Last year’s top rookie is off to a fast start in her second season as Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner Courtney Force led the performance parade in Funny Car during preseason testing in Florida. Force wheeled her Ron Douglas-tuned Traxxas Mustang to a pass of 4.018 seconds at 322 mph, the best performance among 12 teams present.
Doug Kalitta had two of the three best elapsed times of the 10 Top Fuel drivers on hand but did it in two different cars. Kalitta’s own Mac Tools dragster stormed to a 3.75 in the first session, then he ran a 3.78 pass as a fill-in driver behind the wheel of Morgan Lucas’ GEICO Top Fueler after Lucas had to leave testing early.
Force’s teammate, Robert Hight, made the quickest runs during the day’s first session, a 4.048, and the second quickest in the second session, a 4.021, along Force’s 4.01.
“It felt like an amazing run,” said Force. “You can always tell when you are 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 is a great feeling. I am proud of my Traxxas team led by Ron Douglas and Dan Hood. They gave me a fast race car tonight. We are just having a lot of fun. We are pushing the limits to see what our car can take. I think we have seen what our Traxxas Ford Mustang can do. That was my quickest e.t. and the fastest mile per hour run for me. I feel good going into a new season.
“I was talking with my guys, and you could tell there was a whole different vibe today. We all just sparked up because today 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 is testing, but everybody also wants to get those win lights and be the best out here. You want to show the fans what you have been doing over the off-season. My Traxxas team really stepped it up.”
Team owner John Force was third quickest with a 4.053, former world champ Matt Hagan logged a 4.060, and rookie Chad Head impressed with a 4.074 in his father’s Toyota entry. Johnny Gray (4.066), Del Worsham (4.067), Bob Tasca III (4.073), Ron Capps (4.075), Alexis DeJoria (4.081), and reigning NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car champ Jack Beckman (4.085) also ran in the 4.0-second zone.
Lucas and teammate Brandon Bernstein wrapped up a successful week of testing their Top Fuel dragsters, including runs of 3.76 and 3.79 in private test sessions earlier in the week. Bernstein’s MavTV/ProtectTheHarvest.com car had runs of 3.77 and 3.79.
“Coming away we know we can still go fast, and we’re still making good power,” assessed Lucas.
For the big picture, we know we’ve still got some things to work on. Hopefully, we’ll still be able to open the season the way we did last year.”
Tony Schumacher was the second fastest dragster during both sessions. Schumacher’s U.S. Army dragster clocked a 3.776-second pass alongside teammate and reigning Top Fuel champion Antron Brown’s 3.860-second run. It was the first time two canopied dragsters raced. Schumacher also led DSR in the second session, posting a 3.794 at 325 mph while Brown’s Matco Tools dragster was too aggressive and slowed.
“Testing was fantastic,” Schumacher said. “Yesterday 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.”
Rookie Brittany Force made a strong showing in front of the Florida fans. She made her first side-by-side runs both beside veteran Clay Millican. In the first session, her Castrol Edge Top Fuel dragster ran a 3.860, and in the second session, she set a career-best e.t. and mph, 3.796 at 324.26. That run was good enough to be the third quickest of the second session. For the rookie driver, it was an exciting day.
“I was nervous about [running side by side] because I have been testing for over a year without anybody in that other lane. I didn’t know what to expect with the whole visual of having someone beside you, plus you add in the staging protocol,” said Force, a contender for the 2013 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award. “The sound of another car going down the track was an unknown for me. It was all fine. I ran against Clay Millican, and he is awesome. He came over and talked to me before and after. He is a really great guy. I can’t wait to run him in the regular season.
“[That second run tonight] did feel faster, and it felt a little blurrier than what I was used to. I will get adjusted to it I am sure. We’ll make a few more passes in the 70s, and I’ll be in great shape. We are excited about that. My guys told me we would be running in the 70s, and we did it tonight.”
Testing continues Saturday. For more on Friday’s testing, see the story on NationalDRAGSTER.net.
Aggregate best performances: Funny Car
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. Matt Hagan, 4.060, 312.78 mph
5. Chad Head, 4.061, 313.15 mph
6. Johnny Gray, 4.066, 311.92 mph
7. Del Worsham, 4.067, 311.34 mph
8. Bob Tasca III, 4.073, 315.42 mph
9. Ron Capps, 4.075, 316.52 mph
10. Alexis DeJoria, 4.081, 308.21 mph
11. Jack Beckman, 4.085, 311.99 mph
12. Cruz Pedregon, 4.106, 297.61 mph
Aggregate best performances: Top Fuel
1. Doug Kalitta, (Mac Tools dragster), 3.759, 328.30 mph
2. Tony Schumacher, 3.776, 324.59 mph
3. Kalitta (GEICO dragster), 3.787, 322.58 mph
4. Brittany Force, 3.796, 324.26 mph
5. Clay Millican, 3.804, 322.73 mph
6. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.825, 321.50 mph
7. Clay Millican, 3.828, 321.42 mph
8. Leah Pruett, 3.850, 307.16 mph
9. Antron Brown, 3.860, 302.28 mph
10. David Grubnic, 3.870, 271.08 mph
11. Sidnei Firgo, 3.883, 318.24 mph