November 9, 2011
Speedzone Magazine 2011 Full Thottle coverage (presented by Sonny's Engines)
NW Nationals celebrates their 60th by honoring NW legend Gary Beck
Tickets for the 24th annual OReilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals are on sale now. The race, which moves to the weekend of Aug. 5-7 at scenic Pacific Raceways just south of Seattle near the city of Kent, Wash., is the 14th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. The race also returns to its original spot as the final stop of the grueling three-race Western Swing, which visits Denver and Sonoma, Calif., before heading to Seattle in a demanding three weeks stretch of racing.
Adult ticket prices start at only $41 and tickets for juniors and children are available for as little as $10. Tickets can be purchased by calling (800) 884-NHRA. Fans can select their exact seats if they choose to purchase their tickets online at www.NHRATIX.com. Motorhome and courtside club seating can be purchased by calling Pacific Raceways at (253) 639-5927.
The event will feature competition in three NHRA professional categories, including the 7,000-horsepower, nitro-fueled Top Fuel dragster and Funny Car classes, along with the 200-mph Pro Stock division. Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the event, which will be televised on ESPN2 HD.
NHRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011 and while the action on the track promises to be thrilling, the action off the track should be just as exciting. Gary Beck, a two-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion and 1975 Top Fuel winner at Pacific Raceways, will be on hand to be honored as the NHRA legend of the event. Beck, who won championship titles in 1974 and 1983 and earned 19 race victories and 34 No. 1 qualifying positions, will participate in fan meet and greets and sign autographs throughout the weekend.
March 28, 2011
Interview with John "Bodie"
By Pat Welsh
SZ- Hi John, I'm Pat Welsh with SpeedzoneMagazine.com.
JS- Good to meet you Pat.
SZ- Tell me about the Brand-X Nostalgia Funny Car that you guys are running here this weekend? Did your Dad have a hand in building that car?
JS- My brother Mike drove that car here this weekend against Jon Capps driving the Jungle (Jim) car. I think it ran a 5.99 that first run. That's something my Dad built over the winter-he was building that Brand-X car and actually all the chassis work was done up at J. Ed Horton's Shop where I'm from. So all of us had a little part in doing it. I picked up the body and delivered it to the chassis shop, and we worked it out so that it could get down here to Florida. Dad put it all together with Bexar Waste. He pays for all that. So those guys took care of that.
SZ- Who built the body for the Brand-X car?
JS- That body came out of Georgia Donnie Reeves he actually built the mold. J. Ed Horton mounted it and did all the tanks and tin work. It's actually a McKinney chassis.
SZ- Was that chassis from a former NHRA Funny Car?
JS- Yes that was my Dad's 2005 car. That car actually ran a 4.82 back in the day when they were running a quarter-mile. So those guys are doing that and my brother's working part-time on that deal. I help my Dad when I come here and I drive this. I also tuned for Stig Neergaard this weekend (Top Fuel). He ran some mid .90's with his car. And then Virgil Hartman, my father-in-law we were helping Fred Farndon (Top Fuel) put a tune-up on that car here and last year at Reading. I had too much going on so I brought Virgil in to help me with that.
SZ- You must be wiped out?
JS- Uhhh yea a little bit. And the next step is I got to take this Danish guy Stig he's got to go to the Jacksonville Port and ship his car back on Monday. I'll drive home Monday evening and then Tuesday at 2pm I jump on a plane to go to Australia. I built a Funny Car and Top Fuel team for Mark Sheehan. I don't know if you've heard of him. He runs mainly on the west coast at Perth, Australia.
I went over there and spent pretty much the whole month of December over there. In January we ran the Top Fuel car so I'm getting ready to go back over for the last meet of the year.
SZ- Is that a good paying gig?
JS- Oh yea I wouldn't go if it wasn't! I wouldn't fly 35 hours if it wasn't!
SZ- Are you traveling by yourself?
JS- Yes. I've been by myself every time. That's the hardest part. The reason I do that is it's so expensive to get over there. It costs $3000 a ticket to get the family over there so it was over nine grand to get everyone over there. So it's not worth it to do it.
You know I was over there for Christmas - the first time I spent Christmas away from the family and that was tough. You don't want to spend Christmas away from your kids, especially a five and twelve year old. But we did it because the money was really good Santa Claus had Christmas paid for even before it came which was good.
