Hight of funny car fame

Force fam­ily mem­ber feel­ing bet­ter af­ter res­cu­ing team

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Cham­bers

MOR­RI­SON» The ill son-in-law sal­vaged ev­ery­thing for John Force Rac­ing’s funny cars Sun­day.

Robert Hight, who is mar­ried to John Force’s old­est daugh­ter, per­se­vered through a dif­fi­cult day at Bandimere Speed­way to win the di­vi­sion at the 38th Mopar Mile-High Na­tion­als. De­spite vom­it­ing mul­ti­ple times be­cause of stom­ach ill­ness dur­ing the day, Hight drove to the win­ner’s cir­cle at Bandimere for the fourth time, hours af­ter watch­ing team­mates and No. 1 and No. 2 qual­i­fiers Court­ney Force and John Force lose in the first round.

“Man, I’ve been sick all day,” Hight said af­ter break­ing a 34race win­less streak. “Couldn’t keep any­thing down, and this isn’t the place you want that to hap­pen. Us guys from Cal­i­for­nia, (we’re ac­cus­tomed) to sea level, and then you get up here at this el­e­va­tion and have these prob­lems.”

Hight, who qual­i­fied third, de­feated Tommy John­son Jr. and ri­val team Don Schu­macher Rac­ing in the fi­nal. Four-car DSR was vic­to­ri­ous in the pre­vi­ous 10 funny car races, and 12-of-13 for the sea­son.

“You try to block that out, not even think about it,” Hight said of DSR’s suc­cess and his 34-race non­win­ning skid. “But TV, the me­dia, they con­tin­u­ously re­mind you of it. It starts wear­ing on you a lit­tle bit. … So this win re­ally is ex­tra spe­cial.”

An­tron Brown took the ti­tle in top fuel, beat­ing No. 1 qual­i­fier Leah Pritch­ett in an all-DSR

fi­nal. No. 1 qual­i­fiers Drew Skill­man and Eddie Kraw­iec won in pro stock and pro stock mo­tor­cy­cle, re­spec­tively. Skill­man be­came a first-time win­ner at Bandimere. Kraw­iec won for the fourth time, ty­ing An­drew Hines and Matt Hines for a di­vi­sion high at the track.

The big­gest cel­e­bra­tion in the fi­nals emerged from the left lane af­ter Hight made a 3.995-sec­ond pass (317.57 mph) to beat John­son (4.099, 297.16) and snap DSR’s dom­i­nance. It was Hight’s first sub-4-sec­ond pass of the day. He limped out of the first round with a 13-sec­ond pass — he shut off the en­gine shortly off the start line against the red-light­ing Todd Simp­son, then blew cyl­nders in mak­ing mod­est runs to beat Jack Beck­man and Cruz Pe­dregon. Hight saved his best lap for last.

“To­day we got some luck. We needed it,” said the 47year-old Hight, who also won at Bandimere in 2005, 2010 and 2015. “Those (DSR) guys over there are win­ning; can’t take any­thing away from them. But they have had some luck too.”

Hight was the first JFR funny car driver to race Sun­day. Af­ter flub­bing his start, but win­ning, against Simp­son, he watched John Force lose to No. 14 Matt Ha­gan and Court­ney Force bow to No. 16 Jim Campbell.

“(JFR) ran great in qual­i­fy­ing, (fin­ish­ing) 1, 2 and 3, and then it’s like you snap your fin­gers and it all turned around,” Hight said.

Re­gard­ing his 13-sec­ond pass against Simp­son, Hight said: “It’s not like you’re in a nor­mal race car out here. When you hear an­other (top) fuel car leave, and you’re amped up, it’s so hard to not hit that gas. I screwed up and dou­bled up. But I knew he red-lighted and I won. Luck­ily, we got by that.”

Foot­notes. En route to a sur­pris­ing semi­fi­nal ap­pear­ance in funny car, Campbell knocked out the No. 1 qual­i­fier in the first round for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive event. Campbell, who de­feated No. 1 Hight on July 9 near Chicago, sent Court­ney Force pack­ing early. … Pe­dregon lost in the semi­fi­nals to Hight be­fore dam­ag­ing his car well past the shut-off area. Pe­dregon’s para­chutes failed and he drove into the sand at the end of the track, right be­fore the nets. … Terry Had­dock, a jour­ney­man top fuel driver, up­set No. 5 qual­i­fier Shawn Lang­don in the first round. … Pro stock mo­tor­cy­cle’s Matt Smith de­feated his wife, Angie Smith, in the first round with a hole shot (superior start). Matt had a splen­did 0.024 re­ac­tion time, com­pared with Angie’s 0.100. Matt cov­ered the quar­ter mile in 7.240 sec­onds, slightly slower than Angie’s 7.195.

Pho­tos by Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

An­tron Brown cel­e­brates with fans Sun­day af­ter win­ning the top fuel di­vi­sion at the NHRA’s 38th an­nual Mile-High Na­tion­als at Bandimere Speed­way in Mor­ri­son. Brown de­feated Don Schu­macher Rac­ing team­mate Leah Pritch­ett in the fi­nal.

Robert Hight of John Force Rac­ing blasts down the track Sun­day, beat­ing Tommy John­son Jr. of Don Schu­macher Rac­ing in the funny car fi­nal at Bandimere Speed­way.

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