Extended winning streaks in the ultracompetitive world of NHRA Funny Car racing are very rare.
The competition is simply too tough.
In a single Funny Car season, the most consecutive races ever won is five. The three drivers in the history of NHRA competition who have accomplished that feat are widely recognized as three of the sport’s greatest champions: Don Prudhomme (1976), Cruz Pedregon (1992), and John Force (1993 and 1994). Another NHRA legend, Kenny Bernstein, won four in a row in 1987. Force also won four in a row in 2000.
Those four drivers are the most successful Funny Car racers in the history of the sport, accounting for 24 world championships since 1975.
So defending Funny Car world champion Robert Hight knows that his current string of three consecutive victories puts him in rare air. If he can race to a fourth straight season victory at the United Association Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Miller Welders, June 3-6 at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago, Hight will indeed join some very elite company. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Tony Pedregon (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock), and Matt Guidera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
“Right now, what is happening to this Auto Club Ford is the stuff you dream about,” Hight said. “I’ve won three races in a season before, but not in a row.”
Hight, who powered his Auto Club Ford Mustang to victories in Madison, Atlanta, and Topeka in convincing fashion, moved to second in the points standings with the effort. He trails leader Force by 49 points as he and talented crew chief Jimmy Prock are eyeing a second straight season-championship crown.
Hight, who got his start in the sport as a crewmember on Force’s team, knows that the car’s success begins and ends with the people who turn the wrenches in the pits.
“If all the guys around me didn’t do their jobs properly, it wouldn’t matter [what I did],” Hight said. “That is what the job relies on. My job is to make decisions. Their job is to put it all together. If they don’t do that, we don’t win. They deserve a ton of credit for all the wins. If their stuff isn’t right, then what I think we are doing doesn’t matter.”
Hight, who nearly failed to qualify for the Countdown to 1 playoffs last season, hit a hot streak during the six-race championship run to claim his first series crown. The run his team is on now is reminiscent of that effort. He said the team’s chemistry is at an all-time high.
“It is just all working good for us right now, [but] I don’t get overconfident,” Hight said. “I look at it run for run. I feel good about how it is working, [and] I’m fairly confident in what we are doing. There are a lot of variables. To get it to do exactly what you want it to do every run is not [possible]. You come close, [and] right now it is working good.”
The United Association Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Miller Welders kicks off a tough stretch of events, which includes seven races in eight weeks and will take teams from Chicago to Englishtown to Seattle and many points between. Hight said his team is ready for the challenge.
“We have been doing it under the hot sun and on greasy track conditions,” he said. “Right now, we can get down hot and cool tracks. We have the best of both worlds.”
In Top Fuel, two-time Route 66 Raceway winner Larry Dixon leads the series standings with four victories this season in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. The battle for the championship crown is going to be tight as Chicago native and Dixon’s archrival, Tony Schumacher, will be looking to add to his three-victory total at his home track. Cory McClenathan, Doug Kalitta, Antron Brown, and Brandon Bernstein also are among the pre-race favorites.
Mike Edwards continues to pace Pro Stock in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP and has earned five victories this season. A tough cast of challengers is making up ground on Edwards’ lead, however, including Team Mopar’s Allen Johnson, JEGS Chevy driver Coughlin, and three-time world champ Greg Anderson.
Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Hector Arana leads the two-wheel category into its sixth race of the season as the points leader, but he is still looking for his first victory of the season on his Lucas Oil Buell. Other world champs, including Matt Smith, Andrew Hines, and Eddie Krawiec, have won races this season and are closing fast on Arana’s points lead. A few other riders also are making noise this season, including Madison winner Michael Phillips, Gainesville top qualifier Karen Stoffer, and rookie LE Tonglet, who advanced to his first final round.
• SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for noon and 2:45 p.m. June 4 and 1 and 3 p.m. June 5. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 6.
• TICKETS: Tickets are available for the United Association Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Miller Welders. For tickets, call Route 66 Raceway at 888-629-RACE (7223) or log on to www.ticketmaster.com.
• ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. ET Saturday, June 5. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise NHRA Race Day presented by Lucas Oil, a 30-minute race preview show, at 10 a.m. ET Sunday, June 6. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 4 p.m. ET Sunday, June 6.
• LUCAS OIL SERIES: The United Association Route 66 NHRA Nationals presented by Miller Welders also will feature competition in eight categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Series earn their racing stripes. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 9 a.m. June 3, and eliminations begin at 8 a.m. June 5. The JEGS Allstars bonus event is June 5 with rounds at 10:30 a.m., 2:30, and 5 p.m.