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After earning his Nitro Funny Car license during testing at Firebird International Raceway last week, Bob Tasca III and the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Shelby Mustang team look forward to their first event of the season this weekend during the 48th Annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals in Pomona, Calif.
The season-opening event will mark the first Nitro Funny Car event for the 32-year-old rookie who has competed in select Top Alcohol races the past three seasons.
Bob Tasca III – Driver, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Shelby Mustang Nitro Funny Car:
YOU EARNED YOUR NITRO FUNNY CAR LICENSE LAST WEEK TESTING AT PHOENIX. “I can tell you that it was a pressure-packed week of testing. We lost the Las Vegas test session because the car or the race-car chassis just didn’t get done in time. So that kind of put us a little behind the eight ball. The track conditions were extremely difficult. We were dealing with 40-degree weather when we got to the race track and 68-degree weather come race time and then went back to 50-degree weather by the time the night session came, so when you add it all together, we were really under the gun. The track conditions were tough, we had a new team, a brand-new race car that truthfully, there’s only one other car like ours out on the race track, we have the updated chassis with the new framing system which no one has any experience with tuning as far as what the car likes. When you add all that up, it really put us under an awful lot of pressure come Thursday morning.
“We went into Thursday and we had not had a full run under our belt and I needed two runs [to get his license]. We get to the track Thursday morning and the car went out there and shook and as a new driver in a fuel car, it was really, in hindsight, beneficial for me to feel the car when it’s unhappy, and I pedaled it on that first run. We did that on the first run and went 310 mph at 5.1 seconds, so that was one of the two runs that I needed. We came back out for the afternoon run and it shook and I pedaled it twice and we lost the engine. The car went 301 and 5.6, but I needed it to go 5.5 or quicker, so we were .1 away. It was really projecting for all of the time and effort that we put in. We knew the night run, the late afternoon run was going to be a difficult one because the weather was getting colder and the track was getting colder. We pulled up and were literally the last car or one of the last cars down the track. It went out and rattled a very slight rattle and I pedaled it as quick as I ever pedaled a car in my life and it hooked up and went 4.9, 317 mph and I can tell you that I almost didn’t want to pull the parachute. I said, ‘Let’s just keep on going to Pomona,” because we were absolutely all kind of burned out and way on overload to get this thing done and out of the way.
“At the end of the day, we made great progress. The team did an excellent job of working together for really the first time to service the car. From a driver’s standpoint, it was really invaluable to me to feel the car when it’s not happy and what needs to be done as a driver to correct the situation and to get the car to go down the race track. We made some night runs, which was pretty neat. The first time I stepped on the throttle at night I thought I was on fire. I never realized how much of the flame the driver actually can see in the car. But that was a pretty neat experience. I really give a lot of credit to how much time I spent in that alcohol car because the characteristics of the car were very similar – how it steered, how it stopped. It just pulled a lot harder than I ever felt in the alcohol car. We ran 263 mph to the eighth [mile] and that’s typically what we make on a full run in the alcohol car. The acceleration was just incredible, how hard the car accelerates.”
ARE YOU FEELING MORE COMFORTABLE IN THE NITRO CAR? “Yes. There is no question that the car is violent. It’s much more violent than the alcohol car. It’s literally an explosion when you hit that throttle and it shakes harder and it shakes quicker – when it moves, it moves quicker. It’s just more. Again the time I spent in the alcohol car was invaluable to give me a baseline of how to steer it. Some of the things to correct tire shake in an alcohol car are shifting and pedaling it, where in a nitro car, the only option is to pedal it because you can’t shift it. So I really started to hone in and by the end of the test session, I was catching the tire shake quicker, I was pedaling it quicker. John Force and Robert Hight signed my license and John has really been a mentor for me. He came up to me and said, ‘Kid, if this thing went down the race track perfect, you’d kind of have a false expectation. This is what these cars do. They smoke and they shake, they’re a violent ride and as a driver, you need to be able to feel that, you need to be able to react to that as quick as you can to try and save the run.’ I think at the end of the day we were all happy with the progress we made with the fuel curve and the ignition curve and the clutch setup and we feel quite comfortable.”
THIS WEEKEND IS A BIG ONE FOR A TEAM THAT DIDN’T HAVE CARS OR EQUIPMENT JUST FOUR MONTHS AGO. “Exactly. When you look at where we’ve come since Thanksgiving. Literally, the first day of work was the Monday after Thanksgiving. So, to go from the end of November to December and January, basically two full months of actual work. We had some stuff on order prior to that, but two months of actual work is just a real tribute to my team and I just can’t acknowledge their efforts and how hard they work. This test session was seven days. It was three to four runs per day and when you do the math, that’s like running three races back-to-back-to-back. It was just an immense amount of work. We were obviously all under the gun to get the license. That would have been a horrible way to start the year off to not be licensed for Pomona. But we’re excited about it. We all feel pretty confident and heck, if the New York Giants can beat the New England Patriots, then don’t count us out at Pomona.”
WHAT IS THE THING THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST THIS WEEKEND? “The biggest thing I think for us is the satisfaction to know that we made it and now it’s time to race. A lot of people congratulated me and now my email back is that now we race. And that’s what we’re focused on. We’re focused on qualifying; we’re focused at one run at a time. People say, ‘Gee, what do you expect for Pomona?’ I expect that we perform and gauge ourselves on each run. Not to get ahead of ourselves to predict the qualifying position or the win, we want to be focused on racing each round, each day, each event. The rest will take care of itself because if you can qualify, if you can win rounds, if you can win races, you can win championships, but it starts with the first time the car goes down the race track. Now we’re ready to race and that’s what I’m looking forward to in Pomona, just to get the race going.”
WHAT ARE YOU AND YOUR TEAM HOPING TO LEARN THIS WEEKEND? “I think in our first race we’re going to learn a little bit more about the car. We’re going to learn on how close we think our tune-up is and I really think the first five races for us is what we really need to get a foundation for us. We have a very, very thin foundation at this point obviously with just one test session on a difficult track. But the first five races are critical for us to establish a solid baseline that we can build off of. Obviously we have high expectations for this program and for our team, but we’re not naïve. It’s a learning curve that we have to stay focused on and work very hard at and I feel very confident in how we can end the season.”
Mike Neff and his John Force Racing teammates are testing in Phoenix this week, getting ready for the 2008 NHRA POWERade Funny Car season, which opens in two weeks at Pomona. Neff is preparing for his first full season with JFR after competing in two races in 2007.
MIKE NEFF – John Force Racing Ford Mustang Funny Car – AFTER THE WINTER BREAK, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK IN A FUNNY CAR? “It feels good. We’re a little behind schedule than what we wanted to be. We got here and weren’t able to run on Friday or Saturday when the sun was out, and then it rained. We were ready for Sunday, but it rained all day long. Monday was our first day of running. My car shook the tires the first run and then smoked the tires the second run. We’re trying some different stuff in the clutch that didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. John Force’s car, he made a really good run. He ran 4.78 [seconds], 327 [mph], which I believe is the quickest run in Funny Car so far this weekend.”
