When people think of John Force Racing, it’s almost always about team founder and patriarch, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion and the winningest driver in drag racing history, John Force.
But when it comes to success thus far in the first three races of 2019, folks are talking not so much about Force but rather more about JFR team president Robert Hight.
It’s not a surprise, really.
Hight, a two-time NHRA Funny Car champ (most recently in 2017), has blasted out of the starting gate with outstanding success and consistency. He won the season-opening race in Pomona, California, reached the semifinals in the following race at Chandler, Arizona, and last week won the 50th anniversary Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.
To say the 49-year-old Hight is red hot is an understatement.
“This is huge, my fourth time winning here,” Hight said following the Gatornationals. “This is a big one, the 50th. There will only be one of these. It seems like my boss, John Force, always wins the big races. He just seems to win all the cool races but I finally got one.”
Hight, who is also Force’s son-in-law (married to Force’s oldest daughter, Adria), has blasted out to a big lead in the Funny Car points standings, holding a 105-point edge over “Fast Jack” Beckman. Matt Hagan is third (-115 points), followed by Force (-130) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (-139).
Hight, along with all the regular racers on the NHRA national event tour, are enjoying this weekend and next weekend off. But Hight is already thinking about how he can continue his run in 2019 at the next race, the Denso Spark Plugs Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, April 5-7.
“John (Force) probably is not going to want me going to Vegas because I beat him the first three races,” Hight laughed. “It would be cool if we were racing in the final.”
Force has been chasing a milestone win since last season: his next triumph will be the 150th of his storied NHRA career.
“That car and that team are really stepping up,” Hight said. “John’s going to get some wins. His 150th is coming, I know it is. It’s a lot of fun right now in our camp because all our cars are running well. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
The key to Hight’s success thus far has been hallmark consistency established in the setup on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car that has been dialed in by crew chief Jimmy Prock and assistant crew chief Chris Cunningham. That consistency streak actually began last season, when Hight finished second in the standings and won four races, the most victories he’s earned in a season since 2014, when he won five races.
Given he already has two wins in the first three races of 2019, there’s no question Hight, Prock and Cunningham have definitely hit upon a winning combination.
“I’ve never seen a fuel car so consistent as what I have right now, especially a Funny Car,” Hight said. “Jimmy Prock is on it. He and Chris Cunningham are really happy with the clutch package we have and they keep talking a lot about how my car ran in 2017 (when he won his last championship).
“It just responds and it repeats, so that’s a good sign. … Hopefully it gets better and better.”