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NHRA: Hight soaks up first Daytona trip, primed for Phoenix

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Often times it’s John, Courtney or Brittany Force that’s making the rounds as NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and/or John Force Racing ambassador at other racing events.

This past weekend, it was JFR President and a Funny Car ace and 2009 class champion in his own right, Robert Hight.

Hight spent the weekend at Daytona International Speedway in an ambassador role for Chevrolet, JFR and the NHRA as NASCAR kicked off its respective Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series seasons in an off-week for NHRA after the Winternationals at Pomona and next week’s second race outside Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

The trip was Hight’s first to Daytona and although he later admitted on social media he’s “not a good spectator,” he said he still thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“I’ve never been here. But you’re right, it’s like going to a state-of-the-art baseball stadium,” Hight told NBC Sports from Daytona this weekend.

“The escalators, the merchandising, the stands, displays and everything else. It’s unbelievable. It’s the way a stadium should be. I’ve got to take a lot of stuff in. (Saturday) during practice, I got to do some on-air stuff from FOX, and promote the next race in Phoenix. These people truly get into this race.”

Hight was coming into Daytona off a high from Pomona, where JFR started its 2016 season with some solid speed across the board both in Funny Car and Top Fuel.

Hight qualified third and could well have made the finals before a blower belt issue sidelined him in the semifinals. Ron Capps edged him, and then proceeded to edge Del Worsham in the finals.

“It was tons better than last year. We were all competitive,” Hight explained. “We all qualified in the top half of the field.

“Race day, I had the quickest car first and second round. I had issues with the blower belt against Capps. The belt was starting to shred. It came off before the finish line. I believe I could’ve won it, but we found the problem.

“We’re running right with the top cars. We were 3-4 hundredths behind (prior to this year).

The step in performance comes with better cohesion and understanding of the product compared to 12 months ago.

It seems hard to fathom John Force Racing as anything but a powerhouse, but with the team needing to get its commercial house of cards in order prior to 2015 and with a major switch from Ford to Chevrolet, there was more upheaval going into a season than at any point in years.

Hight explained how impressed he was with the first race turnaround.

“That was our focus all winter; we had to not leave anything on the table,” Hight said.

“Racing has changed in the last two years. It used to be you could play it safe, and get the win light. You push, and put it right on the edge. But you saw the final with Capps and Del. They’re separated by less than a thousandth at 320 mph.

“For us, we’re 100 percent better. This time last year, we were just worried about putting the organization back together. We’ve got the funding.

“It takes time to work with a new manufacturer. We’d been with the other one for a lot of years. The right hand knew what left hand was doing. Now, we know what Chevrolet wants. We’re working with their engineers.

“It’s a lot of fun being with those guys. They’re so excited about NHRA drag racing. In about two months, we should have a new Camaro body coming. It’s gonna be cool, and help us competitively.”

Hight caught FOX’s first weekend of broadcasts and said NHRA had assembled a good crew, and offered positive feedback.

Heading into Phoenix this weekend, he’s keen to lay down a time close to or exceeding what was a career-best pass in testing.

“I’m very optimistic,” he said. “I did a 3.88, a career best, when we were testing there a few weeks ago. There’s no reason to think we can’t do it again, especially coming off how we did at Pomona. You could see one of us from JFR in Victory Lane.”

Dean Wilson out for rest of Supercross season

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“Such a massive gut punch on Saturday,” Dean Wilson wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye.”

With that post, Wilson announced that he will be out for the remainder of the Supercross season, which includes races at East Rutherford, N.J. and Las Vegas, Nev. An MRI earlier in the week revealed a shoulder injury. He also sustained damage to his kidney in a Lap 8 accident while he was running in the top 10.

Wilson’s injuries will not require surgery.

Wilson’s season began with a lot of promise. Earning the holeshot in the season-opening race at Anaheim, Wilson led for a time before narrowly missing the podium in fourth.

Two weeks later, Wilson finished fifth overall in the Triple Crown event of Anaheim II. Those are his only top-fives of the season.

“The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year,” Wilson continued.

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Such a massive gut punch on Saturday. Just as I was gaining good momentum riding well, feeling good and chasing my first win things turned in the blink of an eye. Started off Denver topping free practice then went on to qualify P1 in qualifier 1. Qualifier 2 didn’t get the cleanest laps but ended with a 4th. On to the main event I was running around 7th on lap 7 moving forward and as I came around for the rhythm section I tripled in and something freak happened causing the bike to nose dive after I tripled in and pile driving me into the ground. The tough part of this is I have been trying so hard this year to be back where I need to be trying to get a job for next year. It’s tough just hoping to have a ride each year. 2nd part is people saying “wilson’s hurt again, big surprise there” when it was something that wasn’t my fault. It’s a tough pill To swallow.. I injured my shoulder and got a contusion on my kidneys. Got MRI and good news is I dodged a bullet on my shoulder and I am just going to give it a few weeks of rest and therapy and see where we are at. Huge disappointment to end my SX season like this. Thanks to my whole team for everything and everybody checking in on me. I really appreciate it. I will be back.

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Next Race: East Rutherford April. 27, on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Gold

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