For Robert Hight and the John Force Racing team, Saturday’s Night Under Fire wasn’t just another match race; it was a chance to defeat seven other Funny Cars and bring home another trophy. They did just that, beating Cruz Pedregon in the final to win the special event for the third time.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re running a foot race: You want to beat these other guys,” Hight said, following another amazing fireworks show at Summit Motorsports Park. “We came here to put a great show on for the fans, but, really, we wanted to win this thing – and we did.”
Coming into the Night Under Fire, Hight had already won two of the last three NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series races and set the national speed record (339.87 mph) in Sonoma. The Night Under Fire included eight nitro Funny Cars, including two from JFR: Hight’s Chevrolet Camaro and John Force’s PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevy. After one qualifying pass, the drivers with the top two elapsed times advanced to the final round, leaving the other six behind.
Hight qualified in second with a pass of 3.939 seconds at a slowing 282.66 mph; fortunately, that was enough to race Pedregon in the final, in which he made a terrific run of 3.865 seconds at 321.50 mph, beating Pedregon.
“It gives you confidence that you can come in under any conditions – hot, cold, mile-high, sea level, humidity, whatever – and run like we’re running,” Hight said. “First run today, it was going to run .88, and a piston failed. It wasn’t like a tuneup problem; a piston failed – we had some different pistons in it.
“We put some different ones in the final and stepped it up. We ran .86, smooth as glass. It gives you a lot of confidence as a driver.”
John Force made a respectable run of 3.959 seconds at 323.17 mph, qualifying No. 3, but he was off the throttle early in his consolation race against Ron Capps. Hight collected his third Night Under Fire trophy, giving JFR back-to-back wins. Courtney Force won this race in 2015, with the 2016 version rained out. Hight accepted his trophy from Summit Motorsports Park’s Bill Bader Jr.
“This is an unbelievable show,” Hight said. “There’s nothing like it. The show they put on for the fans, it’s like none other. We look forward to coming here. I’m honored they invite us every year. They really care about the fans, and it shows. That’s why you have 40,000 people here. The biggest one-day drag race in the world, and we just won it.”