ARE YOU TESTING WITH THE NEW FORD BOSS 500 ENGINE? “We’re all running the new chassis, and I’m running the new Ford motor. Just me.”
IT’S VERY EARLY, BUT WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW MOTOR? “It might be a little too early to tell the whole story, but we have made a couple runs at half track, and it ran really good. We’re really confident in it that it’s going to be better than what we’ve got right now.”
WHAT’S YOUR TESTING SCHEDULE FOR THE REST OF THIS WEEK? “We’re going to, hopefully, make three runs today (Tuesday), three runs tomorrow (Wednesday), and maybe a couple more on Thursday.”
YOU RAN TWO RACES FOR JOHN FORCE RACING LAST YEAR AND KNEW YOU WOULD HAVE A RIDE THIS YEAR. HAS IT BEEN A PARTICULARLY LONG WINTER FOR YOU, WAITING TO GET BACK IN THE CAR? “No. I am glad that we’re out at the track now, and able to just start concentrating on the race car. This winter has probably been the busiest winter that I’ve ever had, as far as racing goes. Back in Indy, with the new shop there, the Eric Medlen Project building, that Force built back there. We moved the machine shop into that, and we also, this winter, completely assembled a fabrication shop. We built jigs for cars. Eventually, we’ll build our own chassis. We built four jigs, and right now the biggest project we took on is we’re now mounting our own bodies, putting all the tin work and tubing, and basically doing all that in-house, which they previously were having done by an outside source. So, with all of that and the new chassis design and the carbon tub that we had to design and build for that, it’s just been extremely busy for us this winter. It hasn’t let up yet, and I don’t think it’s going to for a while. It’s going to take us a while to get caught up. It might be a few months where we’re actually up to speed where we would like to be.”
HOW IS THE TEAM’S MOOD RIGHT NOW? “Actually, it’s pretty good. We’re all really encouraged about the new chassis. Everybody that looks at it – even other competitors – when they look at it, everyone’s really impressed and really thinks that it looks good, and that it’s the right direction to go. So, we feel really good about the way that turned out. And, we’re really pleased with the expansion of the program, with being able to mount our own bodies and make those a lot nicer. And, we’re all excited about the new Ford motor. It looks really neat, it’s a neat project and we believe that it’s going to be better. So, we’re excited about making some runs with that and learn some more about that.”
The final stop of last week’s annual Charlotte media tour was at Roush Fenway Racing, where representatives from Ford Racing’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams participated in Q&A sessions. Dan Davis, Director of Ford Racing Technology, answered a variety of questions during the one-on-one portion of the program.
Left-Dan Davis Right-Jack Roush/Photo by Jeff Kluss-SIT
DAN DAVIS, Director, Ford Racing Technology — JACK TOOK A LOT OF THE BLAME ABOUT NOT TESTING THE COT EARLIER. HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? “We knew what they were doing. Jack’s word was ‘guillotine,’ but I was thinking that somebody was going to get whacked there. All of the indications were that those that are pushing the envelope are going to get brought in and it didn’t happen. That’s life. That’s the way it goes. Jack says it’s his fault, but it’s our collective fault. We all make judgments. I think the most important thing for me is that we got after it hard afterwards and he’s done that, so I’m fine. We had a similar discussion about the seven-post rig. There was a lot of debate about whether or not some of these modern tools needed to be brought into NASCAR or not.”
THEY’RE ALREADY HERE. “They were, but it was like, ‘Are they really effective?’ Do you really have to do it? I was in there going, ‘Now, now, now. Go and dig your hole. Let’s get this thing running.’ To Jack’s credit, when we decided a year-and-a-half ago to get it done, he took a one year process and condensed it into like five months. So am I satisfied with that kind of partner? You bet.”
TRADITIONALLY YOU HAVE BEEN ABLE TO LEARN THINGS FROM RACING THAT YOU TAKE BACK TO THE MANUFACTURER AND USE IT FOR STREET CARS. WITH AS TIGHT AS THE NEW CAR IS FROM A RULES STANDPOINT, IS THERE AS MUCH YOU CAN LEARN AND TAKE BACK? “Probably not. As far as product, no. Processes and that sort of thing is all there, but the actual product being raced it’s getting harder and harder because the things we’re racing are getting further and further away from the production roots. So that part of it is harder. We’ve got guys that are doing new engine castings and intake manifold castings and all that work we’re doing applies to the production program. A lot of stuff does transfer, but it’s not as much transfer as we would like. I guess if we had a voice in the rule-making of stock cars down the road, it would be that they tend to get more towards the production car. That’s one of the reasons we’re interested in some of the Grand Am Racing that we’re doing in the sports cars because we’re racing the car we build in Flat Rock (Mich.) – the Mustang. It’s that car. There are a lot better ties and our customers see that tie a lot better. These race fans and customers are very savvy people. I think maybe we don’t give them enough credit for what they know. They know a lot about what’s going on.”
ARE WE GOING TO SEE THAT IN NATIONWIDE? “I think what we’re going to see in Nationwide is a car that’s closer to what a race car ought to look like. From everything I’ve seen, it’s going to be a more pleasing looking car and more of a racy kind of car, so that’s a plus. And I think it’s gonna have a spoiler, so I think we’re getting back to something that’s more pleasing to us and more pleasing to the race fan, but it’s not any closer to a stock car, I don’t believe, than we’ve ever seen in the past. I know they’re trying to get some of the stock car cues involved and all that, and I’m all for that, that’s great. But, again, I don’t think you can dupe that fan out there by putting some creases on a hood that look like your production car and all of a sudden think you’re racing a production car. It just doesn’t work like that, but any move we can make is a good one.”
WHERE IS FORD ON THE NATIONWIDE SERIES AND THE POSSIBILITY OF RACING MUSTANG? “There was a thought that we might want to race a pony car. We have a lot of different interests. Right now, we’re evaluating whether or not that’s the right way to go. We’re starting to lean more towards possibly using the Fusion, but we’re not real sure. It looks like the Camaro is not coming in and if that’s the case, then here we’ve got a Mustang racing against a Camry or Malibu or something like that and that’s not real appealing either. We’re taking another look at it deciding what we want to do.”
HOW FAR ALONG IN THE PROCESS ARE YOU? “It’s pretty far. The Fusion is a lot easier. If we decide to go that route, we already have the Fusion in place so that’s pretty straightforward. The Mustang was quite far along and we knew what we wanted to do there, so we could really go either way at this point.”
