Robert Hight knows his role at John Force Racing
Robert Hight admits it hasn't been as easy as he's made it look.
Being the President of a drag racing dynasty, all while serving as a team driver. has been a juggling act of duties in which Hight believes he's always challenged to deliver results. Results are necessary both on and off the track.
"There’s a lot of people’s jobs around here (which) aren’t that easy, you know," Hight admits. "To have a good team, you’ve got to have good people and everybody do their job and do their part. Every day something comes up. It’s not just you get on an airplane, go to a race, drive a race car, come home, and do it again next week. You know, you’ve got to deal with all kinds of problems, and things that can come up. A sponsor needs you here or there. Some new sponsor is interested, now you’ve got to make sure that everybody gets what they need. It’s always a moving target."
Just one month ago, the reassignment of John Force Racing's tuning operation and the rejoining of Jimmy Prock and John Medlen provided a valuable learning experience. Medlen lasted for the span of a week, only to return to Don Schumacher Racing along with longtime JFR associate Dean Antonelli.
And then Hight has to deal with the 16-time champion John Force, who sometimes has the energy level of 40 wide-open toddlers. Don't let the unpredictable nature of Hight's boss fool you, he says, the one predictable aspect of Force is he can deliver results.
"He’s successful, but he’s successful in a different way than like Kenny Bernstein was," Force said. "Kenny Bernstein was just strictly all business. John, he just tries to make everything happen, you know shooting from the hip. He usually does, does a great job at it. But it’s two different styles. So, hard to learn that style from John. I guess at the end of the day, if the job gets done, it doesn’t matter how you do it."
Even an uneventful day can be an adventure.
"Oh, for sure it is," Hight said. "It’s definitely an adventure every day. You never dread going to work, that’s for sure. It’s never mundane. It’s not boring."
Hight has been an organic success for John Force Racing; starting first as a crewman for a decade before graduating to the manager of the Yorba Linda, Ca.-based race shop. In 2005, he was named as a driver for the team and has 11 consecutive Top 10 championship finishes to his credit including the 2009 NHRA Funny Car series championship.
Hight says when he's outside of the racetrack and even on a race weekend, the challenge is to analyze every aspect from the management angle. When he straps into his AAA/Auto Club Southern California-sponsored Chevrolet Camaro, he develops tunnel vision.
Keeping busy is the key to keeping on the right track.
"Keeping busy helps a lot," said Hight. "I think it’s good because when your mind is idle, you have a lot of time on your hands, you can create a lot of stuff in your head that doesn’t do you any good on the race track. So if you stay busy, it keeps your mind occupied.
"Now, could I go from a meeting and go jump straight into my race car and do a good job like John does? No, I couldn’t do that. I want a little time to myself before it’s time to run to get my head into it. Not John. He’ll come straight out of a meeting, throw that helmet on, get in the car, and run low e.t."
The perfect buffer for Hight is to immerse himself into the inner workings of his race car; even going as far as to monitor the banter back and forth from track specialists to crew chiefs.
Pulling double duty, Hight believes, hasn't had an effect on him whether it's good, bad or indifferent.
"No effect I don’t think," Hight confirmed. "I think looking at my duties from the big picture teaches me that. John’s real big on focusing on what you have to do. He believes that he needs to focus 365 days a year on racing. He doesn’t golf, he doesn’t do anything. He watches a few movies, but he doesn’t really have any hobbies. So, that works for him. And how can you argue with the success, you know"
Today, Hight is just ready to get into his 10,000 horsepower office.
"It’s been a long off season," Hight said. "Excited about the changes we’ve made in personnel. Some of this is proven before, with these people working together, and we’ve had a lot of success. Can’t wait to get out there and watch these guys all work together again and do whatever it takes to get a team in the winner’s circle every weekend.
"I can already see it around the shop. They’re working well together and I think my Auto Club team with Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch coming over there, we’re already stronger than we have been in the last few years. So, I’m excited. Cannot wait to get to Phoenix and start testing."
Spoken like a true President.
Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus