Force Funny Cars Show Their Winter Capabilities

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 20 2013

Courtney Force paced the Funny Car portion of the rain-shortened NHRA test in Florida. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

NHRA Funny Car teammates Robert Hight and Courtney Force proved quickest off the trailer and Doug Kalitta paced the Top Fuel time sheet during the rain-shortened PRO Winter Warm-Up at Palm Beach International Raceway.

Saturday’s scheduled second day of activity in Jupiter, Fla., was cancelled by persistent rain, leaving teams with data collected from Friday night’s two sessions.

Hight, the 2009 NHRA world champion and driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang fielded by John Force Racing, posted the overall quickest and second-quickest 1,000-foot runs. Hight was in the fourth pair of Funny Cars during the first session when he laid down a 4.048-second pass. Don Schumacher Racing’s Matt Hagan, the 2011 world champion, was second-quick at 4.060-seconds in the Rocky Boots/Mopar Dodge Charger R/T.

Paired with teammate Courtney Force in the second session, Hight ramped-up his ET to a 4.021-seconds at 318.24 mph. Crossing the finish line, Hight had the best seat in the house as Courtney tripped the timing beams with a career-best 4.018-second pass and a personal record 322.73 mph. Those two ETs were best of the second session.

Courtney Force, winner of the 2012 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as Rookie of the Year, was pleased to get her sophomore season off to a solid start in the Traxxas Ford tuned by Ron Douglas and Dan Hood.

“It felt like an amazing run,” said Force, who won one national event and finished fifth in points last season. “You can always tell when you’re going down there and Robert was right out my window. I could tell he was on a good run, too. I didn’t think it would be a 4.01 but I thought it would be a low 4.0. We had been running 4.03s and 4.05s all week in testing. It’s a great feeling. I’m proud of my team. We’re just having a lot of fun. We’re pushing the limits to see what our car can take.

“I was talking with my guys and you could tell there was a whole different vibe (Friday). We all just sparked-up because it didn’t feel like a testing day. We got excited because this felt like a race. Having the fans around really brought all our energy up. We know that it’s testing but everybody also wants to get those win lights and be the best out here. You want to show the fans what you’ve been doing over the offseason.”

Meanwhile, team-owner and 15-time Funny Car world champion John Force closed-out the session on a single run at 4.053-seconds and 308.35 mph, as the three JFR Mustangs posted the three quickest ETs of the day. Force is working with Mike Neff, a four-time race-winner who finished third in points in 2012, as his tuner this season.

Hagan, who failed to qualify among the top 10 drivers for last season’s six-race Countdown to the Championship, is looking for a turnaround with former DSR Top Fuel crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler. The pair previously worked on ex-DSR driver Spencer Massey’s Top Fuel team.

“I think we’ve had a very productive week at PBIR,” Hagan said. “I can’t ask for anything more than what we’re doing. Todd and Phil are doing a wonderful job, everyone is meshing really well together. I’m just excited. These guys, six laps under the belt with a Funny Car and they already put it in the 0’s.To me, that’s very, very exciting. We come out here on the first lap at the Winter Warm-Up and went 4.06. I can’t wait to crawl back in there and do it all again.”

DSR’s Jack Beckman, the reigning Funny Car world champion and winner of three races last year, was fifth-quickest during the second session at 4.085-seconds and 311.99 mph in his Valvoline NextGen/MTS Dodge Charger R/T. Teammate Ron Capps, who won five races last year but finished second to Beckman by two points for the championship, ranked seventh in the first session with numbers of 4.075-seconds and 316.52 mph in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T.

Del Worsham, the 2011 NHRA Top Fuel world champion, marked his return to the Funny Car ranks after a one-year hiatus as tuner for Alexis DeJoria with a first-session pass in 4.067-seconds at 311.34 mph.

In Top Fuel, Kalitta _ winless in 2012 while finishing sixth in points _ was quickest in both sessions driving a pair of cars fielded by drag racing icon Connie Kalitta. Doug topped the first session at 3.759-seconds and 328.30 mph in the Mac Tools dragster and piloted the Geico dragster to numbers of 3.787-seconds and 322.58 mph in the second session.

Tony Schumacher, a seven-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion, was second-quickest during both sessions in the U.S. Army dragster fielded by DSR. Schumacher clocked a 3.776-second pass alongside teammate and reigning Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown’s 3.860-second run. It marked the first time two canopied dragsters _ an innovation championed by “The Sarge” _ raced side-by-side.

