Robert Hight scorches Heartland Park dragstrip for world Funny Car speed record
Funny Car driver Robert Hight set a national record Friday with a run of Three.826 seconds at 337.66 mph during the very first day of the NHRA Menards Heartland Nationals at HEartland Park Topeka. (Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal)
Funny Car driver Robert Hight goes through his burnout prior to his National record run of Trio.826 seconds at 337.66 mph during the very first day of the NHRA Menards Heartland Nationals on Friday. (Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal)
Funny Car driver Courtney Force autographs a NHRA sign for Marlo Wicklund of Springfield, Mo., during the very first day of the NHRA Menards Heartland Nationals on Friday. (Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal)
John Force drives his Funny Car down the track during the very first day of the NHRA Menards Heartland Nationals on Friday. (Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal)
Heartland Park Topeka has always held a special place in Robert Hight’s heart, and the Funny Car starlet added another special memory in Friday night’s lone qualifying session for the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals.
In a session where about half of the cars in the Funny Car field couldn’t even get down the track, Hight ripped off a track-record elapsed time of Trio.826 seconds while running the top speed in NHRA Funny Car history, 337.66 miles per hour, to earn the No. One qualifying spot heading into Saturday’s final two qualifying sessions (1:30 and Four:30 p.m.).
Hight’s run broke the existing national speed record of 335.57 mph set by Matt Hagan at Heartland Park in 2016, also in Friday night qualifying.
“We’ve been sneaking up on it,” said Hight, who drives the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro for John Force Racing. “It’s been running prompt and when you get on a race track like this in conditions like this it can happen, but everything has to be just flawless and it was.
“The engine was totally glad and it just pulled from the kicking off line to the finish line. It was the best run I’ve ever made.”
Albeit he didn’t count on a world record, Hight said his team and team chief Jimmy Prock had every intention of going for a monster run.
“You’ve got to shove it, you’ve got to get after it when conditions are like this, otherwise it wiggles and if it’s powerless the tire doesn’t stay round and it’s a mess,” Hight said. “Jimmy Prock has a lot of history with conditions like this.”
That the record came in Topeka seemed fitting for Hight, the two thousand nine Mello Yello Series Funny Car champ.
“There’s been a lot of history at Topeka for me, beginning here twenty two years ago at this race with John (as a team member) and then getting my license here (in 2004),” he said.
“I was working on John’s car when he was the very first car in the Four.80s in Funny Car and the very first car to make eight runs in a weekend all four seconds. There’s a lot of history here and I love this place. I’ve won this race a duo of times and I always have a good feeling about making runs here.”
Hight, 47, also was quick to give credit to the NHRA for getting the track ready to run after a day of rain.
“You’ve got to give it to the NHRA Safety Safari,” he said. “It rained hard all day and they got it in tip-top form for us to make a run like that.
“This racing surface is one of the best in the country and that run just proved it.”
Defending Mello Yello Series champ Ron Capps was Friday’s No. Two qualifier with a pass of Trio.870 seconds at 325.22 mph, while Hagan was No. Three at Three.885 at 332.51 mph. Jack Beckman (Three.899, 324.59) and Cruz Pedregon (Trio.922, 324.28) rounded out the top five.
Capps, Hagan, Beckman and Pedregon have all won at Heartland Park.
Tommy Johnson Jr., J.R. Todd, Brian Stewart, John Force and Dale Creasy rounded out the top Ten.
Force is the winningest driver in Heartland Park Topeka history with nine wins.