It takes two to battle for the crown

LAS VEGAS — Robert Hight came to the preview luncheon for the NHRA Toyota Nationals last Thursday proudly wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers cap. With his baseball team in the World Series for the first time in 29 years, Hight and his Funny Car race team aren’t out of the championship hunt, either.

And his challenger is Ron Capps, only the defending champion.

Heading into the penultimate race of the 2017 season, Hight was only 24 points behind Capps. Each driver had won twice in the last four race weeks and were on a collision course to settle things in the quarterfinals.

Like his Dodgers, Hight had the battle engaged. One night earlier, his baseball team rallied from a two-run deficit once, but couldn’t come back a second time in a Game 2 loss.

On a sun-baked Sunday afternoon at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Hight got some help from his father-in-law, 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, and moved that much closer to the second Golden Wally trophy of his own career.

Hight survived a first-round battle on a holeshot win over Tim Wilkerson and Force beat Capps in a pedal-fest. Hight took the gift of avoiding a quarterfinal showdown with his challenger and moved into the points lead heading to the season finale at Pomona, Calif., in two weeks.

“Last night’s game was exactly like our stuff has been,” Hight said. “He’s won two, I’ve won two. I took the points lead after the first (Countdown) race, he took it back. Then I won last weekend and got closer.”

When all was said and done Sunday at Las Vegas, Hight found himself back in the points lead for the second time in the Countdown to the Championship.

The wins — for each round and the whole event — may be nice, but Hight got his best lesson about the mental side of chasing an NHRA championship from Dodgers pitcher and Game 2 starter Rich Hill.

“He said something that really hit home to me. Focus on the process, not the results,” Hight said, “We can’t worry about the championship battle, points and all the other stuff. Focus on the racing, focus on every run and do what got you here. It’s easier said than done, but it’s what you have to do to be successful.”

Hight won his only NHRA Funny Car crown in 2009. He has his fate squarely in his hands in search of his second crown, and that’s as good as Hight could possibly ask for.

-The side effects from Parowan’s first football playoff win since 2013 are intriguing. Not only did the Rams draw defending 1A state champion Duchesne in Friday’s semifinals, but they’re on more equal footing than you may think.

Parowan and Duchesne are 1-2 in the state in scoring defense — the Rams have given up 91 points to the Eagles’ 98 — but they’ve scored 168 more points on the offensive end (399-231) than the Eagles.

Defending champions aren’t automatic locks, and head coach Carter Miller has clearly changed the attitude of the Parowan team for the better. It’s a big part of why the Friday afternoon matchup will be worth a look.

With a chance to play at Eccles Coliseum on Nov. 11 for the big trophy awaiting the winner, it’s all the motivation the Rams will need.

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