berth on the U.S. Olympic team, but it’s an opportunity he chose not to pursue because of his racing career. Hight has, however, applied the sport’s hand-eye coordination and concentration skills to his driving.
After toiling in relative obscurity for 10 seasons at JFR, first as a crew member on Force’s Funny Car and later as manager of the team’s California shop, Hight was ready when opportunity knocked.
Now, he is hoping to secure the team’s 19th series title.