We're planning some more trips to Australia. Mark the gentleman I work for over there he's real pumped up. We've shown a lot of good potential to run 4.80's. They still run quarter-mile over there.
SZ- What tracks do you race on in Australia?
JS- He runs at Perth, he'll go to Sydney, and then Willowbank. There's only three or four tracks over there that they race at that are really good enough for the fuel cars. Perth is really good in the evening. The problem is they run in the summer so it's like Southern California or Arizona over there. It gets to 110 degrees there during the day. The track temperatures get to 145-150 degrees so it's a whole different atmosphere. People love racing over there just like here. It's growing. We're selling a lot of used parts but guys like Mark figured out that if I buy everyone's used parts I'm going to go as fast as everyone else. Now they're evolving into buying the new stuff trying to step that up. Some of the other stuff that they don't have to have new all the time so it's a good parts business for me.
SZ- And then you're coming back to the United States for the Four Wide Nationals in Charlotte?
JS- Yes I'll be back in the states for Charlotte, then again in April I'm going to England to tune a Funny Car so I'm all over the place.
SZ- You're an international tuner.
JS- Stig's car is the car I tune in Europe on the FIA Circuit. I've been doing that for two years. I go everywhere!
And then I do have a full-time job. I work for my father-in-law Virgil at his plastics plant.
SZ- Hartman Enterprises?
JS- Yes Hartman Enterprises. I service all the machines there. If something breaks I fix it. I work in his machine shop, I build my own clutch levers stuff that I know how to run I build it myself and put it in other guys stuff. I know it's not stellar but most of the guys I work for have a budget. They're not unlimited. And I think that's the hardest part: working for some of the guys that buy the guys most everybody I work for buy used parts from somebody else. So I'm getting everybody's hand in there. But writing documents, carrying documents, make sure what you got always write it down (referring to keeping documentation on used fuel parts).
SZ- You work in a real small, tight niche industry?
JS- I'm lucky right now. I've been taught by those two guys right there (pointing to Paul Smith and Virgil Hartman). That's pretty good experience. Virgil he grew up in California he's from the California scene, ran alcohol Funny Cars with his son Richard and Rhonda. And my Dad you know where's he's been. It's all in the family.
SZ- How has your weekend been with qualifying for the 2011 Tire Kingdom Gatornationals?
JS- Well it was good on the first run till we went across the scales and we were ten pounds light. We ran a 4.15.
SZ- That would have gotten you solidly into the show.
JS- Yes a 4.15 299 mph that would have gotten us into the show. It's one of those things where the variance of weight between track to track varies a bunch and we're not a tour traveling team so we're not in the habit of weighing it (the car) we should weigh it at every track we go to. So that's our plan from now on - to get a baseline to get an idea where the scales are at. But we were trying real hard today. We only made one run yesterday (Friday). We decided to make two runs today and the track is a little bit hotter and it just wouldn't take what we were giving it. We were trying to run really good on that last run and it had numbers to run a 4.16 or 4.17 and you know when you're a part-time team you don't have enough runs to educate yourself on certain racetracks and that's where we're at.
SZ- But you guys have a lot of experience with your Dad Paul Smith doing this for such a long time and you made a pretty good showing this weekend with the 4.15.
JS- Oh yeah we did. And it's disappointing. We could have been qualified 8th or 9th with that number we had with the .15. We'll kick it and he says (Paul) that he's going to Charlotte now to run the Four Wide Nationals so that will be the next time I'll be driving.
SZ- You ended up 18th in qualifying. How much does that pay?
JS- We get $3000. That will pay the hotel rooms and half a set of tires.
SZ- How is your wife and former Top Fuel driver Rhonda (Hartman-Smith) doing?
JS- Great. She's here this weekend she was backing me up at the starting line. Got the kids here too. Megan's twelve now and Dylan is five so it's a lot of fun. She (Rhonda) is bummed out because we didn't qualify. She gets more bummed out than I do. And she's bummed out that we didn't make weight. When we came here you're all fired up then you can't do anything about it. When you lose it down there at a scale that isn't right even the Pro Mod guys. Tasca's run got thrown out. Lee's run got thrown out. Four or five Pro Mod guys you normally don't have that many cars get tossed out of the track because of the scales. The wind's blowing twenty miles per hour, you're on an open scale, and to me I think you should have a window - five or ten pounds either way. And they say, "Look get your act together." Bring it back up the next time and put an extra ten pounds on it I just think that's difficult. But a rules a rule. NHRA has their rule, we have to stick by it. We lost a run.
