The revamped John Force Racing squad debuted alongside 15 NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car teams as the 2011 testing session in the inaugural PRO Winter Warm-Up event at Palm Beach International Raceway. JFR posted the second-quickest times of both sessions. Reigning Full Throttle Funny Car champion John Force ran 4.072 seconds at 310.20 mph in the first session against Melanie Troxel. Matt Hagan was the quickest of the first session, 4.051 seconds at 311.70 mph, setting up a Force vs. Hagan showdown to wrap up the evening. Force outdistanced Hagan in the last session with an et of 4.086 seconds at a top speed of the day 312.50mph. Hagan smoked the tires at the hit. Force trailed 2008 NHRA Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon (4.040 seconds, 310.48 mph) and teammate Robert Hight, 2009 NHRA Funny Car champion, (4.063 seconds, 311.27 mph) for low ET honors of the second session.
Returning driver and crew chief Mike Neff – who is replacing Ashley Force Hood on the JFR team this year – took full advantage of the first day of testing rolling out a couple of different combinations for his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. It has been nearly 15 months since Neff has made consistent passes in an 8,000hp Funny Car and he shook the rust off early.
"It was fun to be back in a Funny Car," said Neff. "We haven't really made a good run yet. We were testing a couple of things today and they didn't work out for us. We will move back closer to what we ran last year and try again tomorrow. That is what testing is for. We'll have a better day tomorrow. Today was just a test day and you need days like this to keep you pointed in the right direction."
• It took a Herculean effort by Melanie Troxel's crew just to get her new In-N-Out Burger Toyota Camry Funny Car to Palm Beach. The car has been completely rebuilt in-house by R2B2 Racing, and Troxel said getting it pieced together and ready for testing has required long hours from the crew.
"We've mounted all the new bodies in-house and rebuilt the front of the chassis, and I think the guys are going on 32 straight days of working," Troxel said. "I heard one of them say he worked 400 hours in the month of January. They've done an incredible amount of work to get us here in race shape.
"I'm proud of them. They didn't do anything halfway. Everything is working as it should, and we've had no major hiccups."
Troxel said she was very pleased with her car's new Toyota body.
"These bodies are so nice to see out of," Troxel said. "You can see so much more of the track in this car, which has been pleasure for me."
• Shawn Langdon and the Lucas Oil/Speedco Top Fuel squad also came away satisfied after Langdon made several strong runs during the week before leaving Palm Beach International Raceway with a new personal best.
"We made a couple of runs late in the week and put together a 3.81 (seconds) at 320mph," Langdon said. "That was a big step in the right direction. All-in-all, we've got some good information and we've got my car and Morgan (Lucas)'s car running identically."
Langdon's crew chief John Stewart said he was able to shakedown some parts and run some different combinations.
"We've found some clutch discs that are working pretty good," Stewart said. "We found a problem with the fuel system and fixed that. We just made sure everything was working properly."
Stewart said finding the parts that work the best in February will save the team a lot of headaches during the season.
"The clutch discs are some of the most important parts on the car," Stewart said. "You can make all the power in the world, but if you don't have consistency in those discs, that'll bite you. Sometimes when it goes too good, it's not good. You like to have a few problems to get them out of the way. It's like buying a new dirt bike. The first thing you want to do is throw it on the ground so you won't worry about scratching later."
Testing continues Saturday and is open to the public for a $10 admission fee.