NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


Funny Car Countdown preview: Can Robert Hight beat the curse of No. 1 seed curse?

Over the last decade, the top seed in the Funny Car Countdown has won the championship just four times over the previous 13 Countdown playoffs. Can Robert Hight reverse that course and go wire to wire?
13 Sep 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Robert Hight

Although the top seed in the last two NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Funny Car Countdown to the Championship battles has emerged as the world champion at season’s end, unlike in Top Fuel, that’s far from the norm in Funny Car.

In fact, this year’s top seed, Robert Hight, holds the record for the biggest recovery in any class, going from 10th place to the championship in 2009. He’s also won it from first place 10 years later (2019) and from the second seed in 2017.

Perhaps owing to the volatile nature of the cars or the extreme parity in the class over the last decade, the top seed has won the championship just four times over the previous 13 Countdown playoffs, with the top seed finishing second six times, fifth twice, and sixth once. [See chart]

The average starting position for the eventual champion is 3.7 – good news perhaps for this year’s No. 3 seed Matt Hagan and No. 4 Bob Tasca III – and, surprisingly, the No. 2 seed has come from behind to win the title just once, when Hight did it in 2017 to deny Ron Capps a second straight championship. Capps, the reigning world champ who won last year’s championship from the top speed, is this year’s No. 2 seed behind Hight.

Funny Car is the only class where more than twice a driver has come from outside the top five to win the title, and it’s happened with Hagan doing it twice (from sixth in 2011 and seventh in 2014), joining Hight’s 10th place rally from 2009.

Observations and predictions from some of this year's Countdown participants:

Robert Hight (first place): “We’re going into the Countdown in that No. 1 spot. Now, the real work starts, only ahead 20 points with the standings resetting for the Countdown, we just have to take it one weekend at a time, one run at a time. I’ve said it before, it’s going to take another two or three wins to get that championship, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Ron Capps (second place): “The biggest thing is the momentum [from winning the NHRA U.S. Nationals] that we feel like we have now going into the Countdown, and that is huge because we're going to Maple Grove [Raceway], and it's going to be fast.”

Matt Hagan (third place): “I think we're all chasing Robert [Hight] right now. He's running good. He’s won six races. They have a very consistent car in the heat and in the cool, but we’ve got [crew chief] Dickie Venables, who is one of the best out there, and I wouldn't trade him for anybody. Right now, we've just got to get into throwdown mode and a Countdown mode. We’ve got to win two or three of those six [playoff] races to really run for a championship and win this thing. I know we can do that.”

Bob Tasca III (fourth place): "We had a great second half of the regular season to put ourselves in fourth place to start the Countdown. We're absolutely in a position where we can win the championship. Mike Neff, Jon Schaeffer and our entire team have shown that we can run with anyone in the field. Now it's about winning rounds in Reading and creating momentum throughout these final six races."

John Force (fifth place): "We’re fifth in points, which means after the reset, only 50 points out of the lead. Things can change quickly, but we’re in it, we have a chance, and that’s what we’re going after. Huge thank you to all the fans out here. You’re who we do this for, you bring us motivation.”

J.R. Todd (sixth place): “The biggest takeaway from [the U.S. Nationals] was how good our DHL Supra is running. I have a lot of confidence going into the Countdown, and anything can happen over those six races. We just need to be at the top of our game.”

Alexis DeJoria (seventh place): “We’re seventh in the standings, and I’m really looking forward to using the start of the Countdown as a hard reset for myself. Points are reset, and from now on, this is the point of the season that really counts, so I’m looking forward to starting the playoffs with a clean slate.”

Cruz Pedregon (eighth place): “We know we have a championship-caliber car here, and the team’s upbeat. We're just going to figure it out and go to Reading prepared. The great part is that our second season starts now. Throughout my career, I have always finished strong, and I believe we are shaping up to have that happen again this year. My dad taught me this; ‘Things happen for a reason.’ Sometimes you learn more from tough weekends than ones when you are at the top of your game.”


Top Seed (SEASON Finish)



Tim Wilkerson (2nd)

Cruz Pedregon (4th)


Tony Pedregon (5th)

Robert Hight (10th)


John Force (1st)

Force (1st)


Mike Neff (5th)

Matt Hagan (6th)


Capps (2nd)

Jack Beckman (3rd)


Hagan (2nd)

Force (4th)


Force (2nd)

Hagan (7th)


Beckman (2nd)

Del Worsham (4th)


Ron Capps (1st)

Capps (1st)


Ron Capps (2nd)

Hight (2nd)


Courtney Force (6th)

J.R. Todd (5th)


Robert Hight (1st)

Hight (1st)


No Countdown



Ron Capps (1st)

Capps (1st)