SZ- If you were racing on the NHRA tour full-time do you have the option of passing the scales?
JS- If you pass the scales you lose your run. You have to hit the scales. The problem is the scales vary from track to track - thirty to forty pounds. So I guess that's our deal that's what we've been told by guys out here - Lee Beard and a couple other guys. We'll just have to pull the car out of the trailer just like it made the last run, hang everything on it, go weigh it, and see where we're at. That's what we're going to have to do.
SZ- John it was great talking to you and thank you so much for your time. Have a good time in Australia. I hope to be up at Charlotte. I'll stop by and see how you guys are doing.
OK stop by and see us.
March 12, 2011
Melanie how was your weekend? I am guessing not so good...
SZ -Is the Funny
Car a new car for this year?
-Has there been any major changes to the team over the winter?
And the Pro Mod is a new car?
about your new sponsor Road Rage.com? Who are they and how's that working out
-Is this just a one-race deal?
looks like your team owner Roger Burgess is trying to build a very solid team.
What are your future plans with Roger?
Is that in Atlanta?
Did I hear that you have another position with the team?
-Did you sell your tool company?
Melanie thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it and good luck to you
Morgan Lucas takes time to talk to SpeedZone Magazine's Pat Welsh
on the great start to the season, for both cars.
Dickie has already paid dividends.
Did your combination change from what you ran in 2010?
-What is it like being as young as you are, not only driving your car but running
a two car Top Fuel team?
What's the biggest challenge of running a two car Top Fuel team?
Does your Dad and Mom play a big role in the everyday operation of the top fuel
team, or do they let you run with it?
Do you have a full time shop on the west coast as well, or everything is based
out of Indy.
Do you play a role in the daily operation of Lucas Oil or is the race team enough
on your plate right now?
Getting back to the professional side of drag racing, is the influx of foreign
money coming into the sport? What about their involvement, buying companies, buying
tuners and teams and owners in both Pro Mod and Top Fuel, is it good for the class
and the sport in general?
SZ- Is there
any interest in a team like your self to head east to Qatar in the off season?
SZ- Do you see the
NHRA going global?
SZ- Do you
see that happening with NHRA?
SZ- How much
does safety play a role right now for the teams, or is the main concern still
winning races and being the quickest and fastest, and let the safety aspect fall
where it lies?
I saw last week you guys had a few tire issues, have they been a factor in the
last year or so? Is it because of the track prep after the 1000 foot mark?
What do you think of 1000' vs. 1320'?
about the auto ignition and parachute deployment, there does seem to be a good
number of cars stopping on the track and having to get towed off. What are your
thoughts on that?
SZ- Won't an override deal make sense for cars that smoke the tires early or have
issues where they are only going 100mph or less at the finish line?
The re instituted the oil down penalties after what was a vey bad end to the 2010
season. Is this a far system for the teams, particularly the lesser funded teams?
They are the teams that fill the fields as especially in the Top Fuel class full
fields by full time teams just isn't happening.
SZ- Is PRO in favor
of the new rules, or does PRO have a say?
They are even penalizing the sportsman racers,
and those classes have not had a purse increase in now many year, a long time,
I understand the rational but what are the answers to this? The sportsman oil
downs are probably way more than 60% due to mechanical issues, not crew or driver
error, I guess this is more of a rant then asking you for answers, but as the
family is the sponsor of the sportsman racing there would seem to be the rationale
that you would have some input.
SZ- Is there a Lucas
Oil representative on policy for sportsman racing?
He works with NHRA's technical department on policy?
February 24, 2011
Full Throttle 2011 preview predictions
2011 is upon us. It promises to be one of the strongest seasons in a couple years
in two of the four pro classes. Funny Car will as usual be the most competitive
pro class (IMO) in the NHRA. Top Fuel has only been a two or three car race for
a number of years. Pro Stock while competitive ET and qualify wise (the field
separated by less than a tenth for 16 cars) has seen three or four cars wind up
in the winners circle. Motorcycle will see that usual hitters.
