Despite second-round stumble, Auto Club driver
Robert Hight still a threat in Funny Car title race
READING, Pa. (Sept. 24) – Auto Club of Southern California driver Robert Hight knew he wouldn’t just waltz to the 2017 Funny Car championship.
Hight took over the points lead after his win in Charlotte last weekend that kicked off the Countdown to the Championship. But in the second race, the NHRA Nationals on Sunday at Maple Grove Raceway, Hight and his Chevrolet Camaro SS team hit a bit of a speed bump.
The No. 1 qualifier, Hight posted the quickest pass of the first round in beating Mike Smith. But facing John Force Racing teammate Courtney Force in the second round, Hight broke traction and slowed, sending Force to the semifinals.
“We missed it by a mile,” Hight said. “That 3.879 in the first round was pretty impressive. When you put it in perspective, the No. 2 and No. 3 qualifiers ran .87 in the night sessions. We go out and run .87 when it’s almost 100 degrees track temp first round. That was impressive.
“We just didn’t back it off enough. We had a great light but just smoked the tires.”
Hight beat Smith with a stellar 3.879-second pass at 332.43 mph, but slowed to a run of 5.868 seconds at 118.94 mph in falling to Force.
Hight remains in the thick of the Funny Car points battle, as he’s only eight points out of the lead with four races remaining in the Countdown.
Hight holds the NHRA national record for elapsed time (3.793 seconds) and speed (339.87 mph) – and he also set the Maple Grove track records for ET (3.844 seconds) and speed (339.02 mph) to secure the No. 1 qualifier here.
He’s won three of the last seven races, too, vaulting into championship contention.
“We made it a little interesting with everyone bunching up in the points,” Hight said. “We had a really good opportunity to pull ahead, but no one said this was going to be easy. The way I look at it is when our car goes down the track there isn’t anybody in our league. We just have to do our job, get some more bonus points in St. Louis, try to get a win and we’ll be right back on top.”
Hight will drive the AAA Missouri Camaro in the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals this weekend at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Best Qualifying Effort: 3.844 seconds/339.02 mph (Round 2; Qualified No. 1)
Elimination Round 1 (Left Lane): 3.879 seconds/332.43 mph (RT – .098 seconds), def. No. 16 Mike Smith, 4.239 seconds/292.08 mph (RT – .133 seconds); strongest run of race day driving straight down the track; vs. Smith – now 2-1 all-time; 1-1 this season; 1-0 at Reading
Elimination Round 2 (Quarterfinals, Left Lane): 5.868 seconds/118.94 mph (RT – .055 seconds), lost to No. 8 Courtney Force, 3.965 seconds/326.16 mph (RT – .080 seconds); started shaking tires at 100 feet and smoked tires a little further down; vs. Force – now 14-9 all-time; 4-1 this season; 0-1 at Reading
Now 407-254 (661 rounds) all-time in elimination rounds in career (.616)
Now 90-47 (137 rounds) all-time in elimination rounds after qualifying No. 1 (.657)
Now 11-12 (23 rounds) all-time in elimination rounds at Reading (.478)
Now 34-17 (51 rounds) this season in elimination rounds (.667)
NHRA Funny Car Points Standings: 1. Ron Capps 2273; 2. Robert Hight 2265; 3. Courtney Force 2234; 4. Matt Hagan 2183; 5. Jack Beckman 2173; 8. John Force 2116.