The force is strong with Hight’s Funny Car winy at Indy

Posted on Sept. 2, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

John Force Racing wins 6th straight Indianapolis title.

Greg Halling


CLERMONT — Funny Car drivers for John Force Racing won at Indy in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

You can add 2013 to the list.

“This is definitely the biggest win of my career,” Robert Hight said Monday, Sept. 2, after galloping his Ford Mustang past Jack Beckman to win the U.S. Nationals.

Shawn Langdon took the Top Fuel trophy, Mike Edwards won Pro Stock and John Hall finished atop Pro Stock Motorcycle in the NHRA’s biggest race of the year.

Hight won the Big Go in 2008, followed by Ashley Force Hood in 2009-10 and Mike Neff in 2011-12 — all in JFR Mustangs. But the Labor Day weekend started slowly for Hight.

Saturday night, Aug. 31, while driver after driver put up 1,000-foot times in the 4.00-second range, Hight qualified seventh with a 4.062. Neff, named his crew chief earlier this summer, told Hight not to worry.

“We got back to the pits and Mike said, ‘We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em,’” Hight said. “I’m looking at him like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And he says, ‘Listen. I’ve won the last two U.S. Nationals, and I didn’t qualify well. But come Monday, we’re going to be fine. We will run well.’”

Facing the lethal Toyota Camry of Cruz Pedregon in the opening round, Hight pulled away with a 4.054 to Pedregon’s fading 5.650. That set up a quarterfinal contest with the No. 2 qualifier, Johnny Gray.

Hight’s pony car spun the tires at 300 feet, but so did Gray’s burly Dodge Charger. Hight stumbled across the finish line first, then came back in the heat of the afternoon to blister Del Worsham’s Camry in the semis, 4.112 to 4.182.

By going two rounds, both Hight and Worsham qualified for the NHRA’s post-season playoffs, the 10-driver Countdown to the Championship.

Beckman blew his Charger to bits winning the $100,000 Traxxas Funny Car Shootout on Sunday, Sept. 1, but Don Schumacher Racing spent five hours overnight preparing a new body. The result? A 4.019 at 316.45 mph in the opening against Chad Head, followed by a conservative 4.0219 to put away Jeff Arend and a stout 4.110 to stop Tim Wilkerson’s 4.126 in the semifinals.

Neither Hight nor Beckman, the defending series champion, had won a race yet this season. When the light turned green, Beckman went up in smoke.

“He won yesterday. It was my turn,” said Hight, who picked up his third U.S. Nationals title with a 4.111 at 312.64 mph.

Langdon edged Torrence for a $100,000 payday in Sunday’s Traxxas Top Fuel Shootout, only to meet again Sunday for a Wally.

Langdon, tuned by Alan Johnson, made it to the finals by leaving first in every round and running a series of high 3.7’s and low 3.8’s. In the semis, he safely outran Doug Kalitta, 3.822 to 3.848.

Torrence’s day could’ve ended in the quarterfinals, when he smoked his Goodyears. But he advanced to the semis when his father lost a brake pad, forcing him to abandon the run.

Langdon’s Al-Anabi teammate, Khalid alBalooshi, spun the tires against Torrence in the semifinals. That set up Langdon-Torrence II.

“We’re both out there trying to win,” said the 29-year-old Langdon. “You don’t want to lose finals.”

He didn’t, Sunday or Monday. Landgon won his first U.S. Nationals title with run of 3.818 seconds at 320.97 mph, while Torrence slowed to a 3.907 at 309.63 mph.

Series points leader Edwards, in a Chevrolet Camaro, posted a slower quarter-mile time than V Gaines in the Pro Stock final. But he left the starting line first, giving him the victory over Gaines’ Dodge Avenger, 6.637 seconds to 6.620. They both ran 208 mph.

Hall, riding a Buell, outran his team owner in the money round of Pro Stock Motorcycle. Hall won with a 7.034 to Matt Smith’s slowing 7.065.

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