Robert Hight Looks To Ward Off Ron Capps & Matt Hagan To Claim Funny Car Title At NHRA Finals
Story By: NHRA – POMONA, CA – An impressive season has put Funny Car’s Robert Hight on the verge of a fourth world championship in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. But with two heavyweight contenders looming, Hight knows he needs to take care of business one more time at this weekend at the 57th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at legendary Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to secure the title.
In what has been the best season of his career to this point, Hight has racked up eight wins, 12 finals appearances and six No. 1 qualifiers in a loaded Funny Car class, a nod to what the veteran and his team have done in their 11,000-horsepower Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS.
Despite the incredible success, defending world champ Ron Capps and Matt Hagan, who has three world titles, are still lurking. Capps is 61 points back and Hagan, who won the most recent race in Las Vegas, is just 63 points behind, meaning Hight’s quest for another title likely needs another great weekend in Pomona.
“I can’t wait to get it going,” Hight said. “The truth is, we’re focused and we’re going to try to get our ninth win. I’m battling with two great drivers, and we’ve battled all season long. I knew it was going to be this way and it’s been great racing all season long. But we’ve got to focus and make eight great runs. If we do that and get our ninth win, we’re the champs and we’ll get to celebrate, and that’s how I want it to play out.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Bob Tasca III (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year’s race, while Torrence, Capps (Funny Car), Anderson and Smith all claimed world titles in Pomona as well. The race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations at 4 p.m. on Sunday, and plenty is on the line to close out the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
The finale is also points-and-a-half, meaning both Capps and Hagan could get to within two rounds of Hight if they close the gap to less than 60 points during qualifying. That puts an onus on every run this weekend, but those are moments where Capps, Hagan and Hight – who have combined for six of the last eight world titles in the class – have thrived throughout their careers.
“All three of us, we’ve been in the trenches, and we understand how everything has to be perfect on these cars to make these great runs,” Capps said. “You’re talking three cars that love to throw down, and Pomona is epic and it’s historic. If we can get it under two rounds heading into eliminations, you never know what can happen in Pomona. There’s nothing better than waking up Sunday morning in Pomona and having a shot at a world championship. It’s a great feeling.”
Hagan stayed in contention in Las Vegas in his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat, coming through in what he called a must-win situation. The same might hold true in Pomona, where the Funny Car standout for Tony Stewart Racing will try to grab a fifth victory this season. He’s dueled it out with Hight extensively this year and will aim for a hot finish to stay alive in the title hunt.
In his first year as a team owner, Capps has been steady all season, picking up five victories in his 11,000-horsepower NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra. That’s made it already a successful season for the longtime standout, but a Pomona victory and a world championship – which would make him the first back-to-back Funny Car champ in 20 years – would make it even sweeter.
“It’s been a whirlwind and it’s been a crazy year,” Capps said. “Going into this weekend, you couldn’t have asked for a better shot. It’s been a dream year and I’m living the life I never thought I would have as a team owner. I’m just happy to be where I’m at and just have the chance to run with all these great cars out there.”
A fourth world championship would also mean a great deal to Hight, who struggled last season and was determined to turn it around in 2022. The team has done that and then some, putting together dominant stretches throughout the year. He’s won twice in the playoffs – already setting a career-best for wins in a single season – but Hight’s sole goal this weekend remains perfection.
“We know things can turn in a hurry, but we’re really focused on getting every qualifying point we can,” Hight said. “We’re not overlooking anything. You’ve got to make four perfect qualifying runs and then do that four more times on raceday. These are three of the best cars in the country and we’re all going to be running quick. We’re going to have to make perfect runs. It is crazy how close all of this is.”
Top Fuel’s Brittany Force takes a slim seven-point lead into Pomona over Justin Ashley, looking to pick up her second world title. Mike Salinas, Antron Brown and four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence remain in the thick of the title hunt in what should be a can’t-miss weekend in the class.
Pro Stock’s Erica Enders has already clinched her fifth world championship, doing so in Las Vegas en route to her 10th victory of the season as well. She’ll look to finish off one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory with her second win in Pomona this year against Greg Anderson, Troy Coughlin Jr., Aaron Stanfield and Kyle Koretsky.
Matt Smith closed out his fifth world title with a Pomona triumph last year, something he would love to replicate as the Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader inches toward a sixth world title. He leads Joey Gladstone by 104 points entering the weekend and will also have to deal with Jerry Savoie, Angie Smith, Steve Johnson and Eddie Krawiec.
The Auto Club NHRA Finals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which includes some of the sport’s top drivers, and a special Jr. Dragster Shootout. After nitro qualifying on Friday and Saturday, the “Walking Tall” P.T. Cruiser Wheelstander exhibition featuring “Nitro Mike” will put on a show to close out the day. Fans can also attend Nitro School on Saturday in Alexis DeJoria’s Funny Car pits to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds, while an autograph session will take place on Friday and Saturday at both the Dodge and Toyota displays with sponsored drivers.
Race fans at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Auto Club NHRA Finals event winners and world champions.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Pomona. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family. The new Pep Boys midway display includes tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track, and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 12:00 and 3:15 p.m. PT on Friday, Nov. 11, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. PT on Sunday, Nov. 13. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 2:00 p.m. ET. on Sunday, leading into eliminations at 4:00 p.m. ET.