Hight of funny car fame
Force family member feeling better after rescuing team
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.
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.