Robert Hight On A Roll - Narrowly Misses 1st Quarter Driver Of The Year

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NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Funny Car driver Robert Hight came oh so close to taking the first quarter voting for DRIVER OF THE YEAR, voted by an elite panel of 21 broadcasters and journalists.

He missed out on the honor by a single point to IZOD IndyCar Series driver Will Power.

Hight, who drives the AAA Ford Mustang Funny Car from John Force Racing and also serves as company president, has won the last four races at Phoenix, Gainesville, Las Vegas and Charlotte--boss, teammate and father-in-law John Force won the season opener at Pomona.

Power came from mid-field in two of the first three races to claim victories, starting ninth at Barber Motorsports Park and 12th (due to a Chevrolet engine change) in Long Beach, winning both. He finished seventh at St Petersburg, opening round of the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Barry Schmoyer, president of the DRIVER OF THE YEAR Foundation, was surprised at the vote in which Power beat Hight by a single point. "I don't recall such a close quarterly vote (in 46 years)." On reflection, he realized that Power won the third quarter vote by two points in 2010 and Champ Car champion Cristiano da Matta took the annual title in 2002 by a tie-breaker over NASCAR's Tony Stewart, based on points earned in the quarterly tallies.

While Hight is downplaying the significance of his current win streak, he also knows some legendary NHRA drivers--three in fact--have ever won five races in a row as the series heads to Houston, TX this weekend. Hight attempts to join Don Prudhomme, 15-time champion John Force and two-time champ Cruz Pedregon, Funny Car drivers all.

"I am proud of my guys and especially my crew chief Jimmy Prock for giving me a [Ford Mustang] Funny Car that has been in position to win the past four races," he said. "It has been a team effort. The car has won some races and I have done a pretty good job driving it. We are focused on just getting qualified and going rounds."

As a three-time No. 1 qualifier in 2012, Hight heads into this weekend's 25th annual NHRA O'Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway Park outside Houston with No. 5 in sight. This is the track where he won for the first time in only his fifth professional start.

So far this year Hight has tied his all-time consecutive round win record; in 2010 he won three races in a row and advanced to a fourth consecutive final against reigning Funny Car champion before losing in the final at Chicago--this was a career-best 15 straight round wins. While he matched that streak this year, he's earned four Wally trophies for his efforts.

Still, the 27-time Funny Car national event winner couldn't hold off Will Power's surge to the top of DRIVER OF THE YEAR standings for the first quarter of the year. "It's a great honor to be recognized by such an elite panel. This award is a testament to how hard the Team Penske crew has worked this year and we hope to keep it going for the rest of the season," Power said.

Hight would just like to win rounds and gather more Wally trophies for winning races. If he does that, perhaps the next round of voting will go his way?

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