Persistence, teamwork not clichés with Funny Car's Hight

NHRA Funny Car driver Robert Hight goes for his fourth top-qualifying position in seven races. He was Friday's leader at the Summit Racing Equipment at Atlanta Dragway. (Photo by Ron Lewis)

Robert Hight appeared unstoppable again Friday in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, posting quickest time among NHRA Funny Car drivers during qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals.

After taking the tentative No. 1 position with a 4.104-second elapsed time at 308.35 mph on the 1,000-foot Atlanta Dragway course, Hight gave credit to crew chief Jimmy Prock.

And Prock deserves Hight's total faith in him. However, Prock is the leader of this group, a leader among equally quiet leaders. And that's why Hight has enjoyed a sensational start as he pursues his fourth top-qualifying position and fifth victory in seven Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events.

For example, Hight said his tuner really was trying to run a 4.0-second E.T. but that the car ran slower than expected, partly because the engine was mixing cylinders. "It was just a little on the weak side on the other end for whatever reason," Hight said.

He quickly added that although that pass was quickest of any Funny Car driver all day, Prock would not be satisfied with it. After all, Hight said, "Luckily for us it held for No. 1. We believed that other guys would run better than that."

Prock's plan for Saturday's final two qualifying sessions, Hight said, is "to change some blowers and do some different thing." And why? Said Hight, "Jimmy is one of those guys who is never happy and he will pick that run apart. He is not going to sleep well tonight, knowing that it didn't run really good on the other end.

"Jimmy Prock definitely has a handle on this Mustang. He can go from any kind of conditions and move around," said Hight, who joined Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Hector Arana Sr, (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

But two other crew members helped make this day special for Hight.

"I was nervous on that run because of the sun. It was right in your eyes," Hight said of that second qualifying pass that netted him the lead. "Shafty [David Carcanes] was intentionally standing between the sun and me when the body was up. He was blocking the sun from my eyes, but I knew that when the body went down he was not going to be able to stand there much longer. Luckily the A post on that Ford Mustang blocked the sun just enough, but it was hard to see.

"Having Shafty block the sun is just typical of my team," Hight said. "They are always paying attention to everything. I am out there and he can see the sun is in my eyes and he is going to stand there and block it for me.

"We had a guy this morning who doesn't even do the clutch, but he pays attention to this RacePak dash that is on the car. He knows what the pressure is supposed to be when we charge the clutch. He noticed it was down. He brought that to their attention and they fixed it. We would not have gone down the track the first round if he hadn't seen that," he said.

"The Auto Club crew has been together for over five seasons, and it is paying off right now," Hight said. "These guys have their heads on and they are focused on racing and winning and going down the track. It is pretty fun right now."

Final eliminations will begin Sunday morning.


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