Funny Car Countdown preview: Can Robert Hight beat the number 1 seed curse?


While the frontrunner in the last two NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Funny Car Countdown to the Championship fights has become the World Champion at the end of the season, unlike Top Fuel, that is far from the norm in Funny Car.

Robert Hight, this year’s best, even holds the record for the largest recovery in any class, from 10th place to the championship in 2009. He also won it from first place 10 years later (2019) and second place in 2017.

Perhaps due to the volatile nature of the cars or the extreme evenness of the class over the past decade, the top classer has won the championship just four times in the past 13 Countdown playoffs, with the top class finishing second six times, twice as fifth, and once sixth. [See chart]

The average starting position for the eventual champion is 3.7 – good news perhaps for this year’s No. 3 seed Matt Hagan and No. 4 Bob Tasca III – and surprisingly the No. 2 seed has come from behind to claim the title just once. win , when Hight did it in 2017 to deny Ron Capps a second championship in a row. Capps, the reigning world champion who won the championship at top speed last year, is number 2 behind Hight this year.

Funny Car is the only class where a driver from outside the top five has come more than twice to win the title, and it has happened that Hagan has done it twice (from sixth in 2011 and seventh in 2014) he participated in the 10th place rally of Hight from 2009 .

Observations and predictions from some of this year’s Countdown participants:

Robert Hight (first place): “We’re going into the Countdown at that number 1 spot. Now the real work begins, only 20 points ahead with the standings reset for the Countdown, we just have to do it weekend by weekend, run by run. I’ve said it before, it takes two or three more wins to get that championship, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Ron Capps (second place): “The most important thing is the momentum [from winning the NHRA U.S. Nationals] that we feel like we’re going into the Countdown now, and that’s huge because we’re going to Maple Grove [Raceway]and it goes fast.”

Matt Hagan (third place): “I think we’re all chasing Robert” [Hight] straight away. He’s running well. He has won six races. They have a very consistent car in the heat and in the cool, but we have [crew chief] Dickie Venables, one of the best there is, and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone. At this point, we just need to get into throwdown mode and a countdown mode. We need to win two or three of those six [playoff] races to really run for a championship and win this thing. I know we can.”

John Force (fifth place): “We’re fifth in points, which means we’re only 50 points ahead after the reset. It could change quickly, but we’re in it, we have a chance and we’re going for it. Big thanks to all the fans here. You are for who we do this, you bring us motivation.”

JR Todd (sixth place): “The biggest takeaway in [the U.S. Nationals] was how well our DHL Supra is running. I’m very confident going into the Countdown and anything can happen during those six races. We just have to be at the top of our game.”

Alexis DeJoria (seventh place): “We are seventh in the standings and I am really looking forward to using the countdown start as a hard reset for myself. Points are reset and from now on this is the point of the season that really counts, so I’m looking forward to starting the play-offs with a clean slate.”

Cruz Pedregon (eighth place): “We know we have a championship-class car here and the team is optimistic. We’re just going to find out and go to Reading prepared. The great thing is that our second season is now starting. Throughout my career I’ve always finished strong and I think we’re going to do that again this year. My father taught me this; “Things happen for a reason.” Sometimes you learn more from difficult weekends than when you are at the top of your game.”


Top Seed (SEASON Finish)



Tim Wilkerson (2nd)

Cruz Pedregon (4th)


Tony Pedregon (5th)

Robert High (10th)


John Power (1)

Power (1st)


Mike Neff (5th)

Matt Hagan (6th)


Caps (2nd)

Jack Beckman (3rd)


Hagen (2nd)

Power (4th)


Power (2nd)

Hagen (7th)


Beckmann (2nd)

Del Worsham (4th)


Ron Capps (1)

Caps (1st)


Ron Caps (2nd)

Height (2nd)


Courtney Force (6th)

J.R. Todd (5th)


Robert High (1)

Height (1st)


No countdown



Ron Capps (1)

Caps (1st)