Hight Seeking Return To Glory
SEATTLE — John Force had a great fall, winning his 15th National Hot Rod Ass’n Funny Car championship.
All the king’s horsepower and all the king’s men put Force back together again from the destruction of his Dallas accident and a winless, ninth-place 2009 season. Physical therapists whipped him into his best physical shape, his crew chiefs gave him a Ford Mustang worthy of its 25th Castrol-sponsorship anniversary livery and he hit the gym faithfully every day.
Teammate Robert Hight, the son-in-law from whom he reclaimed the title in November, found a message in Force’s accomplishment — and he’s copying the boss, hoping to dethrone him.
So far this winter, Hight has lost 20 pounds through a brutally strict diet — and he teasingly said he calculated that Force should pay him $20,000.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable in the car at the end of the season,” said Hight, who admits he has a weakness for ice cream, cookies and cake. “I have been on a diet that sticks to 500-700 calories a day, mostly fruits and vegetables and lean protein. It is hard to deal with in the beginning, but after the first week your body adjusts and you are satisfied. I have always exercised and I am very active at the shop, so I haven’t changed that much.”
His Auto Club Mustang has been the one that needed to trim down.
“My car has always been close to the weight limit,” Hight said, “but hopefully now we can add weight that will help traction. We have always believed that to take a pound off of the race car, it is worth doing if the cost doesn’t exceed $1,000. So I guess John owes me $20,000? Just kidding.
“There is some truth to the fact that if the driver is light and you don’t have to have such light parts on the car, that it will be a more reliable car. Light parts fail eventually.”
Force said he never had to look farther than Hight and daughter Ashley Force Hood to find his two biggest on-track threats.
“It is always critical that we keep these cars on a diet,” Force said. “His car was always lighter than mine, but he has dropped almost 20 pounds, so God bless him. He knows the drill and he knows what it takes. Weight is a big part of it if you are going to be on top and win. Robert knows the drill, and so do I.”
Said Hight, anticipating the Feb. 24-27 season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., “After I won the championship in 2009, John was very proud. But he kept saying that in 2010 he was coming after me. Boy, was he right. Now I have been telling him that I am going to get it back in 2011.
“And the way I feel after losing some weight, I am ready,” he said. “So is (crew chief) Jimmy Prock. The way we finished in 2010, he has been on a mission this winter to get the car back on track. We can’t wait for Pomona.”
Force indicated he’s looking over his shoulder already.
“With Ford Motor Company behind us and the engineers and the new stuff that is coming out, we (at John Force Racing) will be strong. But I will tell you right now, the kid that is starting to run and he has the Ford BOSS 500 engine behind him is Bobby Tasca,” Force said. “(Matt) Hagan will be there again, and so will a bunch of them, but Tasca has a hot rod and it runs like ours. He is definitely one that you can put up in that group.”