HOW MUCH MORE COOPERATION WILL THERE BE BETWEEN TEAMS THIS YEAR COMPARED TO THE PAST? “Usually what would occur is you would have one team, let’s say the Robert Yates organization. They’re wanting to do something technically, so you put engineers and you put a lot of work involved in what they want to do. Well, they didn’t want to share that with the Roush people. Meanwhile, you’ve got the Roush group over here doing some things and they don’t want to share that with the Yates people. And then you’ve got the Wood Brothers over here doing some things and they don’t want to share that with any of the other groups. So we ended up doing things three times or we would end up doing them with a different spin here and there, or the data one group had would be different from the data of the other, so you’d end up doing everything three times primarily because no one team wanted to share what they had with another team and/or you’re worried about the fact that if the Yates group, just to pick an example, were to give something to the Roush people and the Roush person who got that information left that team and went to the Hendrick program. Then, all of a sudden, everything they learned just went to Hendrick. They’re all worried about that and paranoid about that. Okay, I get all that. Meanwhile, the manufacturer then gets to deal with three entities all differently until they’re all one and duplicate how your resources are allocated. It’s just not very appealing. This is the problem we had with the engine program. You had Penske running Fords. You had Yates running Fords and you had Roush running Fords. They all had their own way. They had their own bore. They had their own pistons. They all had a different way of doing it, but here we are trying to make castings that would fit these three different styles. It got to a point where one casting wouldn’t even do it. So now I’m casting blocks for Penske. I’m casting different blocks for Yates. It’s an expensive, ugly, duplicate thing. When we got them all together things got way better. We were actually able to spend a lot more time on just one entity and get it right. So I see the same thing happening here where we can do something once, get it right and then not be all worried about it or have the teams worried about it.”
IS THIS A RESPONSE TO WHAT DODGE AND TOYOTA HAVE DONE ALONG THE SAME LINES? “Not at all. I feel like we started the whole process with the engine alliance. That’s been going on for quite a while, so I feel like we sort of figured it out, but getting it implemented could be difficult.”
THE ECONOMY IS STRUGGLING RIGHT NOW. HOW DOES THAT IMPACT YOU AND WHAT KIND OF BUFFER DO YOU HAVE FROM THAT? “Nobody has a buffer. If you’re a company like Ford, which has been losing money the last few years, they turn over every rock to figure out, ‘Are we wasting any money anywhere?’ Racing is a big program. The marketing side of it is a big project with a lot of money, so we get scrutinized just like anybody gets scrutinized. We ask ourselves those hard questions every year, so when a corporation comes in and asks us questions, we already have a lot of data and answers. But it’s always hard. For me, I would like the questions to be hard whether the conditions are good or the conditions are bad. If we’re wasting money, then we should be called on the carpet. If we’re not delivering value, then we ought to quit doing what we’re doing.”
DOES WIN ON SUNDAY, SELL ON MONDAY STILL APPLY? “Not really. It applies in the general world, but the idea that you win a race on Sunday and that motivates somebody to go buy a car the next morning probably doesn’t work like that because a car is such a big expense nowadays. But certainly winning and having the right pedigree affects a person over time. When they’re ready to buy a car, they’re going to take that and apply it to what they decide to purchase. So it may not be that Sunday to that Monday morning, but certainly over time it does that and it happens that way. We see the NASCAR fan buying tons of our F-150s and lots of our big cars. They buy a lot of our stuff and we love them.”
DO YOU FEEL THE NEW CAR IS A GOOD THING AND PUTS SOME RESTRAINT ON THE ESCALATION OF COSTS? “Not necessarily. To me, the car of tomorrow just meant that we get to do everything all over again. We just got the old car done. We’ve got all these chassis done. To me, the car of tomorrow caused a tremendous amount of waste, which might have been avoided, but it’s happened and it’s done. We’re not gonna cry about it anymore. Let’s get on with it. The car of tomorrow, you’ve got all these current Cup cars from last year are all going to waste. The thought was they were all going to be ARCA cars, but there aren’t that many ARCA teams in the universe that run all that stuff. So we’re building all new cars at a pretty big expense and we have to do it very quickly. There are plusses and minuses on anything you do. At some point, you just know what the rules are and you just get it and get after it.”
DID YOU SAY ANYTHING TO NASCAR ABOUT THE OTHER TEAMS TESTING THE NEW CAR LAST YEAR? “It’s a catch-22. You know other people are doing some things. In some cases, you’re not exactly sure what they’re doing, so you don’t have perfect data. You suspect, you think, you talk to officials about it and it’s like, ‘Well, it’s not allowed and we’re looking into that.’ You get caught up in this whole scenario about ‘if you’re doing bad things, you’re gonna get penalized really badly. People that are abusing the rules, they’re gonna pay for it. We’re not so sure they are.’ You can get caught up in all that, but then over time you get enough data and you find out, ‘Okay, this is what’s really happening. We’ve got to get with it.’ Sometimes we’re ahead of the curve and sometimes we’re behind the curve. We talked about the engine thing, I think the engine consolidation we did was way ahead of the curve. I think in testing the car of tomorrow we were behind the curve. We misunderstood some things. We took some things at face value that maybe we shouldn’t have. The big key was that once we figured out we were behind, how quickly and how hard are we going to catch up. I think we’ve caught up. To me, if you look at the end of last season, you had a Hendrick team that is the benchmark and we were right there just behind them. And I really feel like between then and now we’re right there, so we’re ready to get after it. Unfortunately, I don’t think Daytona is going to tell us where we’re at, but at Vegas we’re going to figure out where we’re at. If we’re not really quite competitive and really there, I’ll be disappointed in ourselves.”
DO YOU THINK NASCAR SHOULD TRY TO LIMIT TESTING IN SOME WAY? “They’ve tried to limit testing. They didn’t give you tires to try to make it less costly. Then you had teams that decided they were going to spend their own money to have their own tire developed and then buy those tires to test. So here you have a situation where you’re trying to limit the amount of expense, which, in fact, what happened was you incurred more expense on some teams because they had to go around the mandates and do some things that normally you wouldn’t have to do. So I think it’s very hard. I’ve only been in racing 10 years. I’m not a long-time observer, but from what I have seen so far is that teams with a lot of money spend it all. They spend it on whatever they think is going to make their teams perform better. So the idea that a sanctioning body is going to have a team spend less money and that they can do that through rule-making is not going to work because if the teams have the money and they’ve got an engineering staff and they’ve got curiosity, they’re going to spend all that money. And the big teams are going to spend more money than the little teams. That’s just how it works. So if you have the money, you’re going to spend it. The fact that a sanctioning body says, ‘We don’t want you to do this. We don’t want you to do that.’ It doesn’t mean that they hand money back to the sponsors, it just means they spend their money on something else. In that case, they don’t save money. You can try to make the rules so that the best you can do is to limit the effectiveness of spending all that money. That’s about all you can really do. You can say, ‘Okay, you can go ahead and do all this stuff, but your performance is only going to come up a little bit.’ Therefore, the effectiveness of spending all that money is not so good and the reason for that then is that the little guy that doesn’t have the money, he’s almost as effective without spending it. I get that. It makes a lot of sense, but that’s really hard to do.”
