A brilliant second-half of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season has put Robert Hight in the position he hoped for at the beginning of the year, and that’s the chance to compete for a second career Funny Car world championship.
All attention in Funny Car will be on Hight and reigning world champion Ron Capps during this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. The final race in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship will determine a world champion and Hight currently holds a 15-point lead on Capps in his 10,000-horsepower Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS. The spotlight will be large at the must-see finale for the two talented veterans, but it’s a scenario Hight, who won his first world title in 2009, is excited to be part of this weekend.
“We haven’t been in this position in the last few years,” Hight said. “At the beginning of every year, you hope you can go down to the wire and be in the hunt. It is exciting. Fifteen points isn’t much, and we’re racing a good car there with Capps. He’s won a lot of races this year, but I think we have the momentum, and I’m excited about Pomona. It’d be cool if it went down to the final round.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the season-ending race that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live finals coverage starting at 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Nov. 12. The final race of the season will have more on the line via the point-and-a-half system, meaning the winner earns 150 points and has the chance to earn up to 191 points at the event.
It adds extra drama to the showdown between Hight and Capps, who have both enjoyed impressive 2017 seasons. Capps has eight victories, including two in the playoffs, and 12 final-round appearances in his title-defense year, while Hight has been remarkable down the stretch. The John Force Racing standout has four wins in the past 10 races, including two in the Countdown to the Championship. Hight has qualified No. 1 six times in that span under the tutelage of crew chief Jimmy Prock, becoming the first Funny Car to reach the 3.70s, helping setting up what appears to be a thrilling conclusion between Hight and Capps.
“The way I look at a 15-point lead is, we just have to go further than Capps at Pomona,” said Hight, who has 41 career wins. “No matter what, we need to go one round further than him, or we both lose in the same round, and it’s over. But our goal going into Pomona is to win that race, go in there and go four rounds, and cap off a championship with a huge win at our home track in front of our sponsors, at the Auto Club Finals. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Hight jumped back into the points lead in Las Vegas after Capps’ first-round loss to John Force. That puts Hight in the driver’s seat, but the added pressure and spotlight at the Auto Club NHRA Finals will be noticeable. Hight knows it’s up to him to use that energy appropriately.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous (at Las Vegas), but you have to learn how to channel that pressure and that energy,” said Hight, who has four career wins at Pomona. “We just have to do the same thing at Pomona we did at Vegas. If you start changing the way you race because you’re nervous and you’re worried about the points, or worried about winning or losing, you will lose, you’ll beat yourself. You have to focus on what got you here, don’t change anything, and keep doing it. I like our chances. Pomona is a good race track for us, and we’ll run good there.”
Steve Torrence will try to claim his first Top Fuel world championship in Pomona. The eight-time 2017 winner holds a 20-point and 84-point lead on Brittany Force and Kalitta, respectively.
Anderson, who has 12 wins in Pomona and six at the finale, will try to claim a fifth Pro Stock world title. He leads Bo Butner by 40 points and reigning world champ Jason Line by 76 points.
Eddie Krawiec’s bid for a fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle championship is within grasp, currently leading LE Tonglet by 150 points.
The Auto Club NHRA Finals also features thrilling competition in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:00 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 12:00 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. All students can save 50 percent on general admission at the gate with a student ID. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.