By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer
Heading into the 41st running of the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota, birthday boy Robert Hight was seeking a weekend sweep to celebrate his 54th birthday.
The John Force Racing driver was already a winner this past weekend prior to Sunday after winning the Mission Foods 2Fast2Tasty Challenge on Saturday. Hight eliminated Tony Stewart Nitro’s Matt Hagan in the finals and won with a pass of 3.988 at 315.05 mph over Hagan’s 4.043 at 3111.20 mph. The victory was his first of the challenge for the 2023 season.
“I keep saying this Cornwell Tools Camaro is turning a corner and I really believe it has, we are getting to where we need to be. It’s responding to Jimmy. He’s only having to make little tweaks now. It’s not wholesale changes every week and changing the combination. It’s getting closer. Our early numbers are picking up which is what you need,” Hight said. “I really want to thank Mission Foods for putting this Challenge together. It makes things a little more exciting on Saturdays and it gives us some practice. I like it because in qualifying, you’re really not practicing but in this deal, you’re out there and you better be on your game.”
“I really feel like we got away with one, you don’t go up there and try to run a 3.98 and beat Matt Hagan, you’re going to get beat most of the time,” continued Hight. “I’d say that we got away with one but we’ll take it. You could call this the first win that I’ve had with Cornwell Tools so that’s a big deal. Maybe we can double up tomorrow. I’ve noticed throughout the year, everybody who seems to win the #2fast2tasty Challenge also seems to double up, so that’s our goal. We really need to go out there and get a win tomorrow.”
With the win, Hight picked up three championship bonus points, and an additional $10,000. While he saw a successful Saturday, the qualifying run from Friday night with a pass of 3.942 seconds gave him the No. 6 spot for Sunday.
The now 54-year-old squared off with Bobby Bode in E1. It was a great drag race as he and Bode stayed with each other on the racing surface. While Bode may have left first with a reaction time of 0.079 over the John Force Racing driver’s 0.090, Hight came back to win the race with a 3.891 to a 3.929. Good enough for him to advance to E2.
In E2, he knew he couldn’t take his opponent lightly which was Dave Richards. Previously, Richards knocked out Hagan in the previous round. Sadly for Richards, the parachutes deployed at half-track, and Hight pulled away with the victory. With another round win in the bag, this meant the JFR driver would have to face his team boss John Force in E3.
Force deep staged the car in the semis, but went up in smoke immediately, and Hight won with a pass of 3.918 at 325.61 mph. The win propelled him to the final round in a race with defending Funny Car champion Ron Capps. By advancing to the finals, it marked his first final round since winning the Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals back in April, and the 99th of his career.
Seeking a win on his birthday, Hight fell short with a run of 3.900 at 324.90 mph, as his competitor pulled with a 3.887 at 332.75 mph pass.
“This is the first final round we’ve been to in the Cornwell Tools Chevy Camaro so hats off to the Cornwell Tools team. The car has been running well, it’s starting to respond to the decisions Jimmy Prock is making. We had some fun today, had a couple of tough rounds, it was no cakewalk,” Hight said.
“We really wanted to get the job done, especially with Matt Hagan going out in the first round. We knew it was going to take more to win in the finals, I know Jimmy was shooting for better but we’re chipping away at it. We’re close and knowing that has me excited for the U.S. Nationals. We need another Wally, it’s been a while. So we’ll go out and test tomorrow and work to get one step closer.”
The runner-up finish was the 36th of Hight’s NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Funny Car career.
Official NHRA Funny Car Results Following Brainerd
- Ron Capps
- Robert Hight
- Bob Tasca III
- John Force
- Cruz Pedregon
- Tim Wilkerson
- Dale Creasy Jr
- Dave Richards
- Alexis DeJoria
- Blake Alexander
- Bobby Bode
- Chad Green
- J.R. Todd
- Alex Laughlin
- Matt Hagan
- Jim Campbell
Official NHRA Funny Car Points Standings Following Brainerd
- Ron Capps, 1,073 points
- Matt Hagan, -21
- Robert Hight, -138
- Bob Tasca III, -177
- Chad Green, -211
- Alexis DeJoria, -233
- Tim Wilkerson, -253
- J.R. Todd, -283
- John Force, -327
- Cruz Pedregon, -446
Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will return to action after a one-week hiatus for the U.S. Nationals, scheduled for Aug 30 – Sept. 4.