With a renewed confidence, 2009 NHRA Funny Car champion Robert Hight hopes to keep his recent momentum going as the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs open next weekend at zMAX Dragway.

Hight stormed to the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory on Monday, ending a 35-race winless drought. Hight earned his 28th career victory by outrunning red-hot Jack Beckman in the final round.

With the win, Hight got his mojo back. And just in the nick of time, as the first of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship opens Sept. 13-15 at zMAX Dragway during the Carlyle Professional Hand Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts.

Hight has advanced to only two final rounds since his four-race win streak ended last April at zMAX Dragway during the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. During that stretch he's posted an uncharacteristic 15 first round losses, including five during last year's six-race Countdown playoffs. He ended the 2012 season in seventh place and has been near 10th place for most of 2013.

With a renewed momentum, now Hight's mission is simple: win a second world championship title.

The last time he barely made it into the playoffs, he won the championship in 2009. But with a tough contingent of challengers like playoff top seed Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, Beckman, Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson and his own teammates - John and Courtney Force - Hight knows that winning the title this year will take plenty of focus, dedication and hard work.

"It is not getting any easier," Hight said. "In fact, I think the competition is tougher now than when I won the championship in 2009. You don't see people going out there and winning three races in a row anymore. It just doesn't happen."

Hight has had some success at zMAX Dragway; in addition to his four-wide win in 2012, he also took the 2009 victory at this event to launch his run to the world championship. When he won his world title in '09, he earned three victories during the playoffs. He's expecting it will take a similar effort to get the job done this season.

"If we want to win the championship, we are going to have to win at least two races," Hight said, "and go to the semifinals in the rest of the races."

The Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. In addition to all of the drama and excitement going on in the Countdown playoffs, fans will also enjoy a brilliant night qualifying show on Friday.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. No other sport offers fans an up close and personal experience like NHRA. Fans can stand close by as teams warm up their high-horsepower machines prior to each run.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Be a part of the action all weekend with a three-day pass to the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals, with packages starting at just $99. Bring the kids along for an even better ticket offer: Children 13 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult all weekend.

Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals qualifying opens on Friday, Sept. 13, with pro sessions scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 14, at 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15.

The race will be televised on ESPN2 HD with qualifying coverage on Saturday and three hours of eliminations coverage on Sunday beginning at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

To purchase tickets, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. To stay up to date with everything going on at the Bellagio of drag strips, log on to www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or connect with zMAX Dragway on Twitter at www.twitter.com/zmaxdragway or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/zmaxdragway.