Seattle: John Force preview

Pacific Raceways Records May Withstand New Assault SEATTLE, Wash. (July 23-25) – How ironic is it that the same year that Pacific Raceways built more speed into its quarter mile racetrack, the NHRA legislated speed out of its quarter mile...

Pacific Raceways Records May Withstand New Assault

SEATTLE, Wash. (July 23-25) – How ironic is it that the same year that Pacific Raceways built more speed into its quarter mile racetrack, the NHRA legislated speed out of its quarter mile race cars?

A new rule that restricts the percentage of nitromethane in fuel mixtures is expected to put the brakes on Funny Car speeds that this year had reached 330 miles per hour.

The new rule limiting nitromethane to 85 per cent of the mix is effective with this week's 17th annual CARQUEST Nationals, second race in the crucial Western Swing that also includes stops in Denver and Sonoma, Calif.

The upshot is that four-year-old track records that once seemed certain to fall may survive after all.

Austin Coil, crew chief for defending Funny Car Champion and 12-time series champion John Force, whose Castrol GTX® Start Up™ Ford Mustang is the track record holder for quarter mile time at 4.827 seconds, believes that the new rule will have a far more devastating effect on performance than did implementation a similar rule in 2000 that limited the nitromethane to 90 per cent of the mix.

"It's going to be a bit of a crapshoot," Coil said, "because in the past when they put rules like that on us, they did it over the winter and we had 28 test runs to get it sorted out before we went into competition. Now we've had absolutely zero test runs before we go into competition.

The new fuel rule is part of a two-step program. The first step was implemented at last week's Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Denver, Colo., where fuel cars were using an older Goodyear tire design closely monitored for air pressure.

Both rules apparently were written in response to the accident that claimed the life of promising Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell last month at Madison, Ill. Russell's dragster broke apart at 322 mph after a rear tire reportedly failed.

Ironically, after years of complaints from racers and race fans, Pacific Raceways this year completely resurfaced the quarter mile and extended the concrete pad at the starting line from 300 to 660 feet.

The new track surface, coupled with the fuel and tire restrictions, may have negated any performance advantage Force's team may have enjoyed, but Coil still is optimistic.

     "We have a good idea of what to do," he said, "and we probably won't be too far
off.  But it'll be awhile before we get the performance level just right, just like it always
is.  Basically, we were all mighty slow in 2000, the first year of 90 per cent.  We didn't
run near as good as we did in '99.  But by 2002, we were faster, weren't we?
     "Of course 85 per cent will be more crippling than 90 because, you know, even
when we were unrestricted, a lot of times we only ran 92 or 93 (per cent).  So it's like it
wasn't necessarily a big change.  Now some people ran a lot more (nitro), but we didn't.

"We ran a lot of good runs at 93 per cent and so we really only had to cut back three per cent. Well, now we've got to cut back a full five and eventually you run out of blower (and other ways to compensate).

"That, of course, was their intent. They want to slow us down and, well, I guess this is as good a way as any but I'm a little concerned about how much you can back it up and (still have the engine) sound good to the crowd."

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- www.johnforceracing.com

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Austin Coil