Robert Hight rides a Zamboni into drag racing’s season finale

Robert Hight Ontario Reign MayorsManor CalkinsRobert Hight is used to going 320 miles per hour in about four seconds.

Yet, prior to kicking off the NHRA’s season finale in Pomona this weekend, he stopped by the Ontario Reign game Wednesday night to drop the first puck and take a lap around the rink on a Zamboni.

“A few years back I was lucky enough to drop the puck at a Dallas Stars game. But, I didn’t get to ride on the Zamboni back then,” the 2009 World Champion said. “It’s totally different than my funny car!”

That’s an understatement to say the least. Top speed on that over-sized ice scraper was about 10 mph.

“They put studs on those tires though. And I remember doing that when I was about five years old,” Hight started to recall. “My grandfather told me he was going the next day to get his tires studded – because I lived up (in Altura, CA) where it snowed and there was a lot of ice and stuff.  My brother and I didn’t really understand what he was talking about.  So, he told us it was like putting nails in your tires.”

If you’re a parent reading this – or had a ‘fun’ childhood – you probably know what’s coming next.

“We decided we were going to save him a little money,” Hight continued. “He didn’t tell my dad though. So, my dad was looking around asking, ‘How come all the tires are flat on this truck?’ He finally told my dad and he was like – well, he was mad (lots of laughter). But we were just trying to help.”

These days, Hight spends his time trying to help John Force Racing win NHRA national events and capture championships. Led by owner and founder, John Force (who also happens to be Hight’s father-in-law), the team has collected a staggering 17 championships in the last 22 years.

This season, all four of the JFR funny cars will finish in the top ten in points. However, a championship probably isn’t in the cards. Driver Mike Neff is mathematically still alive, sitting in third place at the moment, but it would take a miracle.

“He still has a shot. It’s a long-shot,” said Hight.  “But, we’re going into the weekend with the attitude that he still has a shot.”

Neff tuned the boss to the team’s last title back in 2010. He now drives and tunes John’s car while John’s daughter Ashley is away having babies. John drives her car while she’s on leave.

Oh, and they fourth team car is driven by Courtney Force, another of John’s four daughters.

It’s a family affair. You’re following all of this, right?

With just one race remaining on the 2012 NHRA Drag Racing schedule, John and Robert are tied for seventh place in the standings.

Robert Hight Ontario Reign MayorsManor by Calkins“It’s really strange, thinking about where we are at this time of year,” Hight remarked. “We ran really good earlier in the year and won some races. Then, we just kinda fell flat after winning four races in a row.”

Hight’s tuner, Jimmy Prock, is a big hockey fan, having grown up in Detroit.  However, he wasn’t able to join his driver at the Reign game Wednesday night.  Instead, Prock chose to stay behind and focus on preparing their race car for today’s first qualifying session.

“It’s the last race of the year and it sets the tone for the whole winter. So, we need to go out with a bang,” Hight proclaimed.

Regardless of the outcome this weekend, Hight and all of Team Force never seem to slow down. They’re headed to Las Vegas next weekend to begin testing for next season.

“When you don’t win the championship, it’s back to work on Monday,” he said.

“We’re always talking about things, whether it’s Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas, we’re talking about how we’re going to win next year and what we’re going to do to get back on top. We always sneak away and talk racing and let the girls enjoy the holidays.”

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