What does Robert Hight do for an encore?
How about 340 miles per hour?
Hight, driver of the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, won the first race of the Countdown to the Championship last weekend in Charlotte, taking over the Funny Car points lead in the process.
Now, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to Maple Grove Raceway for the NHRA Nationals this weekend in Round 2 of the championship-determining segment of the season.
And, in addition, to wanting to build on his 44-point lead in the Funny Car standings, Hight has another number in mind.
He already holds the national record for elapsed time (3.793 seconds) and speed (339.87 mph) and was the first Funny Car driver in the 3.7-second range. But Hight would love to add to his legacy by being the first to top 340 mph.
“I look forward to it, because you know that elusive 340 mph run is out there,” Hight said. “I know we can get it. We’ve made the first part of a run, and different parts of the second half of a run. If you put them together, it’ll run over 340. You just have to have the conditions.
“It’d be cool to get that barrier. We were the first in the 3.70s this year, so to be the first in the 340s, that’s one that will stick for a long, long time. Maple Grove is a perfect place to do that.”
If Hight were to go faster than 340 mph this weekend, he’d do it in the 300th race of his career. He started driving at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., in 2005, and his piled up some impressive numbers since.
Hight has 40 victories, 62 final-round appearances and 54 No. 1 qualifiers in 299 races – and won the 2009 Funny Car championship.
Hight’s performance prowess this season began when John Force Racing team owner John Force decided to move crew chief Jimmy Prock and co-crew chief Chris Cunningham to Hight’s Auto Club team in March. Prock, still adjusting to JFR’s six-disc clutch, took a few races to get rolling, but Hight has been spectacular since.
He’s won three of the last six races and grabbed five No. 1 qualifiers since the beginning of June. Hight had qualified third or better in the last 11 races, but that streak was snapped by a No. 6 starting spot in Charlotte – not that it stopped Hight.
“We’ve had a great race car over the last 15 races – in hot or cold conditions,” Hight said. “We’ve been collecting a lot of those little bonus points along the way, and I think that’s what you’re going to have to do in this Countdown. It’s almost impossible to have six great races, so if you have one bad one but collect a lot of qualifying points, that can make up for a bad race.”