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LAS VEGAS - The 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Funny Car Series has brought around a lot of changes for Ron Douglas, co-crew chief of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. After Ashley Force Hood announced she was stepping back for the year, Douglas made the switch from daughter to father and is now behind 15-time champion John Force’s quest for a 16th title. Douglas talks about the changes and gives an update on Courtney Force’s Funny Car training.
Q. YOU MADE THE SWITCH THIS YEAR WITH ASHLEY ON THE SIDELINES OVER TO CREW CHIEFING FOR JOHN. HOW HAS THAT CHANGE BEEN GOING?
A. Any time you can work with a guy like John Force, it’s great. He’s the best Funny Car driver, ever. To get to work that closely with him is a real honor and it’s been a lot of fun so far. It’s been a little disappointing with the way we’ve had the car perform this year. Our team has had to make a few adjustments, just because it’s a different driver, different weight. We’re trying to make some adjustments and perform a little better. Having John is great. Guido [Dean Antonelli] and I are going to try to work a little harder here and step it up in Vegas. The crew guys have worked real hard these last few weeks so we’re going to go there and give it our best shot.
Q. JOHN FORCE RACING HAS JUST BEEN ON A ROLL THIS YEAR, TAKING THE FIRST TWO EVENTS OF THE SEASON. WHAT IS THE KEY IN GETTING JOHN THAT THIRD VICTORY AND MAKE IT A TRIPLE WIN START FOR JOHN FORCE RACING?
A. The key for us is getting the car to leave the starting line. We’re used to it leaving the starting line with Ashley. We feel like in Gainesville, even though we really didn’t have that great of a showing, during qualifying on Saturday, and unfortunately we lost in the first round on Sunday to Robert [Hight], what we learned there is going to be the key to helping us in Vegas. We finally got the car to leave the starting line and have the kind of 60-foot times that we’re accustomed to. It just took a little different approach with having John in the car. We feel we’ve got that out of the way now and we can make the right adjustments to run what it needs to the rest of the way down the track. We haven’t had trouble running down the race track, it’s just our ET times aren’t where we want them to be. We need to be a little bit more competitive than what we’ve been and I think what we learned in Gainesville is going to translate to a much better showing in Vegas.
Q. IS THERE A LOT OF PRESSURE IN VEGAS WITH JOHN SWEEPING BOTH EVENTS THERE LAST YEAR?
A. Any time John Force is your driver, you’re going to feel pressure because he’s expected to win. As a driver, he very rarely makes any mistakes. It really puts the pressure on Guido and I as the crew chiefs and the rest of the team to step it up. We are doing our part. Any time you go to a drag race, your goal is to win, that’s obvious. With John in the car, with him as your driver, I do believe there is a little more pressure. He’s expected to win, he’s expected to perform and we’ve got to make sure that happens. We’re really looking forward to this weekend and I really like the thought of making it a three race sweep for John Force Racing, these first three events. That’s what we’re after.
Q. YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING CLOSELY WITH COURTNEY FORCE DURING HER FUNNY CAR TRAINING. CAN YOU GIVE AN UPDATE ON HER PROGRESS?
A. We got her fitted for a car, got a car put together for her, and did some burn-outs last year towards the end of the summer, just to get her in the car and practice with warm-ups so she could get the routine down for what we have to do in the pits prior to every run. She has caught on to that very well, which she should have since it wasn’t that much different from her A-Fuel Dragster warm-up routine.. In West Palm Beach, that test session that we did pre-season, we put her in the car actually and made some runs, abbreviated runs, cutting it off early to get her acquainted with the car. She did really well. She was really comfortable in the car. She knew where she was on the track. She was confident, but not over-confident. She was being careful. She’s confident in her abilities and it really showed. She’s not in over her head. She did everything we asked. We’re going to test the car on Monday after Las Vegas and it’s good to get her some more seat time. That isthe best thing we could do for her right now, get her in that car as much as we can, get her comfortable and just continue to let her learn. It’s quite a process. It’s one thing to get in there and step on the throttle, but it’s another thing to get in there and begin to learn how to handle that car in different situations. That’s what we’re trying to help her develop right now.