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Brandon Welch putting pieces together ahead of Top Fuel debut

31 Jan 2020
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Feature
Brandon Welch

Brandon Welch didn't anticipate pedaling his Top Fuel dragster during NHRA testing. But the racer needed to punch through the lights quicker than 4.50-seconds to get a step closer to cross-grade his Funny Car license to Top Fuel. 

He got the job done Thursday night, pedaling his way to a 4.407-second pass and moving within one run of securing his Top Fuel license. Welch plans to make his Top Fuel debut at the Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona. The dragster, sponsored by Better Diesel, made its debut at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in November with Pat Dakin in the driver's seat. 

"Pedaling a dragster is even more violent than pedaling a Funny Car," said Welch. "The way this thing shakes is different. First, it's like getting punched right in the chest -- it knocks the wind out of you. Then the shaking afterward rattles the whole chassis, which is kind of surprising because when you're in a Funny Car you're right between those two big tires."

The team plans to run upwards of six races in 2020, primarily on the west coast where Welch is based. That could include a pair of stops in Pomona and Las Vegas in addition to runs in Sonoma and Seattle if things go well. Right now, Welch is focused on making a clean pass and saving up on parts and pieces for the season opener. 

"We switched from a five-disc clutch to a six-disc when we went from the Funny Car to the dragster," said Welch. "The stuff that worked fine on the Funny Car still works on the dragster, but it just wears through the parts quicker because we're running it so much harder at the beginning of the run. If we put this same tune-up in a Funny Car, it would blow the tires right off."

Complicating matters is the track temperature at The Strip. It climbed as high as 72 degrees on Thursday, cooler than it will be during most (if not all) qualifying sessions during the season. That gives Welch and company a small window to shoot for when looking for an ideal time to run on Friday. They made their first run when the track was much cooler on Thursday and will chase warmer conditions Friday.