The class that will see the return to competitiveness is Top Fuel.
has been a script for over a half decade that has seen Tony Schumacher be the
one to beat, and he didn't disappoint. From 2004-2009 he was unstoppable with
Alan Johnson's tune up for all those years. In 2009 Johnson got his own team with
Al-Anabi backing and started hi own run. He did not win in 2009 but was close,
in 2010 he all came together as owner/tuner and driver Larry Dixon was dominant.
He won last year, got a handle on the details, as everyone knew he would. While
there is a good chance you will see him be the dominant tuner he was with the
Army car, there is also a chance the technology has topped out and the other teams
are close to catching up. Larry has a new TF dragster team mate, in Del Worsham,
but he will have a few growing pains in the long skinny car, even with AJ's assistance
on the tuning end. That input will put Worsham in the top ten enough for the countdown,
and a dark horse for a top six finish.
Terry McMillen had a great full time rookie season, but still finished outside of the countdown. He had a great Palm Beach test, but will he end up in the countdown? He is on the bubble.
Top Fuel final standings
1. Larry Dixon
the 2011 champ
10 -12 in no particular order (these three will battle for the final spot in the countdown)
Nitro Funny Car
John Force's reign of dominance ended six years ago, the Funny car class has been
simply awesome. Yes, only three teams have reached the final podium (Force, DSR
and the "P" brothers) but those three teams account for nine teams on
the tour. Six other players are full time runners and two of them are legitimate
contenders. Robert Tasca, and Tim Wilkerson will be around come the countdown.
Jeff Arend, Paul Lee, Melanie Troxel, Jim Head and Brian Thiel are also full time
competitors and will throughout the year cause havoc with the frontrunners. A
number of others teams including Gary Densham, Bob Bode, Jeff Diehl, and Grant
Downing will be out at times and both Densham and Bode are solid threats. Later
this year a couple other teams will make debuts, as Steve Plueger is back in the
game with Todd Lesenko and Steve Rajcic behind the wheel of two big show cars.
We have had five different champions in the last six years, and this year there is a great chance another new champion could be crowned. With Ashley Force taking a hiatus to have her first child, Mike Neff is back in the third seat, and he is one of the guys who could be a new winner. The entire Force team is on even terms when it comes to having a solid chance. John likely wants one more title before he steps away, I just hope he steps away and does not drag it out his retirement. To win and retire would be cool, but even a top five finish and retirement would be okay in my books. Will he win again this year? It is smart money to on him, as no other Funny Car driver has more drive and commitment to the class then he does. I do however feel if a Force driver is going to win this year, it won't be John. Robert is my pick on the JFR team. Also, the youngest daughter Courtney is getting groomed to drive in the class, and will likely run a couple of events this year.
DSR, Matt Hagan is looking to prevent a last race collapse like he did in 2010,
and he is right at the top of the list as a favorite. He can man handle a Funny
Car, is fearless and Crew Chief Tommy Delago is one of the most aggressive tuners
in fuel racing. Jack Beckman has a new main sponsor this year and he wants to
impress the new corporate partners. But while the driver plays the final role
in being the champion, the crew chief and tuner play the most important role.
Do Rahn Tobler and John Collins have the stuff to put Beckman of the final podium,
I don't think so. But he will be in the top seven when the year is completed.
Ron Capps has the crew chief with the right stuff, but John Medlin who is running
the car right now has never been really named as the crew chief. Capps is excited
to have him in his corner and there is likely no hungrier driver in the class
than Capps. His best seasons were in 05 and 06 when he finished 2 and 3. He usually
suffers through inconsistencies in a season so the hope is that Medlin will keep
the car on track all year long, especially once they hit the countdown. I say
he will be in the top five when all is said and done. Johnny Gray is the newest
member of the DSR flopper contingent but he has lots of history in the class.
He has not run the class in five years, and in that time he took a couple off
and then took on the Pro Stock challenge. He did well, had solid resources behind
him. But my guess is, the speed of the nitro cars called him back. Lee Beard is
looking after his tune-up which has to be a good thing and he will benefit from
it with a countdown spot and a top seven finish.
Bob Bode is the best of the part timers and if he was to run the entire deal he would piss off a bunch of the hitters. He won a race last year and ran extremely well. Every race will see guys ahead of him in the standing look over their shoulder, but being a guy who will only run 16 or so races will keep him out of the playoffs.
The final results are:
for the countdown spots but falling just short
Then there is the best of the rest
Stock on Friday
February 7, 2011
This week at Florida
Pro Mods (at Palm Beach) and Pro Stock (at Bradenton)
(Pat Welsh photos)
(Murdoch Monday recap)
While Burgess and the R2B2 test saw Melanie Troxel out with the fuel flopper (and not really ahving a lot of success, they were also in Roger's FIVE car Pro Mod team throughout last week.
The new 57 Corvette with a Personett tuned and built turbo (Eric Dillard the new shoe) ran a best of 5.88/255 and made a number of short track laps as well. Personnett Camaro also ran through the gears. The three blown Pro Mods, driven by Burgess, Troxel and Commisso were all put through the paces as well. They along with Danny Rowe, Ed Hoover and Mike Knowles were all shaking down their 2011 rides. The blown cars were testing the new OD rules and a 5.87/247 was the best lap turned in (Melanie Troxel).
Of note on Monday Courtney Force made two short orientation laps and Roger Burgess got behind the wheel of Mel's flopper.
Allen Johnson ran 6.498/213 on Monday for the first ever sub 6.50 lap in Pro Stock history. The Pro Stockers were at Bradenton FLorida
February 2-6, 2011
PRO Winter Warmup
By Pat Welsh
Few drag racing events compare to a public nitro test session. They're laid back, informal events that this year brought the top teams of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing to South Florida. In 2009 there was a similar event held at PBIR but open access to the pits wasn't granted to spectators. Instead fans were left to salivate in the grandstands as nitro clouds formed above the race car transporters. Not so this year.
Although teams had been here all week testing out various setups under super secret sessions this two day affair was open for the world to see. Gates opened at 4 pm on Friday and fans were hungry to get in for the first (well second if you count the previous week's IHRA Nitro Jam) cackling of nitromethane fueled motors. Two sessions of side by side runs were scheduled for each day.
On hand were all three Force cars (Mike Neff, Robert Hight, and World Champion John Force), all of Don Schumacher's cars including the anticipated return of Spencer Massey, Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown, Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, Jack Beckman, and new DSR teammate Johnny Gray. Brandon Bernstein's Copart Top Fueler, Dom Lagana, both Kalitta Racing cars (Doug Kalitta and David Grubnic), Terry McMillen, Bob Tasca III, Cruz Pedregon, and Melanie Troxel in the unlettered In-N-Out/R2B2 Solara. Also here was Alexis DeJoria who was behind the wheel Jeff Arend's DHL Solara getting more laps after finishing licensing in November at Vegas.
The Alan Johnson Racing - Al Anabi teams of World Champ Larry Dixon and new (for this year) Top Fuel driver Del Worsham were packed up and ready to hit the road by Friday afternoon.
Considering that this event was still classified as "testing" you would think that cars would be making 60' squirts then shutting them off. Not so as teams were out to see how far the performance envelope could be pushed.
The highlight's of Friday's two sessions included a big fireball in the lights by David Grubnic, a 3.765 322.88 mph run from Antron Brown, a 3.771 324.90 mph pass by Tony Schumacher, and a 3.803 run for Spencer Massey in the Fram/Prestone dragster.
Terry McMillen made his career best lap. Sophomore crew memeber Marla Weidenaar is not the typical grease monkey
Terry McMillen in his Amalie sponsored Top Fueler was the first to admit that he's never tested before in his life. He presented a 3.882 early shutoff run.
In Funny Car the performance of the evening was from Cruz Pedregon. Running a red unlettered Solara body he ripped off a 4.040 310.48 mph pass in the evening session. Five other cars were under the 4.11 mark including Hagan, Hight, Force, Beckman, and Johnny Gray.
On hand was Courtney Force who watched carefully as the Force cars were running. She is, of course being groomed for a ride in a Force car. Bob Vandergriff's Top Fuel team pulled two transporters into the track late Friday evening but they didn't make any runs Friday or Saturday.
Saturday the crowd started to build at the gate around 3 pm and since PBIR runs a tight ship and everybody was in place the staff decided to open the gates a half an hour earlier.
Six Top Fuel cars made runs led by a 3.775 324.05 mph by Antron Brown, a 3.778 321.19 mph by Tony Schumacher, and a 3.788 306.05 mph run by Spencer Massey. Another notable run of the evening came from Terry McMillen who ran a 3.828 313.29 mph pass. Sitting out on Saturday were the Kalitta cars.
