John Force

Photo courtesy John Force Racing

How much higher — and faster — can NHRA Funny Car driver Robert Hight go?

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At the rate he’s been going, Robert Hight is going to keep going higher and higher.

During the week, Hight is the President of John Force Racing (and son-in-law of the legendary drag racer). On weekends, Hight transforms into one of JFR’s three Funny Car drivers.

But he’s been standing out above the rest of the NHRA Funny Car crowd of late – boy, has he ever.

As the NHRA heads to Minnesota for this weekend’s Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, Hight has been hotter than the flames that shoot out of the exhaust pipes on his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro.

He captured two of the last three NHRA national events – also known as the Western Swing – at Denver and Seattle (and reached the quarterfinals at Sonoma).

Robert Hight

And during last week’s off-weekend from the NHRA 24-race schedule, Hight kept his hot hand … err, foot … going, winning the Night Under Fire match race at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

“When you’re on roll like we’ve been on and the car’s running so well, this is what you want,” Hight said in a media release. “Even though last week was a match race, we still got the win, and we ran great.

“You don’t want this to ever end. It’s going to at some point, but we want to roll into Brainerd and get right back in there.”

If Hight’s good fortune continues at Brainerd, the next race on the schedule is the biggest race of the year each season, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana on Labor Day weekend.

In addition to his two wins, Hight has made a dramatic jump upward in the Funny Car point standings, climbing from eighth to third place.

He’s 166 points behind Funny Car points leader and defending series champ Ron Capps, but is just eight points behind second-ranked Matt Hagan.

But wait, there’s more:

* In addition, Hight has qualified No. 1 in three of the last four national events, and has qualified third or better in the last nine consecutive national events.

* He also made major news three weeks ago when one of those No. 1 qualifiers was the fastest speed ever seen in Funny Car annals: 339.87 mph at Sonoma.

Now he’s looking for even more speed this weekend – and maybe even more records to fall.

“If conditions are good, Brainerd can be a fast race track,” said Hight, the 2015 Brainerd winner. “I’m looking forward to going there, having a successful weekend.

“We have a good shot at getting up to second points, and going into Indy No. 2 would be pretty cool. We’re looking for another win.”

Hight also is on the verge of becoming part of another NHRA milestone. If he gets past the first round in Sunday’s final eliminations, it will be his 400th career round victory.

Only five other Funny Car drivers have ever earned 400 or more round wins, led by Hight’s boss and father-in-law, John Force, with 1,278 career round wins.

“That’s big,” Hight said. “You’ve got to get round wins before you get race wins, and that’s how you get race wins. John has 1,278 round wins, so 400 doesn’t seem like very much.

“I don’t know how 400 stacks up to other guys who have raced the similar amount of time, but I’m happy that the round wins are coming more frequently than there were for us. That’s encouraging, and that’s exciting.”

The first two rounds of qualifying at Brainerd on Friday are at 4:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET.

The final two rounds are Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET.

Final eliminations begin at Noon ET, with live coverage on Fox Sports 1 from 2-5 p.m. ET.

Want to learn more about Hight? Check it out:

  • Hight won the 2009 NHRA Funny Car championship. He’s going for his second title this year, being one of six Funny Car drivers that have already qualified for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
  • Hight has competed in 12 races at Brainerd, and has qualified for 11 races and every race since 2010.
  • Hight has advanced to the finals once at Brainerd, in 2015. He won that race, defeating Tommy Johnson Jr.
  • Hight is 9-10 all-time in 19 elimination rounds at Brainerd.
  • Hight’s best qualifying effort at Brainerd has been No. 3, which he has achieved three times – 2007, 2008 and 2010. Brainerd is one of two current tracks in which Hight is still looking for a No. 1 qualifier (Bristol being the other).
  • Hight has won five of his 11 first-round elimination matchups at Brainerd.
  • Hight’s 39 victories are the fourth most in Funny Car history, behind John Force (148); Ron Capps (55); and Tony Pedregon (43). He is tied with Del Worsham for 21st on the all-time professional victories list; Worsham has 31 wins in Funny Car and eight in Top Fuel.
  • Hight is one elimination round victory away from 400. His 399 round wins are 24th all-time in NHRA history. Angelle Sampey currently has 400 round wins.
  • Hight has been the No. 1 qualifier four times this season, and three times in the last four races. His 53 No. 1s are third most in Funny Car history, and he is tied for 11th with Larry Dixon across all professional categories. Only Force (155) and Cruz Pedregon (61) have more in the category.
  • In 2017, Hight has two victories, a 26-14 record in elimination rounds, and four No. 1 qualifiers. He holds a season-best 38 elimination-round wins in a season, in 2014. He has surpassed 30 elimination-round wins in a season seven times in 12 previous seasons.
  • Hight has set the fastest event speed a career-best nine times this season, which exceeds his previous season-best of seven set in his rookie season, 2005. He now has 50 fastest event speeds in his career, the 50th coming last month at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, where he set the NHRA record at 339.87 mph.
  • Hight has four final rounds this season and 61 in his career.
  • Hight has competed in 158 consecutive races, tied for 17th all-time with Doug Kalitta, dating back to the second race at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., in 2010.
  • Hight’s most recent NHRA victory – 2017 Northwest Nationals in Kent, Wash.
  • Hight’s most recent No. 1 qualifying effort – 2017 Northwest Nationals in Kent, Wash.
  • Hight’s best time/speed at Brainerd – 3.885 seconds (2016 E1); 330.31 mph (2016 Q1)
  • Hight’s best time/speed of career – 3.807 seconds (2017 Sonoma Q2; third quickest elapsed time in history); 339.87 mph (2017 Sonoma Q2; fastest speed in history)

