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Spring Training Over; NHRA Set To Kick Off The Season

| , RacinToday.com Monday, February 6 2017

Defending Top Fuel champion Antron Brown at Spring Training in Arizona.

Nitro Spring Training concluded Saturday at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., where NHRA Funny Car and Top Fuel teams tested their offseason work one week before the start of the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Leah Pritchett posted the unofficial quickest run in NHRA history in her Top Fuel dragster Saturday morning. Pritchett and her crew put down a 1,000-foot pass in 3.654-seconds at 331.85 mph during their first try of the day after running the two quickest passes Friday at 3.677-seconds and 3.685-seconds.

“I have to be totally honest, we didn’t come out here to be the quickest,” said Pritchett, who won her first Top Fuel event at Wild Horse Pass in 2016. “That wasn’t the goal. The goal was to get the power that we created in the offseason to the track. We exceeded our expectations (Friday) and we did the same (Saturday). For it to blast off at 0.65 on a warmer day _ man, I’m stoked for (my team); that’s a lot of hard work and they just put it on the track.”

Pritchett’s second-year team is led by crew chief Todd Okuhara and assistant Joe Barlam, who engineered her first pass over 330 mph.

With a track temp of 104 degrees on Saturday afternoon, Pritchett ran 3.697-seconds at 327.51 mph to give Don Schumacher Racing four of the top five times of the weekend. 

Steve Torrence, who holds the Top Fuel ET national record at 3.671-seconds, wheeled the second- quickest machine at 3.691-seconds Friday. Brittany Force, driver of the Monster Energy dragster for John Force Racing, had the third-quickest run at 3.695-seconds, narrowly out-running  Doug Kalitta, who finished second in the point standings to Antron Brown in 2016. Kalitta and his Mac Tools dragster posted a 3.697-second pass on Saturday.

Meanwhile, reigning world champion Brown, also of DSR, was fifth with his 3.701-second run from Thursday in the Matco Tools dragster.

Rookie Troy Coughlin Jr., who will be racing a full season for Kalitta Motorsports, closed-out testing with his best run of the weekend at 3.763-seconds and 317.42 mph in his SealMaster Top Fuel dragster.

Courtney Force and her Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS ran the weekend’s quickest time in the Funny Car class. Courtney’s 1,000-foot pass in 3.804-seconds at 333.33 mph from Friday unofficially is the quickest run in Funny Car history. She also was quickest Friday with passes at 3.841-seconds and 3.847-seconds.

“It was a pretty unbelievable run,” said Force, who again is working with crew chief Daniel Hood and co-crew chief Ronnie Thompson. “It’s all thanks to (my crew); I’m just the one piloting the car down to the other end. But it was really exciting hearing them come on the radio and be so excited about it. I feel like I had my hands full on multiple runs. But it’s really great being able to make so many great passes just in testing _ the 3.84s and then the 3.80 unofficially. It’s a great feeling. I’m proud of my guys; it’s all because of them.”

Reigning Funny Car world champion Ron Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T fielded by DSR was second- quickest with a 3.854-second pass on Friday. Capps will be competing this season with the No. 1 on the side of his car for the first time at his home track in Pomona, Calif., where he will return as defending winner of the Circle K NHRA Winternationals to open the 24-race schedule.

“Every time I go to the starting line I know that we sort of have a target on our back with the performance that our team has always put on the racetrack,” said Capps, who returns with crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant Eric Lane. “You spend the offseason always thinking out how you can get better from the previous season and our NAPA team showed their hard work is paying off.

“This year is no different. It was great to win a world championship and it’s another feather in the cap for Tobler and the crew. Hopefully we’ll start off the season in Pomona like we did last year with a win and go on to have a good season.”

John Force, Courtney’s father and a 16-time world champion, ran 3.856-seconds in his PEAK Chevy Camaro SS to take the third spot from teammate Robert Hight. The 2009 world champion, Hight ran 3.859-seconds Friday in his Auto Club Chevy Camaro SS.

J.R. Todd, who is making the transition from Top Fuel to Funny Car in the DHL Toyota Camry for team-owner Connie Kalitta, clocked a 3.909-second pass at 312.93 mph for his best run on Friday. Del Worsham, the 2015 Funny Car world champion for Kalitta Motorsports now racing for family-owned Worsham Racing, tested Friday at 4.060-seconds at 283.01 mph.

The 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing season-opener is scheduled for Thursday through Sunday with the Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Qualifying will be televised on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m. (EST) on Friday and live on FS1 Saturday at 1 p.m. (EST). The finals will be aired live Sunday on FOX Sports at 4 p.m. (EST).

INDIVIDUAL BEST TESTING TIMES

Top Fuel _ 1, Leah Pritchett, 3.654-seconds; 2, Steve Torrence, 3.691; 3, Brittany Force, 3.695; 4, Doug Kalitta, 3.697; 5, Antron Brown, 3.701; 6 Tony Schumacher, 3.705; 7, Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.763; 8, Clay Millican, 3.819; 9, Scott Palmer, 3.992; 10, Terry Totten, 4.214; 11, Greg Carillo Jr., 4.449.

Funny Car _ 1, Courtney Force, 3.804-seconds; 2, Ron Caps, 3.854; 3, John Force, 3.856; 4, Robert Hight, 3.859; 5, Jack Beckman, 3.874; 6, Matt Hagan, 3.874; 7, Tommy Johnson Jr., 3.892; 8 Alexis DeJoria, 3.904; 9, J.R. Todd, 3.909; 10, Tim Wilkerson, 4.060; 11, Del Worsham, 4.060; 12, Cruz Pedregon, 4.536; 13, Jeff Arend, 4.757; 14, Chad Green, 5.201.

| , RacinToday.com Monday, February 6 2017
One Comment

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  • RJ Drummer says:

    Good for Leah and crew! I have watched her crawl and scratch her way into this position over the years. She deserves everting she is able to get from her success.
    She’s pretty easy on the eyes too.
    RJ