WHEN YOU DO YOU THINK WE’LL SEE FORDS IMPROVEMENT KICK IN? “I think we’re going to be fine at Daytona, but it’s gotten to a point at Daytona that the bodies are so similar and the aerodynamics are so similar that it’s going to be about engines. Engines make a huge difference in the handling of the car and the ability of the driver to do his craft is going to be the whole deal. The car itself, there’s not much there. As soon as you get to Vegas you’re going to start to see what all the analysis and engineering and all the things that have been done start to show. But then you’re going to have to take a trend. You’re going to have to look at several races in a row. We did the same thing last year. I think it was at Dover, that was the first time that Ford really collaborated with Roush and put a lot of engineering at the car – the second Dover race. That’s the first time we really poured all of our stuff together into a car on the track and we did it for all the races from then on – the nine races after that. We were competitive in all nine of those and we were right there. We won three of them, so now we’re looking at saying, ‘Okay, we’ve improved since then over the winter,’ so we would expect to really hit it hard in Vegas. But, you know what, I’ll keep my word. When you think you know it, you don’t (laughing).
ARE YOU FOLLOWING THE TEAM CAP CLOSELY BECAUSE NASCAR NEEDS FORD TO HAVE A CERTAIN NUMBER OF TEAMS? “It’s critical. We feel like we’ve got to have eight or nine championship capable teams on the track every week to make it worthwhile for Ford. You can’t have one or two cars that you just pour everything into and think that you can win in this sport. There are too many variables going on. You’ve got to have an armada of cars, I think, to do what needs to be done. So that means we need eight or nine championship-level cars each weekend and we’ve got to make that work with Roush, Yates and the Woods. We’re talking to the Woods really hard about how to engage them in this activity, to gain some engineering stuff that’s going on and get their level up. This is hard. It’s hard to get this done overnight.”
SO ARE YOU LOOKING FOR SOME LEEWAY? “I wouldn’t say leeway. I think what’s important is that we all understand what we can and can’t do, and then we can push it up to the line and park it there and make sure that we’re within the guidelines. To me, it’s important to know what are we allowed to do and then as a manufacturer we’ll make darn sure that we’re within what we’re allowed, and if that means we’ve got to go help Yates Racing get sponsorship in order to alleviate some concerns about the Roush marketing organization and that’s what we need to do, then we’ll go do it. We want these teams to succeed and we want to do it within the framework of NASCAR and we want them to bless what we’re doing. I don’t want to be in the NASCAR trailer every weekend getting tortured over some misunderstanding or some infraction that we’ve had. That’s one reason we didn’t do all this testing. We didn’t want to get tortured with, ‘Hey, you didn’t listen.’ We have an integrity issue at Ford that says we are going to have high integrity and we’re going to win and compete and do it right. Maybe we have more integrity than others. I’m not saying that others don’t have integrity, but to us we are really wired from that standpoint. We’ll do what we’re allowed to do and we’ll do it with vigor, but we need eight or nine teams. We’ll push the envelope to get there, but in terms of going into NASCAR and saying, ‘You’re wrong and you need to change the rules for us,’ that’s not our style. Our style is to understand what the rules of the sport are and then get creative at meeting our objectives while still maintaining their rules. That’s what I view my job is – to push on it hard within their framework. Half the time that’s what racing is about – you meet their requirements with a unique solution that nobody thought of that gains you a competitive advantage. That’s racing. Whether that’s team ownership, sponsorship, general managers, whatever it is. There’s lots of racing going on. Some of it’s in the garage and some of it is somewhere else.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE MISCOMMUNICATION ABOUT THE TIRE? “I don’t know if it’s a miscommunication. You could not get Goodyear tires to test – period. So one could go talk to another manufacturer, spend a bunch of money and have a Goodyear look-alike made and go test with it. The intention of the directive was for you to not test and the directive was in order to make sure you don’t test, we’re not going to let you have any tires. Okay, I get it. This all makes sense. Now, did someone feel like there would be energy for someone to expend to go have a look-alike tire designed, manufactured, made and paid for to test? I’m not sure anybody thought that would occur. It did. Who’s at fault here? I don’t know if anybody is at fault, it’s just that we didn’t do it because we understood what we were being asked to do – don’t test. If someone said, ‘Don’t test our Goodyear tires.’ Then we might look at it different, but it was kind of like, don’t test. Now I’m not throwing anyone else under the bus because, again, the whole idea here is to be creative, push the envelope and do what you’re supposed to do. We just didn’t.”
YOU WERE JUST TRYING TO ADHERE TO THE RULES? “We were just standing back going, ‘I hear you. I hear what you’re asking for and we’re going to adhere.’”
IS THAT WHY JACK MIGHT BE SO MAD? “To Jack’s credit, Jack has pushed them up on occasion and got hurt, so I think he’s kind of learned that you know what, don’t push it. So be it. To me, it’s a non-issue. We fell behind. We only ran seven or eight races last year nowhere near where we should have. To me, if we were clueless, if we had no recovery plan, if we didn’t feel like we could catch up, then I’d feel really bad about it, but I don’t. At this point, it’s fine.”
John Force at Bristol
Photo by: Jeff Kluss/ SIT
Fourteen-time NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion John Force, driver of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang, scored his first victory of 2007 over the weekend, winning the O’Reilly Auto Parts Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway. Force improved to 13th in the standings with five races remaining before the series’ new Countdown to Eight format. Force now has won at least one event in each of the last 21 seasons.
JOHN FORCE – Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang – YOU DEDICATED YOUR VICTORY TO ERIC AND JOHN MEDLEN. “Yes, Eric and his father. There was a lot going on. A number of kids have won; Robert [Hight] had won and dedicated it to Eric, and Brandon Bernstein and J.R. Todd, some of these guys who have won in Top Fuel, because they were real close buddies of his, like we were – he was like my kid – and I really wanted that win for him this year. I wanted to tell him thank you, and even kind of ask him for forgiveness. There’s a lot stuff going on here, and I’ve been a different person lately, and I think our team might be back on track – might have a shot at this chase.”