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NHRA legend John Force shows he’s still got it — on drag strip and also on pitcher’s mound

Photo courtesy John Force Racing
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With a record 16 NHRA Funny Car championships and another record 148 wins in his career, there’s no question John Force knows how to make things go straight down the middle.

And it’s that kind of philosophy Force relied upon when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday at Wrigley Field for the game between the World Champion Chicago Cubs and visiting Tampa Bay Rays.

Force admitted to MotorSportsTalk Thursday that he was nervous heading to the mound. He’s only thrown a first pitch a couple of times in his 50-plus year drag racing career, the most recent time coming several years ago before a Giants game in San Francisco.

John Force, left, with teammate and son-in-law Robert Hight.

Force didn’t want to embarrass himself or his sponsors, so he kept visualizing the task in his mind for the last couple of weeks as a way of preparation.

When the time came for Force to rear back and let the ball fly, he wound up throwing an impressive strike.

John Force throws out the first pitch at Wednesday’s Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

Cubs pitcher Eddie Butler served as the catcher for Force’s toss and gave the driver some advice.

“Butler said to go back to your childhood when you throw it,” Force said. “I got out there on that mound and with all the cheering from the crowd, and just like going into the finals of a race, I tried to blank it all out and just got into my zone.

“So I had this big old wind-up and I threw that son of a gun as hard and as solid as I could throw it and it was a strike.”

As it turns out, Butler is a big drag racing fan and especially a Force fan.

It’s kind of hard to judge who was more excited about the event, Force for throwing the pitch or Butler getting to meet his favorite drag racer for the first time.

“Other than throwing out those other two first pitches, it’s been about 40 years or more since I last threw a baseball,” Force said. “I didn’t want to throw it in the dirt.”

Butler and several other Cub players signed the ball for Force as a memorial of the day, and Force — who is competing in this weekend’s Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois — then gave the ball to his grandson, Jacob.

“I did something for my grandkids that I’ll likely never be able to do again,” Force said. “It was really cool.”

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Force family ready to compete on Father’s Day in Bristol

Photo: John Force Racing
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Father’s Day weekend is always a special occasion for John Force and his family, perhaps most notably because it involves the family competing together on the same weekend, and sometimes against each other. John Force Racing features 16-time Funny Car champion John Force competing against his youngest daughter, Courtney, in the Funny Car division. John’s middle daughter, Brittany, is also an NHRA star in her own right, but as a Top Fuel competitor, she does not compete against her father.

Of course, given that Courtney is often in direct competition with her father in the Funny Car division, there is a peculiar dynamic that exists within the team.

“Being able to race against my dad on Father’s Day weekend is something that I really look forward to. Hopefully, we can give him Sunday off – that’s always the goal coming out to Bristol, to give dad the day off for Father’s Day. We’ll see what we can do,” Courtney quipped.

Of course, she is obviously joking, as the youngest of Force’s daughters relishes the chance to compete against her father, and enjoys the fun atmosphere it creates, an atmosphere that is especially noteworthy as Father’s Day approaches.

“Honestly, he’s taught me everything I know in a Funny Car, and I have fun when I’m in the lane next to him competing against him,” Courtney added. “I try to mess with him, but literally nothing breaks that guy down. I can’t screw him up, even if I try. We have fun with it.”

Brittany, the middle of John Force’s daughters, who competes in the Top Fuel division, does not compete against her father, but that not have make Father’s Day weekend any less poignant.

She highlighted that Father’s Day weekend is always special for the Force family, particularly in that they’re usually competing at the Bristol Dragway, one of her favorite tracks.

“Racing in Bristol on Father’s Day is always special,” said Brittany. “It always happens to land on that weekend, and Courtney and I do the Track Walk with our dad, which is something fun before race day.”

She added, “Bristol is one of my favorite race tracks – Thunder Valley. It’s a Bruton Smith track, and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s a race that I want to win, it’s a race I will win one of these days. I’d love to do it this year on Father’s Day.”

Heading into the weekend, Brittany ranks sixth in the Top Fuel standings, while Courtney sits fourth in the Funny Car standings, ahead of John in seventh.

