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NHRA’s Spring Training Comes To A Rapid Conclusion

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, February 7 2016
Tommy Johnson Jr. laid down one heck of a quick pass on Saturday.

Tommy Johnson Jr. laid down one heck of a quick pass on Saturday.

Tommy Johnson Jr. and Brittany Force posted the quickest runs in their respective categories Saturday during the final day of NHRA Nitro Spring Training at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.

NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car teams utilized the four-day pre-season test session to prepare for the season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals, next weekend at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California.

Johnson drove his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger to the unofficial quickest run ever in Funny Car, a jaw-dropping 3.874 second run at 318.47 mph. Matt Hagan holds the quickest run in history, a 3.879 second run set at Brainerd last season.

“We ran really well all week and John [Collins, crew chief] kept saying we weren’t really leaning on it, we were just testing parts to learn some things,” said Johnson, who had a strong season last year with two wins in eight final rounds, three top qualifying efforts and a third place points finish. “This afternoon he said we’re going to make one more run and we’re going to lean on it a little bit. It was a really good run early and it didn’t run as well at the top end as we were expecting, but a 3.12 to the eighth-mile is pretty awesome.”

Johnson credited the strong finish to a great test session gives his team a lot of confidence heading to the season-opener in Pomona in the highly-competitive Funny Car category.

“We had our entire team stay intact after last year and we have sort of picked up where we left off last year,” Johnson said. “The crew worked really hard during the offseason and I am just happy for the guys to make a run like that to close out testing. It’s a good reward for them for all their hard work.”

Hight, the 2009 Funny Car world champion, sped to his quickest run during the test with a 3.885 at 329.34 in his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro. He narrowly clipped teammate Courtney Force for the second-quickest run of the day, as she posted a 3.890 at 323.89 at the controls of her 10,000 horsepower Traxxas Camaro. In fact, John Force Racing cars claimed seven of the 10 quickest runs of the day as 16-time world champ John Force led the parade with runs of 3.914, 3.927 and 3.930 in his baby blue Peak Camaro. Courtney also ran a 3.915 at 323.74 and Hight added a 3.931 at 323.43.

The John Force Racing Funny Cars started slowly but finished the pre-season test session with strong runs.

“We had a ton of things to come in here to test and it took us seven runs to get the application right to go down the track,” Hight said. “We didn’t get to test everything that we wanted to but once it went it was fast. We figured out some of the good things that we wanted to test but not everything.

“I also believe with how we finished the end of the year at Pomona what we learned here is going to make us so much better when we get back to Pomona. I am so excited to get to the Winternationals. We made career best runs here and we are in the ballgame.”

Other notable runs in Funny Car from the day included a 3.919 at 320.66 from Ron Capps in the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger and a 3.962 at 326.79 from two-time world champ Matt Hagan in the Mopar Dodge. Past Phoenix winner Alexis DeJoria was the quickest of the Kalitta Funny cars with a 3.972 at 320.51 in her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry, followed by defending Funny Car world champ Del Worsham with a 3.983 at 320.81 in his DHL Camry.

Jack Beckman, who had the quickest car on each of the first three days of the test session, spent Saturday making several runs to break in a brand new chassis for the Infinite Hero Charger.

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force continued to impress in the Monster Energy dragster, racing to Saturday’s quickest run with a 3.721 at 319.07. She had three of the 10 quickest runs of the day, also clocking a 3.747 at 325.53 and a 3.758 at 317.64.

“There have differently been some big changes for the entire Monster Energy team,” said Force, who is looking to become the first Force family member to win an NHRA race in a Top Fuel dragster and heads to Pomona riding a wave of momentum from the team’s effort this week.

“We teamed up with [consultant] Alan Johnson and [crew chief] Brian Husen,” she continued. “I’m excited to be out here. We all needed this testing, especially me; I’ve been out of the seat a few months. It feels good to get back in the car. Things are a little different, a whole new system. I’m learning that.  We had some great runs. We’re ready to get to Pomona.”