John Force wins at Bristol
Photo by: Jeff Kluss/SIT
DOES THE WIN BRING SOME SENSE OF NORMALCY BACK TO WHAT YOU’RE DOING? “No, I’m going to be honest. Normalcy in our race team, yeah. It pulled our team tighter together. You know, it’s real easy to be great when you’re winning. When you’re on top of the game, to be a great boss, it’s easy. But when you’re losing, that’s when it shows to be a good boss. But I’ve been hit on the head this year with so much stuff, overload, from Ashley [Force, his daughter] coming into the game, and then the loss of Eric, and my race car struggling – but the loss of Eric was the major hit. It’s just hard to get you heart back; get back to where you belong. And I rode my guys real hard because my car struggled real bad, and that we will fix the problem. But I forgot to love ’em along the way. If you noticed right before first round, I said, ‘I apologize,’ to my whole team; they had it on TV. I said, ‘I’m sorry that I pushed you too hard. I want you to be perfect and we’re not perfect. And, most of all, I failed as a leader, and I want to get back on track, and I want to ask for your forgiveness,’ and I asked it of Eric Medlen, because he wouldn’t have liked me to have been the way I had been. I mean, I push hard. But there’s a difference in pushing hard and giving ’em love with it. And maybe I just felt that I’d been wronged. We addressed everything. And we picked the car apart – everything we could find. We know that we took Guido [Antonelli] out of the formula. He was our lead guy. [Austin] Coil and Bernie [Fedderly] and the crew chiefs are all in what we call ‘Houston.’ They’re all in the space-shuttle tower. But Guido was the guy who was on-hand. When he went to run Ashley’s car, we brought in the top people that we could hire, but after 12, 13 years, you just don’t pull a guy out of your machine, because it doesn’t operate the same. So, we thought that was a problem. So then we brought in John Medlen to overlook the whole operation. Glen Huszar came in, and jumped in right on top of the clutch, because he had moved to Eric’s team after doing our clutch last year. And we went from running 4.60s at Pomona, winning the championship, to can’t qualify – in my whole career, never missed all these years, I had the record. And we addressed it, we addressed it, we addressed it, we went through everything. We don’t give up. We’re like Ford – we work to build a better car. And in the process, we nailed it down. I kind of joked with Austin: It’s down to two things – it’s down to the chassis or the crew chief. And the crew chief says, ‘There ain’t nothing wrong with us. Is there anything wrong with you?’ And, we changed chassis the week before this race, and we tested a new car at Norwalk and it showed potential and it bounces out and it wins. That doesn’t mean we found the problem. We made some changes in the clutch program that we never changed before. So, maybe we’re onto something, but we did get a win. So, that was a big emotion for us, but mainly so I can say to my sponsors – and I was reading the sponsors every round that I won, because it’s been a long time.”
DESPITE HAVING WON 123 EVENTS IN YOUR CAREER, AFTER GOING THROUGH THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON WINLESS, DO YOU EVER START TO THINK THAT MAYBE THE LAST WIN WAS THE LAST WIN? “No, I don’t believe that. [Don] Prudhomme told me when I won my fifth championship, he said, ‘You know, one day it just comes to an end.’ And then when it came to 10, a lot of people said it would come to an end, and it got to 14. It comes to an end when you quit wanting to win or you run out of money or your team breaks up. I’ve held the team together, I am training new recruits, I have the best crew chiefs in the business, and I want to win.”
Ashley Force, first-year driver of the CASTROL GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car, had quite an achievement last week at Atlanta Dragway: She defeated her father, 14-time series champion John Force, in the first round. Then she defeated 2003 champion Tony Pedregon in the second round. The NHRA POWERade series visits Madison, Ill., this weekend.
What did your dad say to you after you beat him in the first round this past weekend? “He was excited and I think relieved just to get it done with. There’s been such a big commotion about it and we’d all looked forward to it, but the past few months with everything that’s happened, I think we look at things a little differently. I know he was nervous because I don’t think that he’s ever really not been up there behind my car when I’ve run. He’s always running around the car, checking and making sure everything is okay, checking to make sure I’m straight and this was the first time he was in the lane next to me and couldn’t watch over me. He was nervous about that, even more so than on the competition side of it. I think he was real happy for us and for our team that we’re kind of getting it together and now we’re starting to go rounds every race. He’s the one that taught us, but you know he doesn’t want to lose, of course, because he goes up against every competitor equally. It was a little bit easier to handle that because it was one of his own teams that was able to go on to the second round.”
As a racer, to defeat someONE of the caliber of John Force has got to be a huge confidence builder. “The whole weekend we were matched up against tough people. The second round we were up against Tony Pedregon, so we had a champion first round, a champion the second round and then I went up against Mike Ashley in the third round, who was the No. 1 qualifier. These were not easy rounds, but my team was not having any problems going through the whole routine. It was just a good day. Everything went perfect. Of course we wanted to win semis and win finals, but how it went was a real good way to start to make progress. We’ve kind of struggled the last few races, going out first round. Then we finally got past the first round and got into the semifinals, but now we’ve broken that second-round barrier. We’d never won a second round this year, so it was our first time in the semis.”
YOUR OTHER TEAMMATE, ROBERT HIGHT, WON FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT RACE TO MOVE TO WITHIN 45 POINTS OF THE TOP OF THE POINTS STANDINGS. ROBERT SEEMS TO ENJOY A LOT OF QUIET SUCCESS. HE’S ALWAYS IN THE MIX. “He is. That team, the first team, Jimmy Prock his crew chief, would always run awesome numbers, like crazy numbers, or they’d smoke the tires. It was always that extreme. It was obvious that their car they always ran on the edge. Other teams, like my team, we run a little more safe, we’re just trying to get down the track. It’s kind of either way you can go, it just depends on how your team chooses to tune the car. The last two years have been perfect practice for them, because now you’ll notice that they aren’t smoking the tires. They’re getting down the track every run and in different weather conditions. That just goes to show you how hard they’ve work these last few years, their whole team, the crew chief and driver together to get to that point. I’m so proud of him. He’s doing so good. He’s such a focused person. He has just as much stuff going on as everyone else. He has a wife at home, a little two-year-old daughter and all the media craziness, but when he gets into that car, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that can be that focused and be so consistent in his life and how he drives the car. He’s just a real great guy. I think these last few months, our team has had these ups and downs and with Eric [Medlen] and it’s been tough. Robert is the one that he’s been through the same things as us, but his way of dealing with it is to get to the track and going down the track in memory of Eric. I think that’s just more motivation thrown behind him that that team is going, ‘We’re not going to stop until we win every event that we can win.’ I think you’ll see that and just in how each of those guys on that team, the look on their faces, they’re motivated to win.”
this weekend is the first time this season that THE SERIES runS back-to-back. Does that change your routine at all or now that you’re running well, do you want to get back to the track as soon as you can? “These first few in a row, I think it’s easier. You kind of get into a mind frame at the races and then when you get home it takes a couple days to get back into a routine and then you get into that routine of being at home. So for me, it’s hard to me to go back and forth because it always takes a few days to get back into the groove of things. So when you’re going weekend to weekend you don’t have time get go home and you’re still very focused on racing even when you’re home. Even today, I’m running errands and getting stuff done but I’m thinking ahead to packing and what’s going on with the schedule for this weekend. I think it’s a good thing. Now, come June, when there are a number of races in a row, that gets a little tough. Not so much for the driver, but for the crew guys because they travel with the rig between races. So that gets a little tough, but I think the teams for the most part like having it because they don’t like so many weeks off. It’s just easier to keep in the mind frame of racing if it’s consistent every week.”
