When things are going well, like they currently are for Robert Hight, drivers do not ever want a break in the schedule.
Luckily for the Funny Car points leader, his remarkable hot streak is happening just as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule heats up. That is music to Hight’s ears and he enters this weekend’s 26th annual NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka on a three-race winning streak. The race, the eighth of 24 during the 2014 season, is also the second of three straight race weekends.
“Racing back-to-back actually makes it easier to stay focused,” Hight said. “You are always around the car. When you are away from the car or not racing every weekend is when you can lose focus. The key with this Auto Club team is we all work together. (Crew chief Mike) Neff has everyone comfortable in what they are supposed to do and I am very confident right now as a driver. I want to keep this streak going for as long as possible.”
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised nationally on ESPN2. For the first time since 2006, the race moves back to Memorial Day weekend, one of the most celebrated weekends for motorsports each year.
As brilliant as Hight has been to start 2014, it has only made him hungrier to keep adding to a thoroughly incredible stretch in his 8,000-horsepower Auto Club Ford Mustang. Since a second-round loss to start the year, Hight has been to the final round at every event since, taking a six-race final round streak to Heartland Park Topeka.
He has won four of those, including the most recent event in Atlanta, beating teammate Courtney Force in the final and denying her the chance to record the landmark 100th win for female NHRA drivers. Despite a torrid pace that has grabbed everyone’s attention, Hight is eager to push forward.
“We have a lot of momentum and we want to make some history,” said Hight, who now has 33 career victories and also claimed his 300th round win in Atlanta. “I’ve won three in a row a few times, but I want to win four or even five in a row. I want to see where we can go. We have to take it one round at a time and that’s what we’re doing, it’s a total team effort.”
Hight’s strong resume at Heartland Park Topeka also gives him a great chance to add to his scorching start. He won at the track in 2010 and 2011, and continues to be blown away by the efforts from his team, marveling at the unique talents Neff brings to the table.
“Mike has a calming effect on me and you have a lot of confidence as driver with him out in front of you,” Hight said. “He helps me and I think it’s because he was a driver, he knows what I’m facing, the pressure, and he just takes that pressure away from me. Right now, we’re clicking.”
Hight also knows things can change quickly in a loaded Funny Car field. His hot start has certainly put a bulls-eye on his back and a host of championship drivers will be eager to end his dominance at the top. That includes teammate John Force, the reigning and 16-time world champ in Funny Car, who has an NHRA-best nine wins in Topeka. Other top Funny Cars racing at Topeka include four-time event winners Cruz Pedregon and Ron Capps, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Alexis DeJoria, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, Tim Wilkerson and Bob Tasca III.
At the same time, don’t expect Hight to head into the Kansas Nationals underprepared. Instead, Hight might be as zeroed in as he has ever been in his career.
“We have to stay focused,” Hight said. “It gets harder the more you win. You get more texts and calls from people. There is more media. It is all worth it because we want to win every race. It can just distract you if you don’t focus on what is getting you the wins, which is working together with the team.”
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, May 23, with sessions at 4:30 and 7 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 24, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 25.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.NHRATIX.com or call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Children 12 and younger are free.