Reigning NHRA POWERade Funny Car champ John Force has begun the 2005 season in much the same way as he finished 2004: overpowering the competition. Force turned in a stellar performance during Friday's test session at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While other drivers limited themselves to mostly half-passes, Force's Castrol Ford lit up the clocks with three full runs, including a 4.747 run that matches Tony Pedregon's track record, which was set at the Summit Racing NHRA Nationals last April. Force's other efforts, a 4.80 and a 4.77, were equally impressive.

 "I've got a car that runs 4.6s, so we didn't need to change anything this winter," said Force. "I do have a new chassis, but otherwise it's just like we ran here last fall. I'm just happy to get back in the groove. When I don't drive for a month or two, I get a little rusty. We've got a couple of new crewguys that we're trying to train and other than that, our main goal this weekend is getting Robert [Hight] up to speed."

Hight, Force's new teammate, made a strong first impression with a 4.83, 315.78 effort late in the afternoon in the Auto Club Mustang. Force's other driver, Eric Medlen, began his sophomore season with a best of 4.81, 314.61 in the Castrol Syntec entry.

The Las Vegas test also featured the long-awaited debut of Ron Capps' new Brut Stratus. The newest member of Don Schumacher's team made a pair of easy half-passes, then followed with a 4.78, 315.12 late in the day..

"I feel like a rookie all over again," said Capps. "This Mopar body is a little different than what I'm used to. It has different sight lines, and it acts differently than last year's Monte Carlo. That's just one of the adjustments I have to make.

"This is a brand new car and I'm working with a brand new team so I really needed this test session. This is a good opportunity for us to get a feel for each other. Because everything is so new, we're a little behind [teammates] Whit Bazemore and Gary Scelzi, but we're capable of catching up quickly. Thankfully, I've got Ace [crew chief Ed McCulloch] in my corner. Ace and I had breakfast with [Team Schumacher crew chief] Dan Olson this morning and we were able to go over a lot of things. That kind of communication should help us get up to speed quickly."


In addition to the Force and Schumacher teams, the two Checker Shuck's Kragen Funny Cars are in Vegas, but drivers Del Worsham and Phil Burkart aren't scheduled to run until Saturday. 

In Top Fuel, Morgan Lucas ran an early shut off 4.77 in Joe Amato's dragster. Other drivers who made runs included Mike Strasburg, David Baca, and Brady Kalivoda.

Pro and sportsman testing at The Strip will continue Saturday morning at 8 a.m.

Courtesy: Kevin McKenna - National Dragster