Contributed by Bobby Bennett, CompetitionPlus.com
Thousands of race fans jammed intoSouth Georgia Motorsports Park Saturday afternoon for the special “Chicago Style” Shootout portion of the Eastern Spring Test Nationals presented by Torco’s CompetitionPlus.com in
Valdosta, Ga. The fans were treated to an excellent of day of racing that concluded with NHRA stalwarts Allen Johnson and Chip Ellis joining other class winners in post-race celebration.
“I have so much fun out here testing with these fans,” said Johnson after he defeated teammate Richie Stevens in the final round. “The race fans get to see us in a relaxed atmosphere and I think that is very important. It is great that we are off to a good start in testing with these Mopar cars.”
Prior to the final round, Johnson and Stevens poked fun at one another via the PA system while sitting in the staging lanes.
Stevens fired the first shot by pointing out that Johnson was strapped in the car early. “He’s one of those older guys who has to get in the early; it takes him a lot longer to get into the car,” Stevens said jokingly.
Johnson responded with, “Yeah, we ought to do well. We have a weak opponent.”
The Mopar-sponsored veteran was the low qualifier with a 6.667 but needed only 10.744 seconds to gain the special “Golden Eagle” trophy when Stevens fouled away a 6.674 effort. NHRA POWERade Pro Stock rookie Roger Brogdon had top speed of the day with a 207.02 blast.
Ellis, of Plains, Ga., found favor with the hometown crowd as he retained his championship on a holeshot against Andrew Hines in the final pair.
Hines entered the final round as the rider to beat on the strength of a 6.983, 189.76 during the second session. That didn’t deter Ellis, who snagged .05 on the starting line and led Hines to the stripe with the low elapsed time of the day – a mark of 6.971 seconds.
Hines managed to earn at least a share of the bragging rights on the day, however, recording top speed of the event with a 191.29 mph posting in the final.
Pro Mod racer John Russo made the long trek from
Middleton, Mass., a worthwhile endeavor by recording his best package of the day to defeat Troy Critchley, who had earlier knocked on the five-second zone when he carded a 6.014 elapsed time during qualifying. Russo was the quicker of the two leaving the starting line and that made all the difference in Critchley’s decision to abort his run at half-track. His winning elapsed time of 6.055 seconds was just .003 quicker than his qualifying effort.
Critchley had the best overall effort of the day as evidenced by his record-setting pass of 6.014 seconds at 241.20 mph. It was the first 240 mph pass in North American Pro Mod history.
Scott Cannon, Jr., was right on Critchley’s heels, however, pacing his IHRA-legal Pontiac Firebird to a speed of 240.25 mph later in the day.
Cannon was just following in the footsteps of his dad as Scotty Cannon made a full pull behind the wheel of Evan Knoll’s Top Fuel dragster in just his second run ever. The former six-time Pro Modified champion and nitro Funny Car pilot brought the crowd to their feet with a 4.752 elapsed time and 309 mile per hour effort.
“The hardest thing is when we warm the car, I’m [used to seeing] the motor in front of me. I could see everything going on. It’s like you can’t see anything with this thing. Everything’s behind you. That’s why you’ve got good crew guys, so they can handle all that stuff.”
When it comes to crew, few could top the coalition that Top Alcohol Dragster champion Dave Heitzman brought to Valdosta. The Evan Knoll-owned, A/Fuel Dragster featured a combination of Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald, Steve Boggs and Morgan Lucas as crew chiefs.
Heitzman entered the final as the second quickest behind Darryl Hitchman (5.467) but ended up running alternate Randy Meyer in the big showdown. Heitzman rode out a wheelstand and pedaled it once en route to a winning 5.510 at 256.60. Meyer made a race of it but fell short with a 5.777, 213.70.
Mick Snyder topped Terry Munroe to win the Top Alcohol Funny Car portion of the event. Snyder dominated the day from start to finish and in-between with a winning 5.848, 250.37 to eclipse Munroe’s respectable 5.905, 236.51.
The mountain motor Pro Stock division was a hard-fought affair that was won by first-time titlist Cary Goforth. Goforth used a 6.403, 220.66 package to pull away from Mike Corvo, Jr., who drifted out of the groove and lifted. Goforth was the top qualifier with a 6.356 elapsed time and a top speed of 220.66
by Rob Geiger “Hot Rod” Fuller beat Melanie Troxel in a repeat of last year’s Top Fuel final and ran his winning streak at Firebird Int’l Raceway to 15 straight rounds. Tony Pedregon and Kurt Johnson also scored big wins at the 23rd annual Checker Schuck’s Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol, the second of 23 races in the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Former Funny Car world champion Pedregon set a national elapsed time record en route to his 33rd victory to highlight a record-setting weekend. Pedregon’s opening-round pass of 4.701 backed up his 4.659 qualifying run, making it an official NHRA record, which is worth 20 bonus points in the POWERade standings. He then took out Robert Hight in the final to add the race trophy to his collection. Johnson took out reigning Pro Stock world champ Jason Line on a holeshot.
Including his seven-round Super Gas win here in 2004, last year’s Top Fuel triumph, and this year’s nearly identical Top Fuel win over Troxel, Fuller has now won 15 consecutive rounds at this facility. This victory will likely be the one he remembers the most as his 4.490-second, 327.19-mph march to the finish line solidified his place at the top of the standings, the first time he’s reached that position in his brief Professional career. Troxel was game in her Vietnam Veterans/POW-MIA rail, running a 4.536 at 325.61 mph, but she ultimately fell to 2-10 in final-round appearances.
“I got to the final and we’re in the same lane as last year against Melanie again, and I was thinking how much I love
Arizona,” Fuller said. “Then I thought about the streak, and you know streaks are gonna end at some point. But in the end, it all worked out for us. I feel really blessed and lucky, especially when they told me we were in the points lead. I’ve never had that before.
“A lot of people don’t know, but the Valvoline deal was just for the first two races, so we’re going into
Gainesville in the points lead with no primary sponsor. We knew this in the off-season, and for a while I didn’t even know if I’d be racing at all to be honest. But David [Powers, team owner] said he’s committed to running the whole year.
“I felt like we were one of the best cars in the second half of the season last year, but my crew chief [Lee Beard] and my guys were shifted over to the other car, and I started over with Rob Flynn and a new group of crew guys, but they all stepped up big time. If they sold stock in crew chiefs, I’d buy Rob Flynn stock right now. He makes that Canadian horsepower.”