John, meanwhile, looks to overcome a recent run of challenges and inconsistency.

“In my early days, I spent a lot of Father’s Days on the road,” John Force said. “Couldn’t get home to them, and I didn’t have the money – I was driving the 18-wheeler. To be with kids that I’ve missed so much and to race with them, life’s good for me.

“I’m getting beat up on that race track. But they beat me up 40 years ago and then I beat them up. They beat me up the first 10 years, and I dominated for 20, and now I’m getting my butt kicked. That’s what makes it exciting.”

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NHRA: Watch Courtney Force walk away from huge explosion – and still qualifies No. 1!

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Courtney Force walked away uninjured following a massive explosion of her Funny Car Friday during Friday’s opening round of qualifying for the NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, New Hampshire.

Force was in the left lane against “Fast Jack” Beckman and crossed the finish line first at a top qualifying speed of 331.53 mph, a new track record and an elapsed time of 3.842 seconds.

Suddenly, her car exploded (see video above) and ended up against the left wall. She hopped out of the car and was met quickly by NHRA’s safety crew.

The daughter of 16-time Funny Car champ John Force then returned to the track for a second round qualifying effort with a backup car and new motor. But she suffered more problems as her car shut off after leaving the starting line and coasted to a stop about 300 feet down the track.

Her car was pushed back to the pits, where her team will likely have a long night of repairs ahead of Saturday’s two final rounds of qualifying.

May the Force be with him: Stats as John Force turns 68

Photo: John Force Racing
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Cool story here from John Force Racing as its fearless leader turns 68 years old today.

The release is below:

John Force celebrates his 68th birthday today. In honor of this birthday, here are some statistics and milestones related to Force and the No. 68.

  • Force’s 68th race (event appearance) came September 14, 1986, at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa.
  • The 68th race in which Force qualified for and raced came July 26, 1987, at Bandimere Speedway near Denver, Colo. Force made the final but dropped the matchup against Kenny Bernstein.
  • Force’s 68th elimination round victory came June 7, 1987, at Sanair Super Speedway in St.-Pie, Quebec, Canada. The victory was a result of a bye run. More exciting for Force later in the day, he earned his first career Funny Car victory, topping Ed McCulloch (whose son Jason is now a co-crew chief on Force’s PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS).
  • Force’s 68th final round came October 30, 1994, at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., against Cruz Pedregon, whom he defeated. Force has competed in 248 finals, an NHRA record.
  • Force’s 68th victory came May 17, 1998, at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. He defeated Jim Epler. Force has 148 victories, an NHRA record.
  • Force’s 68th No. 1 came in the 1996 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. He ended up winning the race later that weekend against Al Hofmann. Force has earned the No. 1 qualifying position 155 times in his career, an NHRA record.
  • Force set the low elapsed time for a weekend for the 68th time of his career April 26, 1998, in Richmond, Va. He ran 4.887 seconds on the quarter-mile. He has set the low ET for an event 151 times in his career, an NHRA record.
  • Force set the top event speed for a weekend for the 68th time of his career April 16, 2000, at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas. He turned in a speed of 319.98 mph. Force has set the top speed for an event 133 times in his career.
  • Force’s 68th different opponent was Paula Martin, whom he faced and defeated August 18, 1991, in the first round at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota.
  • The 68th different opponent Force defeated was Gary Clapshaw, in a first-round matchup August 2, 1992, at Sonoma Raceway in California.
  • Force’s 68th matchup against 2016 and reigning NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps came in a semifinals victory at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H., on June 23, 2013.
  • Force’s 68th elimination round matchup against a JFR teammate came November 14, 2004, against Eric Medlen at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
  • Force’s 68th elimination victory over a teammate came February 14, 2010, in a quarterfinals matchup against Robert Hight at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Force went on to win the race, besting Capps in the finals.
  • If Force makes it to this weekend’s finals in the NHRA Southern Nationals, it means he will have 68 elimination round victories at Atlanta Dragway. A 69th round win at the track this weekend would give him his 149th victory.
  • Force currently has 68 elimination round victories against his most common opponent, Cruz Pedregon. He has faced Pedregon 101 times during his career

And some bonus stats:

  • Force has raced on his birthday three times – 1997 in Dallas, Texas; 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia; and 2008 in Madison, Ill. His best finish was the 1997 race, when he reached the finals but lost to Randy Anderson.
  • Despite not winning either the 1997 or 2008 races on his birthday, he did establish major milestones for himself and in the NHRA ranks. He scored his 500th round victory in 1997 against Ray Higley in the second round, and his 1,000th round victory in 2008 against Ron Capps in the first round.
  • If Force wins at Atlanta, he will extend his record as the oldest driver to win an NHRA Funny Car race. He reset the mark earlier this year at Gainesville, at 67 years, 10 months, 15 days.