In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip seems to always bring out the best in Robert Hight and the three-time Funny Car world champ heads to this weekend’s 63rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals with plenty of excitement following his win in Phoenix on Sunday.
It erased an early exit in Gainesville and gives Hight the chance to win in both Pomona and Phoenix for the second straight year – only this time in reverse order. He won the storied Winternationals to open the 2022 season in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series before winning in Phoenix. With the first stop at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip now taking place in late March, Hight impressed in the desert last weekend and will try to do the same in Pomona in his 11,000-horsepower Flav-R-Pac/Cornwell Tools/Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS.
Last weekend wasn’t conventional – Hight struggled in qualifying before dominating in eliminations – but the veteran and 62-time event winner was thrilled with how his team put things together during crunch time, knowing they’ll be ready to try and put together another winning effort in Pomona.
“I’m proud of the guys for getting everything back and working hard and they’re ready to conquer this little mini–Western Swing we’re about to take on,” said Hight, who has five career wins at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip. “The battle (in Phoenix) was in our favor and it’s probably going to go back and forth the rest of the year. We’re going to have a lot of those battles and it’s going to be fun. This whole class is stacked from top to bottom and to win one of these races, you’re going to have to go through four hitters.”
Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Hight (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) all won last year in Pomona and this year’s race will again be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 2. The race is the third of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA season and Hight enters the weekend as the points leader following the victory.
It was a big bounce back weekend for the John Force Racing driver after he fell in the second round in Gainesville. Hight wasn’t concerned, but the team only qualified ninth in Phoenix. From there, though, Hight and his team, led by crew chief Jimmy Prock, was dominant, making the quickest run in every round. He’ll need to be on his game in Pomona, taking on the likes of J.R. Todd, Gainesville winner Matt Hagan, Bob Tasca III, Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson. Hight is also competing in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge during qualifying on Saturday.
The new challenge offers a bonus purse and bonus points in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, bringing competitive racing to Saturday’s qualifying. Hight takes on Phoenix semifinalist Chad Green, while runner-up Ron Capps faces Alexis DeJoria. With the winner earning bonus points for the playoffs, Hight, who lost the world title to Capps by three points last year, knows the importance of doing well on Saturday.
“It’s a whole new ballgame and it’s going to be exciting for us,” Hight said. “It’s going to be a different mindset and you’re going to have to focus a little differently than you do in normal qualifying runs. You’re going to have to go up there and hit the tree because it’s for something and there’s a lot on the line when it comes to the money and some bonus points that go toward a championship. Those little points really add up and we’re going to try to get as many as we can throughout the year.”
In Top Fuel, Ashley heads to Pomona with momentum after winning in Phoenix. He’ll look for his second straight win at the In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip against a loaded field that includes reigning world champ Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta, Josh Hart, Austin Prock and Clay Millican. On Saturday, the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge will feature Phoenix runner-up Shawn Langdon and Leah Pruett facing off, and Ashley taking on four-time world champ Steve Torrence.
Enders won the Winternationals for the first time in 2022, as the five-time Pro Stock world champ also laid claim to a victory at the 900th race in class history. It kicked off a dominant season that included 10 wins and a world title and she’ll try to match that in a loaded category that also features Greg Anderson, who has 14 wins at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, Dallas Glenn, Gainesville winner Troy Coughlin Jr., Kyle Koretsky and Aaron Stanfield. Phoenix winner Camrie Caruso will take on Matt Hartford in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, while the other matchup includes Bo Butner and Koretsky.
The Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, featuring some of the top racers in the country. The Legends Nitro Funny Cars will be in action during the weekend as well as part of their 2023 tour, while the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department will hold a special racing exhibition. Following nitro qualifying on Friday and Saturday, the “Walking Tall” P.T. Cruiser Wheelstander driven by “NitroMike” Kunz will put on a show for the fans, as will the cackle fest taking place in the Hot Rod Junction throughout the weekend.
An autograph session will take place on Saturday at the Toyota Display with Toyota-sponsored drivers, along with a special session featuring participants in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge.
Fans will also be invited all weekend long to the Nitro Alley Stage, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into the nitro pits. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more.
Race fans at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners of the race.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Pomona. This opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 3 p.m. PT on Friday, March 31, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 1 at 12 and 3 p.m. The finals of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge take place at the end of final qualifying in each category. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. PT on Sunday, April 2. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7:00 p.m. ET. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, leading into eliminations at 7 p.m. ET.
To purchase tickets to the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, fans can visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Children 12 and under are free in general admission areas with the purchase of an adult ticket.