After qualifying No. 2, Fuller had a reliably quick mount on race day as his Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster reeled off a 4.46, a 4.47, a 4.52, and a 4.49 in the final. Troxel’s best pass of the day was a fantastic pedaling job in the quarterfinals that gave her a 6.71 to 6.81 win over Brandon Bernstein.
After going winless since last June when he won
in Madison, 2003 POWERade world champ Pedregon came to life this weekend, running a world record number and taking the victory in his Q Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo.The final round ended up looking easy as Hight’s Auto Club Ford Mustang got out of shape very early and forced him to give up. Pedregon was long gone by then, zooming to a 4.803 at 326.32 mph to light the bulbs.
“This weekend was just a little reminder that when conditions are good and with the way they prepare the tracks these days that just about any place can hold a national record,” said Pedregon, who became the first Funny Car driver to set a national record at FIR.
“We did a lot over the winter to step up our power. We saw so many 4.60s last year that we knew we needed to do something, and Dickie [Venables, crew chief] and the guys worked so hard to get us to this point. Now we’re right there within a hundredth or two of the quickest car in the class.
“Anytime you can qualify well, set a national record, and win the race with the two quickest cars in the class going at it in the final, I’d say it’s a great weekend. The fans sure got their money’s worth.”
Pedregon’s memorable weekend helped him move up to second place, just six points behind Hight, who took over the top spot from Pomona winner Gary Scelzi with his second straight runner-up finish.
Racing in his 13th year as a Professional, Brut Revolution racer Ron Capps lost on a red-light start for the first time in his semifinal loss to Hight. Capps has competed in 496 elimination races. “This one’s going to leave a mark,” he said.
Johnson can credit his exceptional starting-line prowess for this win, the 36th of his illustrious Pro Stock career. After defeating Jeg Coughlin and Richie Stevens, who both had problems early, Johnson beat semifinal foe Erica Enders and reigning world champ Line on big holeshots.The final-round reaction time was the one that mattered most; Johnson’s .016-second light against Line’s .051 set his ACDelco Chevrolet Cobalt off to a 6.694-second win at 206.67 mph. Line’s Summit Racing Pontiac GTO was quicker with a 6.676 at 207.85 mph, but he came up one-hundredth of a second short.
“It’s a relief,” Johnson said. “If nothing happens for the rest of the year, I can say I won
Phoenix and remember I enjoyed a cold beer afterwards. Sometimes you work just as hard as always, but you don’t get the wins. It’s a tough class.
“We were saluting Roy Johnson today. He had a heart attack yesterday, and his son Allen said he flat-lined a couple of times. Racing just doesn’t matter as much when stuff like that happens. I mean, that’s Allen’s dad. Plus he’s a Johnson, so I’m sure we’re related somehow. I’m so glad he’s doing better. This one’s for him.”
Johnson’s win catapulted him to third in the POWERade points. Line moved around teammate Greg Anderson to take the top position by one point.
Contributed by Ted Yerzyk
Like most competitive sports, drag racing has questions and unknowns that cannot be explained. How has Tony Schumacher managed to win five of the last seven national events in Indy? How did Larry Dixon win five straight Father’s Day races at two vastly different facilities? No one, including the racers themselves, really knows why.Without trying to explain the phenomenon, Top Fuel upstart Rod Fuller is hoping to continue building on his current streak at Firebird International Raceway in the
Phoenix suburb of
Chandler, Ariz. The 16-time NHRA national event winner — who has won three times as a pro and 13 times in the sportsman ranks — is looking for a third straight win in the Valley of the Sun at next weekend’s 23rd annual Checker Schuck’s Kragen NHRA Nationals.
Fuller earned his second career Top Fuel “Wally” last February when he played headline spoiler by knocking off Melanie Troxel in the final round just moments after her husband Tommy Johnson Jr. bested John Force in the Funny Car final.
That victory made it two-in-a-row for Fuller, who drove his Super Gas car through seven round wins of competition for the class trophy at the 2004 race. The 9.90 category wasn’t contested in 2005 and Fuller’s David Powers-owned team skipped
Phoenix outright during a limited, 15-race 2005 campaign.
“I want to pick up where we left off and make it 15 straight rounds at
Phoenix,” Fuller said. “I’m really confident. There’s not a race I don’t think we can’t win. It’s not cockiness; it’s confidence in our team’s ability. We ran a career-best E.T. and qualified second in the quickest field in history at
Pomona, so I like our chances at
Phoenix. Rob (Flynn, crew chief) is doing a great job for us and I have a good track history at Firebird.”
Entering the 2006 NHRA season, Fuller was an afterthought in the 4.5-second category. However, the single-car team quickly proved they were not only contenders, but one of the elite team’s in the Top Fuel division by winning the second race of the year. The budding Top Fuel star didn’t stop there, also ruining another front-page story after eclipsing Larry Dixon in the final round at Englishtown as the two-time champ was looking for an amazing sixth straight Father’s Day title. The Valvoline-backed team advanced to four more final rounds in ’06, including the Top Fuel Shootout at
“We wanted to let everyone know that we were championship contenders,” Fuller said. “A lot of people thought, yeah right. And in the second race out, we won the race and were second in the points. I think it opened some eyes. It was exciting to start my first full season in Top Fuel with a win early on.“I like playing spoiler. I was sitting in the car and I could hear them over the PA system talking about the husband-and-wife win. I went there to win the race and I enjoy the underdog role. It was a big win for me.”
Fuller has left those demons in the desert dust and proved his worthiness as one of the premier drivers in the class. Now in his second full season as a Top Fuel racer, the veteran of NHRA’s sportsmen ranks — Fuller also has won races in Stock, Super Comp and Super Gas — hasn’t forgot his roots. During the final 2007 test season at
Las Vegas, Fuller jumped in Justine Jeffrey’s immaculate new Super Comp rail for a few shakedown runs. Just a week later, she raced that same Super Comp dragster to a runner-up finish at the Winternationals.
“Last year, I was the defending Super Gas champion and my old Super Gas car was in the program, so fans were bringing the program over for me to sign,” Fuller said. “That was really neat. Us sportsmen guys dig that stuff. I’m still close with a lot of the sportsmen racers. I like to remember my roots.”
Entering next weekend’s CSK Nationals in third position following a semifinal effort at the ’07 season opener, Fuller’s group looks like one of the team’s to beat at Firebird. The
Las Vegas resident clocked three 4.4-second laps in qualifying at
Pomona, including a personal-best 4.481-second blast to qualify second in the quickest Top Fuel field in history.
