The Firebird racing surface was tricky. The teams were having trouble getting the clutch dialing in, so the racing wasn’t the best. A lot of people experienced tire shake and others went up in smoke. We were able to qualify ninth and race against an old friend, Brandon Bernstein, who was the eighth qualifier. In a pedal-fest, I was able to score the first round win. So that was a satisfying victory, the first with the new Rapisarda team. In the second round, we went up in smoke against Spencer Massey. So it was back to Indy and regroup.
Overall, we had made 11 runs compared where some of the other Top Fuel teams had something like 25 or 30 or more runs already this year. So we were pretty happy with the two West Coast events since we initially hadn’t planned to go there just yet.
The Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals were next up in the middle of March and our team felt a little better heading to Gainesville, Fla., than we did going to Pomona. I think the team has done a great job preparing for this 2013 season in such a short period time. We were hoping to learn more about our car’s setup at the Gators and I think we did.
While we didn’t run as well as would have liked, we continued our testing process. We didn’t qualify well and we had to go against Antron again in the first round. Man, those guys were scary good at Gainesville. They dominated the Top Fuel ranks and Antron was spectacular on the lights. If they continue to perform like at Gainesville, it xould be a long season for the rest of the Top Fuel ranks.
But conditions are always changing and I know several teams will improve and we want to be one of those teams. We are still waiting for some new engine parts and that has hampered our effort a bit right now. But I do feel confident we’ll get everything together in April with races at Las Vegas and Charlotte.
I have five wins at the Las Vegas Strip and Lee has two victories there, so we have a good history there. In my last appearance at Charlotte, I got to the final in 2011 and lost to my teammate Del Worsham.
But before the Las Vegas and Charlotte NHRA races, we have the big Easter Weekend Classic at Willowbank Raceway, just south of Brisbane. Hopefully we can win the Louis Rapisarda Top Fuel Trophy. That would be a great way to celebrate our trip Down Under.
Thanks again for your interest in my column and I will share some good stories from Australia next month.