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Saturday, August 4, 2012
Enclosed cockpits ready for debut?

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

KENT, Wash. -- Don Schumacher Racing is almost ready to show off its top.

DSR officials are hopeful to get approval to use the new enclosed cockpit on Tony Schumacher's Army dragster and Antron Brown's Matco Tools dragster for the next NHRA event in Brainerd, Minn., on Aug. 16-19.

Tony Schumacher
Tony Schumacher used an enclosed cockpit during Top Fuel testing at Palm Beach International Raceway in Florida in January.

The DSR haulers normally would go directly to Minnesota after the Northwest Nationals this weekend, but the teams are heading back to DSR headquarters in Brownsburg, Ind., to prepare the dragsters for the canopies.

"We are going to work on it back at Indy and proceed to mounting of the canopy," team owner Don Schumacher said Saturday. "If we get it done early, we hope to get the final approval at the shop. We hope to bring at least one mounted up to Brainerd."

The NHRA announced last week it has given "conceptual" approval for the canopy, but a few changes were needed before it would give formal approval.

One was a whicker bill on top of the canopy to counter any possible aerodynamic advantage from the enclosure. The NHRA also wanted entry points for hoses in case of a fire. Those changes were made in what has become the third generation of the device.

"NHRA Tech is expecting to see the final production canopy before DSR leaves for Brainerd,'' said NHRA senior vice president Graham Light. "When all the requirements have been fulfilled on the production unit, they will receive final approval, allowing them to run the canopy in competition."

This is a move that needs to happen sooner rather than later. DSR first used the enclosed cockpit on Tony's car during testing in Florida back in January.

Seven months later, DSR team members still are waiting. They've made all the changes requested by NHRA technical officials. It's time to do this and take the next major step toward safety advancement.

Force to field Top Fuel teams

The unthinkable is about to happen at John Force Racing. Top Fuel dragsters are coming.

Brittany Force, John's middle daughter between Ashley and Funny Car rookie Courtney, will be a Top Fuel rookie for JFR in 2013 if everything goes according to plan.

Brittany, 25, has been testing the dragster all season on Mondays after most NHRA events. She previously drove an Alcohol dragster, along with Courtney.

Brittany and John
Brittany Force will drive one Top Fuel dragster for John Force Racing in 2013. The million-dollar question: Who will drive the other?

"It's gone really well," Brittany said Saturday. "I ran a 3.85 [seconds elapsed time] recently. I've made about 25 passes so far."

JFR officials said Brittany is doing a great job in testing and she'll be ready to go next season. John plans to run two dragsters and three Funny Cars in 2013.

But who is going to drive with her? Before this season started, it was thought Courtney, 23, might move to a dragster after one year in the Funny Car.

That's not an option now because Courtney is having a sensational rookie year in the Traxxas Mustang. She already has reached two final rounds and looks ready to win somewhere this season.

So plans have changed. It's possible Mike Neff could be in his final season as a Funny Car driver for JFR. Neff always has been his own crew chief, but he might become John's crew chief in 2013.

No one is saying who might drive the other Top Fuel dragster for JFR next year. Here's a thought: How about the No. 1 guy right now who doesn't have a ride?

Larry Dixon seems a logical choice. What better person to help Brittany in her rookie season than a three-time Top Fuel champion?

By the way, JFR officials are preparing the enclosed capsules, which are built by Aerodine Engineering, for use on its dragsters in 2013.

New pavement drawing raves

Drivers have complained about the racing surface at Pacific Raceways for years, but not this year. Track officials repaved the first 370 feet of concrete on the racing surface.

Many cars couldn't get down the track last year on the old surface, which was coming apart in some spots. But the improvement in qualifying has been dramatic.

"I give them a lot of credit for what they've done here," said Funny Car driver Ron Capps. "The new pavement has made a huge difference."

Pacific Raceways owner Jason Fiorito said they spent more than $250,000 to repave and grind the new surface area.

"And we'll do more next year," Fiorito said. "But we aren't [Speedway Motorsports, Inc. chairman] Bruton Smith out here. We have to do it in sections."

DeJoria happy to be here

Funny Car rookie Alexis DeJoria has a good feeling about this weekend because she earned her first win in a Top Alcohol Funny Car last year at Pacific Raceways.

"That really gave me the push to make the next step [to the nitro Funny Car]," DeJoria said. "So I come in here with a lot of confidence."

DeJoria, whose Patron Toyota is tuned by 2011 Top Fuel champ Del Worsham, made it to her first final round at Bristol in June, losing to Ron Capps.

"I was just hoping we would qualify for all the races this year and go past first rounds," DeJoria said. "Anything beyond that would be awesome. To be in a final round already has really exceeded our expectations. Now having been there, that's all we want."

Scorcher in Seattle

All the track records were broken last weekend at Sonoma because of cooler temperatures than normal for midsummer in the California wine country.

But that isn't happening this weekend at Pacific Raceways. It's the hottest weekend of the year in the Seattle area, which had experienced a mild summer until now with only a few days above 80 degrees.

Temperatures approached 90 on Saturday. OK, that's no big deal compared to what most of the country has endured this summer, but it's downright toasty for us folks in the Pacific Northwest.