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Bits from the Pits

Jan. 16, 2013

Nitro Teams Testing in South Florida

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Top Fuel and Funny Car teams are getting ready for the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series by testing at the PRO Winter Warm Up in South Florida on Jan. 18-19. This post will be updated throughout to provide news from the event.

Many teams had been testing there at a private session Jan. 14-17, and the Top Fuel teams produced a barrage of 3.7-second runs. Notable runs in Top Fuel include Shawn Langdon’s 3.732 best on Wednesday, Tony Schumacher’s 3.740 best on Thursday, Doug Kalitta’s 3.756 best on Thursday and blistering 330.27-mph best on Wednesday, and mid-3.7-second runs by teammates Morgan Lucas and Brandon Bernstein. Courtney Force made the quickest Funny Car run during the private test at 4.036 seconds on Thursday, and Matt Hagan equaled her second-best effort of 4.037 seconds, both recorded on Wednesday.

Some at the private test session, such as the Al-Anabi Racing dragsters, which also participated in a South Florida testing session in December, and Steve Torrence, concluded their off-season testing efforts prior to Friday’s action and will be seen next at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Pomona. Those currently involved in testing include four John Force Racing teams, six Don Schumacher Racing teams, four Kalitta Motorsports teams, two Morgan Lucas Racing teams, two Bob Vandergriff Racing teams, Bob Tasca III, Cruz Pedregon, Chad Head, Leah Pruett, and Sidnei Frigo.

(3 p.m.) Prior to the official start of the event, when teams will make side-by-side runs beginning at 5 p.m. ET, a host of teams have made passes down the track in 70-degree temperatures. Though many of the Top Fuel teams have been plagued by tire smoke and shake, several strong attempts have been made in Funny Car, including a 4.075 at 314.39 by Johnny Gray, a 4.082 at 314.46 by Ron Capps, and a 4.102 at 316.01 by Tasca.

(3:30 p.m.) Reigning Top Fuel champ Antron Brown picked up the pace in the dragster class with a 3.831 at 322.65 mph. Not far behind him, Pruett ran a 3.851 at 303.64 mph in the Dote Racing dragster as the licensed Funny Car driver finished meeting her Top Fuel crossover requirements.

(5:30 p.m.) A dozen Funny Cars participated in the first official session of the PRO Winter Warm Up. In the first pair, rookie Head and Del Worsham ran side-by-side 4.06s (4.061 for Head and 4.067 for Worsham). Behind them, Tasca went 4.073 beside Alexis DeJoria’s 4.081. Next up, Hagan ran a 4.060 while John Force lost traction. Robert Hight made the quickest run of the day in the following pair with a 4.048 at 315.56 mph, and Gray went 4.066 in the other lane. Cruz Pedregon lost power at the top end on a 4.106 at only 297 next to Courtney Force’s tire-smoking 7.505. The session ended with Capps going 4.075 at 316.52 mph to pull away from 2012 Mello Yello Funny Car champ Jack Beckman’s 4.160.

(6 p.m.) The first Top Fuel session featured two drivers making their first side-by-side runs in this class and one driver pinch-hitting. Newly licensed Pruett ran next to fellow class rookie Frigo, with Pruett posting a 3.850 to Frigo’s 3.883. Lucas had to leave prior to the session, so he enlisted Doug Kalitta to make a lap in the GEICO dragster. The GEICO car smoked the tires while Bob Vandergriff Jr. ran 3.825 at 321.50 mph. Kalitta rushed back to the staging lanes to strap into the Mac Tools dragster that ran at the end of the session. Meanwhile, Clay Millican ran 3.828 to nearly equal teammate Vandergriff’s time, and Brittany Force kept pace until the top end on a 3.860 at only 290 mph. Schumacher threw down the gauntlet with a 3.776 at 324.59 mph. Brown was running at a slightly quicker pace in the opposite lane before he began mixing up cylinders on a 3.860 at only 302. Not to be outdone by Schumacher, Kalitta ran a stout 3.759 at 328.30 mph. Kalitta’s teammate, David Grubnic, clicked it off early on a 3.870 at only 271 mph.

(7:30 p.m.) The three JFR entries went 1-2-3 in the second session of Funny Car. It kicked off under the lights with Tasca recording a 4.109 at 312.71 while Capps overpowered the track early. Kalitta teammates DeJoria and Worsham followed, with Worsham lighting the tires early and DeJoria running a 4.109 at 312.71. Beckman upped the ante with a 4.085 at 311.99 beside teammate Gray’s 9.709 tire-smoker. Head nearly equaled his 4.061 with a 4.074 at 313.51 and was uncontested because Hagan lost traction immediately. The real excitement occurred in the next pair of JFR teammates, Hight and Courtney Force. Force ran a stunning 4.018 at 322.73 mph to Hight’s impressive 4.021 at 318.24 mph. The session closed with John Force turning a 4.053 at 308.35 mph on a single.

(8 p.m.) The second session of Top Fuel opened with the two drivers who made 3.7-second passes during the first session (Schumacher and Kalitta) doing the same in the second, but Kalitta wasn’t driving his own car; he was behind the wheel of Lucas’ GEICO dragster. Kalitta ran a 3.787 at 322.58 mph beside the U.S. Army driver’s 3.794 at 325.30 mph. That thrilling race went unmatched by the next pair when Pruett (4.279) and Brown (6.512) both lost traction. Things picked back up when rookie Brittany Force showed her stuff with a personal-best 3.794 at 325.30 mph alongside a 3.804 at 322.23 mph by Millican. Grubnic (3.970, 225.79) had early numbers that indicate he was on the best pass of the day before wounding his engine. Vandergriff, in the lane next to Grubnic, went 3.848 at 320.51 mph. In the final pair, Kalitta (in his Mac Tools dragster) and Frigo both lost traction. Kalitta made the quickest run of each session albeit in two different cars.

Friday testing has concluded. Check back tomorrow for Saturday testing updates.

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