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Comeback complete: Robert Hight returns to winner’s circle with convincing victory

After missing the bulk of the 2020 season, Robert Hight has returned in style with his first win in more than a year at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil in Houston.
24 May 2021
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Race coverage
Robert Hight

Not many drivers can take the better part of a full year off, and come back without skipping a beat, but Robert Hight isn’t like most drivers. Hight raced just twice in 2020 and was parked after the February event in Phoenix due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He returned this season with a runner-up finish in Gainesville and has now completed the comeback by parking his AAA Texas Camaro in the winner’s circle for the 52nd time in his career at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil.

In the final, Hight was paired with Ron Capps in a race featuring two sure-fire Hall of Famers who have combined for 117 victories in more than 900 starts. The heavyweight bout ended early when Capp’s NAPA Dodge smoked the tires, and Hight laid down a solid low 3.9-second run for the fourth straight round with a 3.916. The win is Hight’s first since the 2019 fall Charlotte event.

“The Peak car [John Force’s Peak Camaro] has been the class of the field at the last few races, and they helped us on Monday in Charlotte. We tested, and they got us back on track. Then Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] and [the] Auto Club team did their jobs. These races are hard to win, and this place [Houston Raceway Park] has a special place in my heart. After sitting out last year, you wonder if ever going to get another one of these. They’re pretty tough to win.”

Hight came out swinging this season with a runner-up finish in Gainesville but lost a bit of momentum following back-to-back round-one losses in Atlanta and Charlotte.

A winner here in 2005, 2014, and 2019, Hight and his Jimmy Prock-led team have a handle on the Houston Raceway Park track surface, and that proved beneficial during one-shot qualifying with a 3.954 that was good for the No. 5 spot in the field. Hight approached Monday’s eliminations with bracket-like consistency, including four runs between 3.93 and 3.90. Hight opened with a single after Bobby Bode was a no-show due to his college commitments.

Following a win against Cruz Pedregon, Hight took on Bob Tasca III’s Motorcraft Quick Lane Mustang in a semifinal battle that could almost be described as a must-win since Tasca entered the race as the championship leader in the Funny Car class. Hight powered to a 3.909 to cover Tasca’s 3.949.

Capps came to Houston in a similar predicament to Hight; with an extremely competitive car that hasn’t yet had the success that many expected. Through the first four races of the season, Capps admitted that his NAPA team wasn’t missing anything other than luck. In his first year with crew chiefs Dean Antonelli and John Medlen, Capps has been great in qualifying but had little to show for it other than a semifinal finish at the Las Vegas four-wide event. Capps came to Houston with a pedestrian 4-4 record in elimination rounds and was ranked fifth in the NHRA Camping World Funny Car standings but made a huge move with wins against Paul Lee, Matt Hagan, and Tim Wilkerson.