Schumacher also led DSR during the second session, posting a 3.794-second pass at 325 mph. “Testing was fantastic,” said Schumacher, who finished second to Brown last year by seven points. “(Thursday) we ran a 3.75, 3.76, 3.74. You can’t really ask for more than that with all the new parts and pieces on our car. I look forward to getting the season started. It’s going to be a great season, going in with a teammate as the world champion and seven championships under the Army belt. I look forward to getting it going.”

Additionally, Top Fuel rookie Brittany Force made a strong showing in her Castrol Edge dragster fielded by JFR. Brittany made both of her side-by-side runs beside veteran Clay Millican. Force ran 3.860-seconds on her first 1,000-foot pass before posting career-best ETs and mph of 3.796-seconds at 324.26. That run was third-quickest of the second session and capped an exciting day.

“I was nervous about (running side-by-side) because I’ve been testing for over a year without anybody in that other lane,” Brittany said. “I didn’t know what to expect with the whole visual of having someone beside you plus you add in the staging protocol. The sound of another car going down the track was an unknown for me. It was all fine. Clay Millican is awesome. He came over and talked to me before and after. He’s a really great guy. I can’t wait to run him in the regular season.

“(That second run) did feel faster and it felt a little blurrier than what I was used to. I’ll get adjusted to it I’m sure. We’ll make a few more passes in the 70s and I’ll be in great shape. We’re excited about that. My guys told me we would be running in the 70s _ and we did it.”

Teams will kick off the 24-event 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season Feb. 14-17 at the 53rd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Funny Car – First Session

1. Robert Hight, 4.048, 315.56 mph

2. Matt Hagan, 4.060, 312.78 mph

3. Chad Head, 4.061, 313.15 mph

4. Johnny Gray, 4.066, 311.92 mph

5. Del Worsham, 4.067, 311.34 mph

6. Bob Tasca III 3, 4.073, 315,42 mph

7. Ron Capps, 4.075, 316.52 mph

8. Alexis DeJoria, 4.081, 308.21 mph

9. Cruz Pedregon, 4.106, 297.61 mph

10. Jack Beckman, 4.160, 307.16

11. Courtney Force, 7.505, 76.25 mph

12. John Force, 7.895, 87.41 mph

Top Fuel – First Session

1. Doug Kalitta, 3.759, 328.30 mph

2. Tony Schumacher, 3.776, 324.59 mph

3. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.825, 321.50 mph

4. Clay Millican, 3.828, 321.42 mph

5. Leah Pruett, 3.850, 307.16 mph

6. Antron Brown, 3.860, 302.28 mph

7. Brittany Force, 3.860, 290.88 mph

8. Dave Grubnic, 3.870, 271.08 mph

9. Sidnei Firgo, 3.883, 318.24 mph

10. Doug Kalitta, 6.860, 92.87 mph

Funny Car – Second Session

1. Courtney Force, 4.018, 322.73 mph

2. Robert Hight, 4.021, 318.24 mph

3. John Force, 4.053, 308.35 mph

4. Chad Head, 4.074, 313.51 mph

5. Jack Beckman, 4.085, 311.99 mph

6. Alexis DeJoria, 4.102, 301.60 mph

7. Bob Tasca III, 4.109, 312.71 mph

8. Del Worsham, 8.563, 91.68 mph

9. Matt Hagan, 9.602, 76.73 mph

10. Johnny Gray, 9.709, 78.34 mph

11. Ron Capps, 10.273, 76.02 mph

Top Fuel – Second Session

1. Doug Kalitta, 3.787, 322.58 mph

2. Tony Schumacher, 3.794, 325.30 mph

3. Brittany Force, 3.796, 324.26 mph

4. Clay Millican, 3.804, 322.73 mph

5. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.848, 320.51 mph

6. Dave Grubnic, 3.970, 225.79 mph

7. Leah Pruitt, 4.279, 188.07 mph

8. Doug Kalitta, 5.245. 134.27 mph

9. Antron Brown, 6.512, 98.45 mph

10. Sidnei Firgo, 10.385, 75.32 mph

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, January 20 2013
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Mark Mills says:

    It sound s as though this article places Tony Schumacher as the inventor/originator of the canopy. It has been used several times in the past by greats such as Big Daddy Don Garlits and Gary Ormsby. I’m fairly certain it was tried before those two fine racers utilized it as well.