Steamroller Hight gives 'em what-4 at Concord

Robert Hight joins an elite group of Funny Car legends in winning the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Concord, N.C. He has won four of the season's five races and leads the points as the tour heads to Houston. (Photo by Ron Lewis)

Four was the magic number for Funny Car victor Robert Hight Sunday at the National Hot Rod Association's Four-Wide Nationals at Concord, N.C.

Running four abreast, Hight beat Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps, and John Force to win his fourth straight race and make history along with four other drag-racing legends -- two of whom were in the final round against him zMAX Raceway's 1,000-foot course.

 

With a winning elapsed time of 4.076 seconds at 314.83, he beat Cruz Pedregon on a holeshot. Pedregon was the runner-up in the foursome with a quicker and faster 4.070, 316.75, and like Erica Enders in the preceding Pro Stock final round, appeared to have won the race because his win light came on and his team was doing a victory dance at the starting line.

But no one was holding back Hight in this fifth event of the 23-race Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule.

"I saw the win light on the wall, but I am not even sure that that's all programmed right, especially for the final. The other two rounds there are two win lights," Hight said of the complicated non-traditional four-wide format, two Christmas Trees starting devices, guardwall between the pairs of lanes, and all the effects of the system the NHRA uses just once a year. "I wasn’t getting too excited yet.

"But Eric Lane, our back-up crew chief, he got on the radio and he was all excited. You could hardly understand. But I knew I won just by hearing his voice," he said.

"This class is so tough -- just getting one win is tough. Racing those three guys in the final -- Cruz, [Ron] Capps, [John] Force . . . those guys are all Hall of Famers. They are guys I grew up watching. They all have more wins than me. Just to be out there racing those guys and to actually beat them is unbelievable," Hight said

"To win one of these races is tough, but to win four in a row is stuff that you don't even dream about," he said. "I don't see why we've got to stop here, right?"

Who knows how much longer Hight's roll will continue, with crew chief Jimmy Prock helping bring him back from outside the field after the first day of qualifying, from 17th to first? With the Force brain trust helping him -- and teammates such as 16-time champion and 2012 Winternationals winner John Force, former points leader and two-time 2012 finalist Mike Neff, and even upset-capable Courtney Force pushing him -- Hight is plenty motivated.

The four Don Schumacher cars no doubt will keep Hight on his toes in the Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang.

Ron Capps, the early top qualifier in DSR's NAPA Dodge entry, rebounded from a disastrous Las Vegas DNQ that cost him his crew chief in flamboyant fashion as No. 2 qualifier and finalist who challenged with a stellar 4.085-second pass in the final. DSR's Matt Hagan, the current class champion, failed to qualify for this race, so he, too, will be on the warpath at the next race, the April 27-29 O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Baytown, Texas.

That race at Royal Purple raceway is the site of Hight's first Funny Car victory, and this time he'll arrive as points leader.

No matter. Hight drove into the history books Sunday. He joins John Force, Cruz Pedregon, Kenny Bernstein, and Don Prudhomme in accomplishing the four-straight feat.

The last time a driver won four in a row was John Force in 1994.

Hight's next target is Prudhomme's in-season Funny Car record for consecutive victories. "The Snake" won five at the start of the 1976 season, and Cruz Pedregon duplicated in 1992. Force has won five in a row twice, in 1993 and 1994. The overall record for consecutive victories is seven, by Prudhomme when he won the last two races of 1975 and the first five of 1976.

Hight, who notched his 27th victory with the $50,000 jackpot, said he was delighted to win from the No. 1 position for the second straight race. He did that at Las Vegas two weeks ago, marking the first time any Funny Car driver had done so there.

"In Funny Car, it is kind of the kiss of death to qualify No. 1, Hight said. "You look back at my record as a No. 1 qualifier and it isn't that great. In Vegas we pulled it off. You start thinking this is getting a little tough. But Jimmy Prock and my team stuck together. That 4.01(-second) blast in the first round got a lot of people's attention."

The triumph also tied him with former JFR teammate Tony Pedregon for second place in that organization. Pedregon has 43 career Funny Car victories overall, and one of his two chanpionships came as a member of JFR.

Hight is two wins behind two-time Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon on the all-time Funny Car victories list and in a tie for sixth place.

 

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