Hight looking to get even at Winternationals
2009 Funny Car Full Throttle world champion Robert Hight will be looking to establish a personal trend at the 50th annual Kragen-O’Reilly Winternationals as well as possibly extend a John Force Racing team trend. Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang are two-time Winternationals winners grabbing the title in 2006 and 2008. A win this year would continue the even-year winning streak for the Alturas, Calif., native.
“Our goal for this year is to have a better team and better race car throughout the season. I am looking forward to it. Last year I didn’t even pull the chutes in testing. We went to Pomona and ended up qualifying no. 1 there but that was the highlight in the beginning for us but after that it turned really bad,” said Hight a 14-time national event winner. “This year testing went really well. We were on a tricky track (Firebird International Raceway) but when it went, it went good. I think we will have a real decent shot at it this year with our new 2010 Mustang body that we are debuting. I am looking forward to it everyone always says defending it is harder than getting the first one and we are going to have to see how that plays out.”
This is the third 50th annual event for the NHRA. The 50th annual NHRA anniversary race was won by team owner John Force in 2001. The 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in 2004 was won by then John Force Racing team member Gary Densham. A win at the 50th annual Kragen-O’Reilly Winternationals would be a sweet trifecta for Hight or one of his teammates either Ashley Force Hood or John Force.
The historic 50th annual Kragen-O’Reily Winternationals contested at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona is familiar turf for Hight. In addition to his two Winternationals titles Hight has won the season ending race at Auto Club Raceway once (2009), last year he clinched his first world championship in Pomona.
In 2009 the Winternationals were plagued by rain yet Hight was the no. 1 qualifier and raced to a semi-final finish before losing to eventual event winner Ron Capps. For the next sixteen races Hight and the Auto Club team struggled to find their way. As they battled race to race they never seemed to get a handle on their tune-up until right before the Countdown. This year Hight knows they cannot repeat that kind of struggle.
“Last year I think us just getting lost in our car performance just shows how tough it is to run one of these race cars. We were trying some new things and along with the new testing rules we were just sticking with things we normally would have worked out or put aside after testing. We didn’t have that luxury so we stuck with things while we were out there trying to qualify and trying to win races. It just wasn’t going anywhere and finally we said ‘Uncle!’ at just the right time,” said Hight.
“We didn’t change, much this year, very little. We’ve got the new 2010 Mustang body which I hope will give us a little bit of an advantage in the aerodynamic department. We are sticking to basics and refining what we left off with last year. If we can do that I think we will be a car to be reckoned with. There are still a lot of good cars out there and it is not going to be easy to get into the Countdown or win any races. “
As the reigning world champion Hight will enter his first event with the no. 1 on the side of the Auto Club Ford Mustang. It will be a memorable moment for Hight and having the no. 1 on the side of his funny car will be a unique experience for him.
“Honestly it is still hard to get used to seeing. I know when I used to see the no. 1 on someone else’s car I wanted to go after that guy. It is a little like putting a target on my Auto Club Ford Mustang. I knew how I felt when I was chasing the car with the no. 1 on the side and now I am that car,” said Hight. “People have said it is tougher to stay on top or to repeat as champion. I know this season will be tough but I am looking forward to defending this championship and keeping this no. 1 for more than one season.”
Castrol/JFR 25th Anniversary Flashback:
John Force credits former Funny Car rival Gordie Bonin for paving the way to a Castrol sponsorship that today stands as the longest active sponsorship in motor racing.
“Gordie Bonin introduced me to John Howell (former Castrol sponsorship manager) in 1985,” Force recalled. “I’d just lost my Valvoline deal and all I wanted was something to replace it, which was $5,000 cash and our oil. So, that was the original deal for 1986. Then, in 1987, they came out with the Castrol Super Team with me and Gary Ormsby (Top Fuel), Larry Morgan (Pro Stock), Pat Austin (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Bill Barney (Top Alcohol Dragster) and David Nickens (Competition). And here we are, 126 wins and 14 championships later, still together and not through winning, either.”