NHRA Nitro Spring Training: One day until
John Force Racing’s teams report
CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 1) – John Force Racing’s four nitro teams are primed for the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
But first: preseason testing in the form of NHRA Nitro Spring Training, held this week at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.
Numerous NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car teams will test there starting Thursday. For JFR, the test will mark the first time on the track for two new driver/crew chief combinations.
Sixteen-time Funny Car champion John Force will be paired with PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS team’s new leadership: Crew chief Jimmy Prock and co-crew chief Chris Cunningham. And past champ Robert Hight will work with the new combination of crew chief Mike Neff and co-crew chiefs Jon Schaffer and Jason McCullough for the first time on the Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car.
Courtney Force’s Advance Auto Parts Funny Car and Brittany Force’s Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster will also test at Phoenix this week.
“I feel we’re the most competitive we’ve been in a long time, and all of our cars – all three Funny Cars and the Top Fuel dragster – have a shot at winning the title this year,” said Hight, the 2009 Funny Car champion. “We made some changes over the winter and strengthened every single team. Boy, I can’t wait. It’s been too long since I’ve been out there racing, and we get back in the car in Phoenix this week. Looking forward to that.”
The goal of every drag racing team is to go as fast as possible, but getting to those fast passes takes myriad attempts. Each crew chief and team within JFR work together to achieve the goal of quick, consistent runs, and each crew chief has a plan for testing.
“The first thing we need to do is get familiar with the parts,” Prock said. “We’ll put the tune-up on these parts and then work our way through that. We’ve got a few new things we’re going to work on.”
While Courtney Force’s team remains intact with crew chief Daniel Hood and co-crew chief Ronnie Thompson, she does have new livery on her Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, as Advance Auto Parts has joined the team as sponsor. Now a veteran Funny Car driver, Courtney Force is looking to improve on a 2016 season that saw her win one national event, the special Traxxas Shootout and finish sixth in the points standings.
“I’m looking forward to my sixth season racing Funny Cars at over 330 mph,” Force said. “I’m ready for the offseason to end and to get back in the seat of my Funny Car. I’ve got the same team, the same crew chiefs, and I get to start out the season with a new sponsor.”
Older sister Brittany Force is back in her Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster, with crew chief Brian Husen and tuning consultant Alan Johnson also returning. Brittany Force had a breakout 2016 season, winning three times and finishing sixth in points.
“Right now we’re kind of focused on our shortcomings of last year, trying to work on those kinds of issues,” Husen said. “And that’s our biggest goal. What we had wasn’t horrible or wasn’t bad – we won races and did OK in the points. But right now it’s just a matter of addressing some of the things that you feel were a problem for you that you could improve on.”
Testing is slated for Thursday through Sunday. Tickets are available for Saturday’s test through the track’s website, http://www.racewildhorse.net/. Tickets are $15 with the purchase of one or two tickets to the NHRA Arizona Nationals (held Feb. 24-26 at the track). Tickets are free with the purchase of a three-day ticket to the Arizona Nationals.
Current ticket-holders to the Arizona Nationals are eligible for the discounted tickets for Saturday testing. Fans must bring a photo ID and Arizona Nationals ticket to be eligible for the $15 ticket or free entry.