If the former soccer All American can rack up another four win lights at Firebird it may cause the drag racing world to stop and ponder Fuller’s exceptional
By Rob Geiger: Brandon Bernstein opened the 2007 POWERade Drag Racing Series season with an impressive run down Auto Club Raceway at
Pomona, tripping the timers in his Budweiser Top Fuel dragster with a 4.494-second pass at 331.61 mph. Two other racers with title aspirations — Funny Car’s Robert Hight and Pro Stock’s Greg Anderson — also took early leads in their respective categories as the 47th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals began Thursday under hazy skies.
Rookie Funny Car pilot Ashley Force also made news in her debut, running a steady 4.810 at 281.19 mph to qualify sixth overall, well ahead of her 14-time world champ father, John Force. Whit Bazemore, who crossed over from Funny Car to Top Fuel this year, posted a 4.533 to grab seventh place, and returning legend Kenny Bernstein will have to wait another day to make the Funny Car field after shutting off very early.
Bernstein led a trio of Top Fuel drivers in the 4.4-second range. Aside from the Bud driver’s smooth pass, championship runner-up Doug Kalitta went 4.495 at 323.50 mph in his Mac Tools rail and “Hot Rod” Fuller 4.497 at 329.34 mph in the Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster. “It shook a little about 60 feet out, but it cleared up right away and my vision cleared up, and then it just took off,” Bernstein said. “We were going 277 mph at half-track, so it was hauling. It’s great to be No. 1, but it’s obviously very early. We had a lot of momentum at the end of last year, and we’re hoping to keep that alive heading into this season.
“I’ve been doing my best to keep Dad positive, keep his spirits up. It had a tough run in testing, and that time out, the car just backfired and died. They’ll be fine. With that Monster team being based out here, I saw a lot of them all off-season, and I can tell you they’re a great group.”
Four-time NHRA world champion Tony Schumacher, winner of the last three POWERade world titles, just missed the 4.4-second range with a 4.502 at 324.20 mph, placing his U.S. Army dragster fourth.
All eyes may have been on Ashley Force, but her brother-in-law and John Force Racing teammate, Hight, earned the spotlight in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. The quietest of the four Team Force racers, Hight let his car do the talking with a class-leading 4.693 at 326.79 mph. “It’s been a long winter with a lot of changes made to our car,” Hight said. “We tested a few weeks ago and really didn’t find what we wanted, so Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] just glued himself in front of the computer and figured out what to do. We have a new clutch and a new fuel system in there, and whatever he did obviously worked out perfectly. It’s a credit to his tuning ability that we’re No. 1.
“It’s very exciting to see Ashley out here running with us. I’m really impressed. There’s all this pressure on her coming into this race and with her dad being a little nuts, yet somehow she’s able to block it all out when she’s in that car, and she went straight down the track. John wants us to take over for him, and it’s cool that he’s watching us all grow.”
Ashley Force ended up sixth on the grid with a 4.810 at 281.19 mph in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, eight spots better than Dad. Heavyweights Gary Scelzi (4.728), Ron Capps (4.741), and Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.779) rounded out the top four behind Hight.
Returning legend Kenny Bernstein is outside the field after aborting his first attempt.
It surprised no one to see
Anderson leading Pro Stock, except perhaps Anderson himself, who loves to downplay the performance of his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. He debuted his own DRCE3 engine at this event after publicly questioning the engine throughout the off-season and posted a 6.647 at 208.33 mph. “We look okay,”
Anderson said. “We honestly didn’t finish these motors and make the decision to run them here until a week ago. I think we have a workable product with lots of room for improvement, which is good because with the way the points deal is now, you need to peak at the end of the year.
“We’re in the pack at least. The DRCE2 was something we used for 10 to 12 years, and there was still room for improvement, but the way we run these things now at such high rpm, I think the DRCE3 will be better. We dynoed the old and the new motors, and they were pretty similar. We just made the call to use the DRCE3.”
The POWERade world champion from 2003 to 2005,
Anderson is a five-time winner at this racetrack, including at both of last year’s races.
Dave Connolly was a hundredth of a second back in the No. 2 slot with a 6.656 at 207.94 in the Torco Race Fuels Cobalt.
Rookie Rodger Brogdon, who moved up from Comp, was a big surprise in fifth place after a 6.672 at just 197.13 mph.
“I must have had 30 people tell me to make sure I got my chutes out on time because the track is so short,” Brogdon said. “I was so nervous about it I think I threw them at 900 feet, so I’m really surprised we ran what we did. It was a cool ride either way.”
by Kevin McKenna
Two-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin and four-time Super Stock champ Greg Stanfield set the pace during Friday’s Pro Stock test session at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Coughlin made the quickest run of the day with a 6.690 in his Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevy Cobalt and Stanfield was close behind with a 6.691 in his Bart Price-owned PiranaZ Chevy. Coughlin and Stanfield were among the more than 20 Pro Stock drivers who were making test runs in preparation for Saturday’s Pontiac Pro Stock Showdown.
“Overall, I’d have to say I’m pretty pleased with the way our car ran today,” said Coughlin, whose run is quicker than Jason Line’s track record set at the 2006 ACDelco Nationals last October. “We’ve made progress with our engine program this winter and I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable in the car.”
Coughlin’s Cagnazzi Racing teammate, Dave Connolly put his bracket racing skills to good use by making more than a half-dozen runs over the course of the day including a best of 6.711 with a top speed of 206.16 mph.
“We’re going to
Pomona in less than a week so we’re just trying to learn as much as we can this weekend,” said Connolly. “So far, so good. We’ll see what happens tomorrow when we actually get into qualifying and eliminations. I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on it, though.”
Kurt Johnson, V. Gaines, Mike Edwards, and Jim Yates, Greg Anderson, and Tom Martino also posted runs that were solidly in the 6.7s on Friday.
Reigning NHRA POWERade champion Jason Line strapped himself into his Summit Racing Pontiac for the first time since
Pomona and promptly delivered a solid 6.759 at over 204 mph. Teammate Anderson shook and shut off on his first run before returning with a 6.784 late in the day.
In addition to the Pro Stock contingent, there were more than a dozen other pro teams testing. Championship runner-up Doug Kalitta made the quickest run of the day when he drove the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster to a 4.497, 328.22 blast late in the afternoon. Earlier, Cory McClenathan posted a 4.509 in the Carrier Boyz Fram entry, posting the fastest speed of the day at 330.88 mph.
West Coast Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors Chris Rivas and Scott Lewis also made runs on Friday. Rivas, with the help of new crew chief Rick Maney, ran a 7.113, 184.88 while Lewis posted a best of 7.23 on his Suzuki.
Reigning Top Alcohol Funny Car champion Frank Manzo made his first run of the 2007 season and posted a 5.56, 259.66 in his Lucas Oil entry.
Pro Stock competitors will receive two qualifying runs tomorrow morning before heading into eliminations at 1 p.m.