INDIANAPOLIS – official series release — NHRA photo —
Robert Hight fondly remembers the first time it hit him that he was on the verge of something special at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
The memory is clear for the 2009 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion, because his nerves started to race before taking part in the final round of the world’s most prestigious drag race.
“Indy isn’t like any other race,” Hight said. “In 2006 when I was in the final I kept trying to tell myself it was just another race but when I rolled through the water box my knees were knocking. This is the biggest race of the year with the most history. You have more fans that come to this race and you want to give them time for autographs and photos. I just try and get as much rest as possible and just enjoy the race.”
It’s proven to be a sound theory for Hight, who followed the 2006 victory with two more in 2008 and 2013, and now has him searching for an impressive fourth victory at this weekend’s 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at venerable Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Hight cemented his spot in the Countdown thanks to a massive performance in Brainerd, winning his first event of the season. That gave Hight an automatic spot in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, which will take place on Sunday for the eight Funny Car competitors.
The Brainerd victory also gave Hight plenty of momentum heading into a Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals event that has been very kind to John Force Racing in recent years. Before DeJoria’s win last season, JFR had won at Indy for six consecutive years and seven of the past eight – incredible feats at the biggest drag race of the year.
“We have had a lot of success at Indy and I think that has something to do with how much support we get from all our John Force Racing employees,” said Hight, who jumped to eighth in points after the Brainerd win. “We have a lot of the people from the shop plus family members so I think that is what makes that race so special. The best way to approach Indy is to try and take it one day at a time. You have to just stay focused on each qualifying run and then also manage your time around the Traxxas Shootout.”
But Hight feels much better about the chance to do well in Indy after running as quick as 3.928 in Brainerd to get his first victory of the season and 35th of his career. It was only his second final round appearance of the season, but Hight feels as though his Camaro and his team, led by standout crew chief Mike Neff, are coming together at the perfect time.
“Getting that win in Brainerd was huge for my Auto Club team,” Hight said. “Getting that win does give you some momentum but we have been confident that a win was right around the corner. You want to go into the Chevrolet Performance Nationals with a win under your belt and we did that in Brainerd.
“The momentum from a Brainerd win and then strong showing in Indy just gives us more confidence. We never lost our confidence even when we were struggling a little. I think our success will also help all our teams. The goal is to get all three of these Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Cars into the Countdown and also have them running at the top of the pack. You have seen that performance recently in qualifying but we also want to have team success on Sunday or Monday.”
CREDIT: National Hot Rod Association