Drivers overcome poor testing conditions at Firebird - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Drivers overcome poor testing conditions at Firebird

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Posted: Monday, February 9, 2004 10:42 pm | Updated: 4:45 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The conditions at Firebird International Raceway weren't ideal the past few days for good runs, but National Hot Rod Association drivers there on Monday for National Time Trials didn't seem to mind.

"I think the conditions are good, and that's why we are staying and trying to sort our combinations and come up with a good package for (the season opener at) Pomona (Calif., Feb. 19-22)," reigning Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon said on the final official day of the trials.

The cool weather in the early morning kept teams off the track until noon Monday and over the weekend.

"We are going out here to learn," Funny Car driver John Force said. "This track, they have been working on it, and we lost some runs (Sunday)."

Track officials spent much of Sunday cleaning up the track. An engine exploded early, and later it took more than two hours to remove a large amount of oil that spilled during a crash.

"We are preparing to come back here in a year and test," Force said.

Because this was not a national event, the NHRA didn't send its equipment to the track, so work done to the track took longer than usual. Before every NHRA event, a crew is sent in two weeks in advance to prep the track.

"My cars were hot, real good at Vegas, but we are struggling here," Force said. "That's the nature of the beast; we'll fix it."

Force's best run came Sunday when he made a pass in 4.993 seconds at 296.76 mph. Dixon made his best pass despite letting off the gas with 150 feet left Saturday afternoon, 4.616 at 287.29 mph.

BACK ON THE TRACK

Brandon Bernstein finally got back into his Top Fuel dragster and not a moment too soon.

"A little anxious is more the word, just getting excited to get back in for that first run," said Bernstein, who missed much of last season with a crushed vertebra. "Once the motor started, everything just came back naturally. "It's been great. I missed it."

Bernstein had the 10th run Saturday and smoked the tires halfway down the track. His best run came Sunday, 5.070 at 201.76 mph, after shutting it down at 1,000 feet.

"We always run well here," said Bernstein, who earned his first career Top Fuel win at Firebird last March. "It's a good track, and I always enjoy coming here."

SHOWTIME

Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher spent Monday shooting footage for the TV show "Mail Call" with host R. Lee Ermey, star of the movie "Full Metal Jacket."

"I love it; wonderful for the sport," said Schumacher, whose team is sponsored by the U.S. Army and has earned the nickname The Sarge. "You get to meet the guys in person. It's great."

The show airs Sundays on the History Channel, but Schumacher's episode likely won't air until late March.

"You talk about drag racing, (and) they still picture you in a hopped-up Chevelle. But once they come out here and hear these monsters leave the starting line, it is probably as equally fun for him," he said. "It's kind of like bringing a rookie out to the race."

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