Funny Cars are obviously making strides on cracking into the three second zone at 1000' and John Force during the last run of the evening made a lightning quick pass of 4.037 313.80 mph. Dean Antonelli is now calling the shots on the tuneup for Force.
Jack Beckman 4.053 314.09 mph, Robert Hight 4.055 312.64, Mike Neff 4.062 310.13 mph, Matt Hagan 4.082 309.98 mph, Ron Capps 4.081 310.20 mph, Johnny Gray 4.083 307.09, and Bob Tasca 4.098 308.92 mph were all impressive Saturday evening.
Melanie Troxel, shaking down a new car, didn't make any runs to the finish line under power -- the team obviously sorting out the new pipe. She also made two 100' runs down the track in the new Pro Care RX Camaro and team owner Roger Burgess made one short pass in his Camaro.
Best overall runs per driver:
1 Antron Brown, Pittsboro IN, DSR-TFX 3.765 322.88 324.05
Order after testing in Funny Car at the Palm Beach International Raceway Pro Winter Warm-up:
Force, Yorba Linda CA, '10 Mustang 4.037 313.80 313.80
Lane Terry McMillen, Elkhart IN, McKinney-TFX 3.828 seconds at 313.29 mph
Left Lane Antron Brown, Pittsboro IN, DSR-TFX 3.775 seconds at 324.05 mph
Left Lane Bob
Tasca III, Cranston RI, '10 Mustang 4.098 seconds at 308.92 mph
Lane Jack Beckman, Norco CA, '10 Charger 4.103 seconds at 303.57 mph
Right Lane Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg IN, '10 Solara 17.207 seconds at 61.70 mph
Lane Robert Hight, Yorba Linda CA, '10 Mustang 4.102 seconds at 310.77 mph
Lane John Force, Yorba Linda CA, '10 Mustang 4.037 seconds at 313.80 mph
Friday testing best runs
1 Antron Brown, Pittsboro IN, DSR-TFX 3.765 322.88 317.49
1 Cruz Pedregon,
Brownsburg IN, '10 Solara 4.040 310.48 310.48
During the week of private testing Tuesday through Thursday, teams spent most of the early days making 300 -660 foot laps.
The Lucas two car TF team ran only until Thursday for some reason, as Morgan is one of the owner/drivers who has make the biggest change. With only two races under their belt with new crew chief Dickie Venables at the end of 2010. The team overhaul through the winter and they made a number of laps up to Friday. With every lap Venables and co-crew chief, Kurt Elliot made subtle changes. The team made complete passes throughout the test and only had one engine let go, and that according to Morgan was his fault.
GEICO/Lucas testing wrap up (Courtesy Rob Gieger)
PALM BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 5) After years of turning wrenches on Funny Cars, Dickie Venables has gone back to his roots as the head man tuning the GEICO Top Fuel dragster at Morgan Lucas Racing.
Venables, who spent his informative years at the racetrack working on rails, just put the finishing touches on a week-long test at Palm Beach International Raceway, and he busily filled his notebooks with run data to use once the season arrives.
"Every run we made down the track is valuable information," said Venables, a two-time NHRA champion. "I've been away from the dragsters for so many years. I had to get re-acclimated with what a dragster can take as far as horsepower and clutch application."
He said he also made sure he knows the capability of every part in his arsenal.
"We came down here with several things we wanted to test," Venables said. "And everything we've done has produced good information. Everybody seems to be pleased with the results. The car is running well and not hurting itself.
"We're testing clutch discs and I've been experimenting with the different superchargers. That way I know what a particular supercharger is going to do when I take it out of the cabinet."
With the car making consistent runs in the 3.80-second range, Venables said he was able to break each run down into different sections to shave a fraction of a second off here and there.
"Last year I really didn't have much opportunity to play with the car and tune on it," Venables said of his two races with the GEICO team at the end of the season. "At a test session there's not that pressure. You can take you time and make your decisions. Last year, I was making decisions trying to improve by tenths of a second, here I'm trying to improve by a hundredths."
It's been the kind of test that's got driver Morgan Lucas excited to roll the GEICO dragster to the line as soon as possible.
"Everything went just fine," Lucas said. "This was the smoothest test I've ever been a part of. I feel confident about what the GEICO car is going to do when we get to Pomona."
The NHRA Full Throttle Series season gets underway Feb. 24-27 at the 51st annual Kragen O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.