During the winter, Robert Hight always takes a couple of months off from his racing career. Then when he returns to his Camaro Funny Car after that break, he realizes that his body — and mind — aren’t quite up to speed yet.
“It’s accelerating faster than your brain can process, because you haven’t been doing it in a while,” said Hight, who sits second in the NHRA Funny Car points standings. “There’s a lot packed in a four-second run.”
That’s an understatement. Hight and the rest of the racers who will compete in the Triple-A Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis this weekend undergo some of the same sensations that a NASA astronaut might during a rocket flight.
“You’re dealing with a car that’s over 10,000 horsepower, accelerates from zero to 100 (mph) in less than a second,” said Hight, who made a media tour swing through Waco this week. “You get 5 G’s of acceleration two different times in the run. When it leaves the starting line, and then when it locks the clutch up it really takes off again. Then it’s time to get this baby stopped, and you’ve got to use the parachutes. Then it goes to negative-2 G’s. You’re thrown around in there pretty good.”
The FallNationals bills itself as the “fastest race in Texas,” and it’s a hard claim to dispute, given that the cars generally top out at around 330 mph. It also arrives at a pivotal time in the NHRA season, as it’s the fourth of six final races on the countdown to the season title.
Hight said that when the Texas Motorplex was built 32 years ago, it was groundbreaking for the sport of drag racing, as the first so-called superspeedway. Instrumental in the construction of the facility was a Waco native, Billy Meyer, who remains a legendary figure in the sport.
Racers in the nitro division will take part in two rounds of qualifying on Friday, and a concert by country singer Cory Morrow will follow the event. Qualifying continues through Saturday, and the event culminates with a full day of races in the pro stock, funny car and top fuel dragster divisions on Sunday.
“If you’ve never been, watching it on TV doesn’t do it justice,” Hight said. “All of your senses are tested to the max. You feel it – you feel the ground shake when the cars go down the racetrack. It’s deafening. You smell it, you taste it. It’s sensory overload.”
For more information on the FallNationals, visit www.texasmotorplex.com.