NHRA

NHRA: Robert Hight hopes math adds up to still rally for third Funny Car title

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Defending NHRA Funny Car champion Robert Hight’s Twitter account handle is @RobertHight7000.

But heading into next weekend’s season-ending Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, Hight may want to change his Twitter handle to @RobertHight118.

The reason is pretty clear. Hight, who is also president of John Force Racing, will go into the race trailing JR Todd by 74 points.

With drivers eligible to earn as much as 191 points in the race – that’s 1.5 times the normal amount of available points in most regular races – Hight doesn’t need a calculator to figure what it’s going to take for him to win his second consecutive Funny Car championship and third overall.

Which is why the number in his Twitter handle should be changed to 118 heading to Pomona. Hight must earn 118 more points than Todd in the Nov. 11 final eliminations to earn the championship.

That’s not going to be easy, but it’s also not impossible. If Todd were to lose in the first round next Sunday, and Hight earns No. 1 qualifier honors and then goes on to win the race, it’s mathematically possible that Hight could rally to earn the championship yet again.

MORE: JR Todd: Even with a big lead, ‘no letting up’ for first NHRA Funny Car title

Admittedly, that’s a big task, especially since Todd has reached the final round in four of the first five races of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs currently underway.

But Hight, who has fought through a broken collarbone suffered in a rough crash four races ago (and is still recovering), still feels he’s up to overtaking Todd.

“There’s nothing like racing in Pomona,” said Hight, who has 45 career wins. “Southern California, all the fans there, there’s nothing like that.

“I always remember back to my first run in competition coming there and just looking down the track. It was a dream come true getting to race a Funny Car and I still get all those same feelings every time I race there.”

Hight finds himself in a more difficult position than he did in last year’s playoffs. En route to his 2017 title, he won four of the final 11 races, including two in the Countdown.

Heading to Pomona next week, Hight earned back-to-back wins at both St. Louis (where he suffered the broken collarbone, crashing after winning the race) and Dallas.

But he hurt his championship hopes greatly when he uncharacteristically lost in the first round last weekend at Las Vegas – while Todd went on to win the race and overtake Hight in the standings.

Much like Todd is focusing on himself and his own program and trying to put the challenge Hight presents out of mind, Hight has pretty much the same mindset when it comes to Todd.

“At the beginning of the year, all you can do is hope to be in this position,” said Hight, who has four career wins in Pomona. “Up until these last few years, we went through a period where we were going to Vegas and Pomona without a chance to win a title, and that’s tough.

“It’s painful and I think that makes you appreciate the team you have and everything we have going on this year.

“We all know what we have to do. We love our jobs, but we love to win and that’s our main focus. Fans love the thought of the championship going down to the last race and that gets me pumped up.”

The battle between Todd and Hight isn’t the only championship to be determined. In Pro Stock, Tanner Gray has a massive 140-point lead over five-time champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. and leads third-ranked and two-time champ Erica Enders by 149 points.

Drew Skillman (-170) and Vincent Nobile (-179) are both mathematically in the running for Pro Stock, but about the only way they could rally back is if Gray fails to qualify at Pomona, which is unlikely given his qualifying prowess thus far this season.

And in Pro Stock Motorcycle, it’s a tight battle between points leader Matt Smith, defending champ Eddie Krawiec (-4), LE Tonglet (-61) and Hector Arana Jr. (-64).

Also still mathematically in it are 2016 PSM champ Jerry Savoie (-101) and four-time PSM champ Andrew Hines (-113).

MotorSportsTalk will feature previews for both Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle next week leading up to the season finale in Pomona.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Keating stripped of Le Mans GTE-Am win; No. 68 Ganassi entry also disqualified

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FIA stewards announced Monday that two Ford GT entries have been disqualified from this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, including the GTE-Am class-winning No. 85 entry from privateer Keating Motorsports.

Also DQ’d was the factory No. 68 Chip Ganassi Racing entry of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais, which initially finished fourth in the GTE-Pro class.

Both entries were found in violation of fuel capacity regulations, with the No. 85 entry also failing to meet the minimum refueling time during pit stops.

The refueling system on the No. 85 entry, driven by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga, measured a time of 44.4 seconds during a stop, just shy of the minimum required time of 45 seconds.

As a result, the team was initially issued a 55.2-second post-race penalty by officials, which elevated the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR of Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey, and Egidio Perfetti to the class win.

The time penalty was calculated by the difference in the refueling time (0.6 seconds) multiplied by the amount of pit stops made by the team (23), then multiplied by four.

The No. 85 entry was set to finish second in class, but then received an outright DQ after its fuel capacity was also revealed to be 0.1 liters above the maximum permitted capacity of 96 liters.

As for Ganassi’s No. 68 entry, it was found to have a fuel capacity of 97.83 liters, which is above the maximum allowed capacity of 97 liters for the GTE-Pro Fords.

The No. 67 Ford of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, and Jonathan Bomarito subsequently moves up to fourth, and the No. 69 Ford of Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook moves up to fifth.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter