For the second straight year at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals, the Pep Boys NHRA Allstar Funny Car Callout will take center stage and, for the second straight year, low seed Robert Hight shook up the callouts from the time the Tree turned green.
Last year Hight stunned everyone by calling out tough Bob Tasca III and this year he went even bigger, calling out fellow three-time world champ, No. 2 seed, and defending Callout champ Ron Capps for round one.
“Well, it's a big call again when you look at the lineup of the drivers, there's no easy picks.” He told fans in the Top Eliminator Club. “Sometimes we find ourselves after qualifying and you look at the ladder and you say, ‘Oh, wow, I got the easy side of the ladder,’ and that's when you really get your ass kicked. We seem to do better when we have some really good competition.
“How many tombstone fans do we have out here?,” he asked, then evoked the wonderful Doc Holliday catchphrase popular western film. “So, Ron Capps, ‘I'm your Huckleberry.”
Capps seemed a bit unfazed by the early call.
“I love that movie, but I'm not sure what it means, Robert,” he said. “But I can tell you, and I've said it time and time again every Sunday morning, every Monday morning here every championship day, you gotta go through [Hight’s] team to win a championship. There's no doubt about it. The utmost respect for Jimmy Prock and him and I think they have the same for us. Robert did again last year calling out Tasca, so I gave him props and man I'm gonna need to eat a little more Wheaties in the morning because we're gonna need it.”
With Capps picked by Hight, No. 3 seed Tasca got his chance for a Callout, and let sentimentality decide his pick.
" I always want to pick the person that I get up the most for as a driver who brings the best out of me, and he's a huge reason why I'm even here. He’s a close friend but there is nobody I want to roll up next to more than John Force.”
The all-time NHRA winner was happy to face his protégé. “Tasca, I love you. Let's go dance like grandpa taught us and who gives a [damn] who wins? We're gonna have some fun.”
Matt Hagan, last year’s runner in the Callout, had the next pick, and also went a bit sentimental.
"They're all tough out here,” he said. You know, honestly, at the end of the day, there's not a single guy that we would race back here that you wouldn't get up for. It's just it's tough, man. So it's like, it's all a big bag of worms and you guys got to pick your Nightcrawler you know?
"Me and Tim Wilkerson go way back. I made my first run with him and a car I got my license with him. I look up to him almost like as a dad figure. I've got a lot of respect for him. I know his car runs good, and you know he's a good leaver. good driver, so it'll push us to push a little harder too, so we picked Tim Wilkerson.”
Wilkerson agreed after fake tackling Hagan on stage, “He said it right we got a lot of history with each other and it's going to be a fun drag. No doubt about it, I gotta get [Hagan crew chief] Dickie Venables kidnapped so I have a little better chance. I'm texting my guys already to go get him and lock him in a Porta-John or something. Matt Matt and I are we're gonna have some fun out there and we're gonna put on a good drag race for the fans.”
By default, the final was Alexis DeJoria and Cruz Pedregon.
“I don't know whether to take that as a compliment that I didn't get picked,” said DeJoria. “It's not like dodgeball where the last one would be picked on a team. We've been running really good. Last night we were in that 3.88, so we’re happy to start the weekend off like that and we'll see what happens. But Cruz is a great guy. We've gone toe to toe many times, so it's gonna be a fun race."
“This is the U.S. Nationals the track will be even there'll be no lane choice strategy,” said Pedregon. “Alexis and I have raced each other a lot it seems like lately and she's running good. But I really think this, this thing has turned into more of what we'd like it to be. I didn't really care for it when drivers were gonna figure out who they're gonna race. They're calling their crew chief. There's not a lot of strategy: Pick who you want to race and let's do it. So I think all races will be exciting and we're looking forward to it.”