Almost immediately, Robert Hight noticed a different energy on Saturday at Atlanta Dragway. With the last NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series race taking place at the facility during this weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals, fans have come out in full force to be part of the memorable final event at Georgia’s House of Speed.
The surge of energy from a packed grandstand brought a smile to Hight’s face, who looks to pick up his fourth Atlanta win in Funny Car on Sunday.
“It’s exciting. You turn on the TV and it’s not like this anywhere. I went to a Dodger game last Saturday and hadn’t been to one in a year and a half. They’re only allowing 10,000 fans in Dodger Stadium and, being a fan, it’s just not the same,” Hight said. “Here, there’s a lot of energy and excitement, not only for the competitors but for the fans as well.
“I think it’s a combination of people being tired of being home and cooped up and want to get, and then there’s (the fact) that it’s the last race. There’s probably a lot of people who have been to a lot of Southern Nationals and they definitely wanted to make it to the last one.”
Hight was appreciative of that, in part because of the memories he’s made at the track. Beyond his trio of victories, he watched Ashley Force Hood make history in 2008 and was part of John Force’s team, which has enjoyed a dominant run in Atlanta, before taking on his driving role.
The goal now is to be the last Atlanta winner, which would mean a great deal to Hight considering his appreciation for the sport’s vast history.
“I’ve won a lot of races here and had a lot of good luck here,” said Hight, who has 51 career wins. “I was here as a teammate when Ashley won to be the first female winner in Funny Car. I worked on John’s car for a lot of years here. It would be awesome to say we won the last race here for a lot of reasons. It would be the first win of the year, us back to the winner’s circle after a long time off, and there’s only one first and one last.”
After sitting out the bulk of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hight and his standout team are still finding their rhythm this year. There’s been strong progress, including qualifying No. 1 in Las Vegas, but there’s plenty of steps to be made.
The main one is building consistency in his 11,000-horsepower Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro in eliminations. If he does that, Hight is immediately as dangerous as anyone in the class and he fully expects his team to be ready for eliminations on Sunday.
“We’re still a little green, but all the keys are here and we’re showing some potential,” Hight said. “We just have to put it all together on race day. We’re hoping this is where we can do it. I know the conditions for (Sunday) is supposed to be cloudy all day, so the fans are going to get treated to some great side-by-side and quick racing.”