Clay Millican, who is also looking to earn his first NHRA victory in 2016, posted an early number that held as the quickest for much of Saturday, a 3.739 at 288.87, in his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster. Millican was excited about that run as his incremental numbers down track were very similar to Tony Schumacher’s testing-best of 3.683 from Friday, until a blower belt broke on the car just prior to the finish line.

“We called [owner] Doug Stringer, and he gave us the OK to make a ‘hero run,’” Millican said. “It was going the quickest that I’ve ever been until it broke a blower belt that had too many runs on it. It was an unbelievably great run. The best part is that we didn’t hurt a part all week.”

Doug Kalitta was third-quickest of the day in his Mac Tools dragster with a 3.745 at 325.53. Aussie Richie Crampton posted a 3.748 at 319.22 in the Lucas Oil dragster and defending world champ Antron Brown led the DSR dragster charge with a 3.768 at 297.88 in his Matco Tools dragster.

Circle K NHRA Winternationals qualifying gets underway Friday, Feb. 12 at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona with sessions at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., followed by the final two qualifying sessions on Saturday at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday’s finals start at 11 a.m.Tickets are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or online at www.nhra.com/tickets.

Below are the quickest performances in both Top Fuel and Funny Car from Saturday at NHRA Nitro Spring Training:

TOP FUEL

3.721, 319.07 – Brittany Force

3.739, 288.87 – Clay Millican

3.745, 325.53 – Doug Kalitta

3.747, 322.81 – Brittany Force

3.748, 319.22 – Richie Crampton

3.758, 317.64 – Brittany Force

3.768, 297.88 – Antron Brown

3.770, 316.08 – Shawn Langdon

3.791, 320.13 – Antron Brown

3.802, 325.69 – J.R. Todd

3.839, 272.72 – Leah Pritchett

3.882, 251.67 – J.R. Todd

3.916, 256.75 – Terry McMillen

3.929, 255.00 – Troy Buff

3.935, 306.05 – Terry McMillen

4.123, 242.19 – Troy Buff

FUNNY CAR

3.874, 318.47 – Tommy Johnson Jr.

3.885, 329.34 – Robert Hight

3.890, 323.89 – Courtney Force

3.914, 327.35 – John Force

3.915, 323.74 – Courtney Force

3.919, 320.66 – Ron Capps

3.927, 323.66 – John Force

3.930, 328.14 – John Force

3.931, 323.43 – Robert Hight

3.962, 326.79 – Matt Hagan

3.972, 320.51 – Alexis DeJoria

3.982, 289.57 – Jack Beckman

3.983, 320.81 – Del Worsham

3.987, 319.29 – Ron Capps

3.993, 322.58 – Alexis DeJoria

3.999, 320.97 – Del Worsham

4.008, 273.94 – Cruz Pedregon

4.015, 316.01 – Brian Hough

4.070, 273.39 – Del Worsham

4.153, 252.24 – Jim Campbell

4.211, 225.60 – Matt Hagan

 

Below are the top 10 quickest runs overall in each category from the four-day test session:

TOP FUEL

  1.   3.683, 325.37 – Tony Schumacher
  2.   3.714, 330.15 – Dave Connolly
  3.   3.716, 327.35 – Doug Kalitta
  4.   3.718, 320.58 – Tony Schumacher
  5.   3.721, 319.07 – Brittany Force
  6.   3.721, 318.54 – Brittany Force
  7.   3.727, 322.88 – Doug Kalitta
  8.   3.729, 326.08 – Steve Torrence
  9.   3.731, 326.48 – Steve Torrence
  10.  3.733, 315.49 – Shawn Langdon

FUNNY CAR

  1.   3.874, 318.47 – Tommy Johnson Jr.
  2.   3.880, 325.77 – Jack Beckman
  3.   3.885, 329.34 – Robert Hight
  4.   3.890, 323.89 – Courtney Force
  5.   3.894, 327.03 – Jack Beckman
  6.   3.895, 325.06 – Jack Beckman
  7.   3.904, 318.54 – Courtney Force
  8.   3.912, 324.20 – John Force
  9.   3.913, 326.16 – Robert Hight
  10.  3.914, 327.35 – John Force
| , RacinToday.com Sunday, February 7 2016
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