LAS VEGAS, NV --- For the third time in 2012 and the 26th time in his career Robert Hight has picked up another NHRA national event win, taking the “Wally” at the 13th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals. Hight won from the No. 1 qualifying position, a first in the Funny Car class at the spring event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He defeated fellow Ford driver Bob Tasca III in the final after dispatching Terry Haddock, Gary Densham and Bob Bode.
“Being No. 1 qualifier in Pomona was sort of a curse but I don’t look at it as too bad of a curse. You make your own luck. Most of the time when you lose out here you beat yourself. There are no underdogs. The TV cameras were talking about the underdogs running good like Bode, Densham or Haddock and I told them to stop because there are no underdogs. Anybody can win in this class,” said Hight. “No No. 1 qualifier has ever won here and not that many people have even repeated here.”
In the final Hight never trailed in the race. He got off the line first and his elapsed time of 4.154 seconds was well out in front of Tasca’s 4.213 second run.
“This class and the parity; it has never been this close. It is exciting and it makes winning three in a row all the more special. It is a lot of pressure on the driver. When our other teams go out early and those guys are over here helping my guys between rounds. When the crew chief walks away that means you have the car and it is all on you. It is a lot of pressure not having John on the TV doing interviews and helping me out there because he is the king at all this.”
This is the second time in Hight’s career he has won three races in a row and he has officially moved into the Full Throttle points lead. Hight has led the Funny Car points each year of his professional career going back to his rookie season in 2005. No Funny Car driver has achieved this feat.
“We have made a lot of test runs here (The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway). We have a lot of experience on this race track. The conditions here are a little tricky. It is a little harder to make power. You are halfway to Denver in elevation. We have a lot of data and a lot of good crew chiefs. Those crew chiefs definitely earn their money on a day like today when the conditions are constantly training. We have (track specialist) Lanny (Miglizzi) out there watching the track and starting line. We really are stacked top to bottom on our team with talent.”
“I am very pleased because we go to Gainesville in crusher conditions and we were able to run good. This is the hottest track we have been on all year and we were almost flawless,” said Hight. “We were one little adjustment away from making eight great runs in the top two every round. Jimmy Prock, you can just see it when you are in the car and he is not having a hundred trips to the box. You just see the confidence in his eyes and that gives you more confidence. You just go up there and cut a light and hopefully see that win light.”
Throughout the race day Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang was the model of consistency posting three consecutive times of 4.11 seconds before slowly slightly in the final to a winning time of 4.154 at 312.93 mph. Hight also becomes the first three time winner at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals. He has won 15 times in his last 17 final rounds.
“Usually if you smoke the tires on the first run or don’t make it down the track that puts you behind the eight ball. We had a little different circumstance this Friday. We were so close to going that we were one adjustment away from making a great run. Jimmy really didn’t worry about it. It wasn’t like we were lost. We were very confident in what changes we needed to make to get it down there for the night run,” said the No.1 qualifier.
This is the fourth consecutive win for John Force Racing to start the 2012 season and for crew chief Jimmy Prock the win was a show of force as he has tuned his Funny Car to wins in three different climate and altitudes.
“This is three in a row for us and Robert and the Auto Club Ford Mustang so we’re off to a good start. We worked hard this winter to try and make ourselves better. We got off to kind of a bad start in Pomona, but we re-grouped after that. Everybody’s been working hard. The competition has been really tough, but we’ve just tried to run consistent and take it round by round,” said Prock. “Today was a good day for us. We were consistent and it’s always good to have an all-Ford final with (Bob) Tasca (III) and all of our guys pitching in to help out after they went out. It was a good team effort, I’m really excited and I hope that we keep it going.”
The tricky weather conditions gave many of the teams fits but for Hight and the Auto Club Ford Mustang team it was a chance for them to flex their muscle with a tune-up for any condition.
“When I would take my right hand off the wheel to hit my parachutes it would suck me over to the wall and I bet you I wasn’t two feet away from the wall. You can just feel the steering wheel bend because you just can’t hold it. It made it challenging. Early on the grandstands shelter you and you just want to go smooth and straight. Down at the other end it is a little hairy,” said Hight.
“Earlier this week I told my guys to go out on Wednesday night and get it out of your system. We are in Vegas and there are a lot of temptations and distractions. Thursday through Saturday we are all business. We have to stay focused. Now they are going to kill me because we aren’t going to be able to do much partying tonight because we are going to come out here and test tomorrow. We have some new guys on board with John Medlen, Ron Armstrong and Dale Armstrong. Having those guys in my trailer between rounds is so exciting. There is so much experience and they have so many ideas. They work really well together. We will try and go to the Four Wide race and make it four wins in a row.”
“It is harder to start a streak than keep it going. It is not that easy to win out here. I am glad we only have one weekend off before we get to Charlotte and we are in for a treat. These are the best of the facilities.”
John Force lost in the first round for the third race in a row but the 15-time Funny Car champion is not getting discouraged. With the win at the season opening NHRA O’Reilly Winternationals he has secured his spot in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, the $100,000 to win race within a race, at the Mac Tools US Nationals and he will leave Las Vegas firmly in the Top Ten in Full Throttle points.
“It ain’t over. Robert still has a shot at winning this. It’s just part of the game. We’re going through a learning curve here with a lot of new stuff. You gotta tip your hat to Gary Densham, coming out here running on a budget, making two runs, one qualifying run and then to run that 4.12,” said Force. “It impressed me. We’ll just stay positive. We got them all qualified. I think we’ll all stay in the top ten before this is over so we’ll see what happens.”
Throughout the weekend Mike Neff and the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang were challenging the racing conditions and working on a solid race day tune up. In the first round versus 2010 Funny Car champion Matt Hagan the side by side race was decided by the slimmest of margins at the finish line with Hagan getting his first win light of the season.
“I’m a little disappointed. We just didn’t make the right calls. We changed some stuff around today to try to fix a couple of things and ended up bringing on a couple new problems. We just never really hit our stride here this weekend,” said Neff, a two-time finalist in 2012. “We were clearly trying to run a lot better than that first round. Just disappointed that we weren’t on this weekend unfortunately, but it’s alright. We’re going to test tomorrow. We got some stuff that will hopefully help us out. Then we’l