Brandon Snider’s highly anticipated NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car debut didn’t end in a storybook victory, but this weekend, for once, that wasn’t really the point. At the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals – the first time alcohol cars have ever raced four at a time – the stated objective for Annie Whiteley’s J&A/YNot team was to further develop their torque-converter setup, a goal more than achieved.
Snider, the former PDRA champ who came within a round of the 2020 NHRA Pro Mod championship, just got his Funny Car license and had never driven one to the quarter-mile. “I’d already done the four-wide thing in Charlotte, so that was no big deal,” he said. “It’s everything else that’s completely different. A Funny Car is harder to drive than a Pro Mod, for one thing. It’s fast. Sitting behind the engine, having that body dropped down over you – it takes a little getting used to. In a Pro Mod, you make tiny little corrections going down the track. This thing, you really have to crank the wheel to get the car to go where you want it to go. To a door-car guy, everything about a Funny Car is just wrong.”
Despite that, Snider laid down one quick, consistent run after another at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, four in all, beginning with a 5.608 at 259.06 mph in the second session that qualified him firmly in the middle of the field. He followed with a 5.555/261.57 and a 5.583/260.11 for the No. 5 spot and appeared to enter eliminations with a clear advantage despite having less experience in a Funny Car than anyone in the lineup.
Snider was the only Top Alcohol Funny Car driver with any experience on a four-wide Tree, but when the Tree dropped, it was he who left too soon with a -.176 red-light, invalidating his quickest, fastest run of the weekend and low e.t. of the quad, 5.554/262.54. Nick Januik (5.555) and Aryan Rochon (5.623) advanced, and 2017 NHRA champion Shane Westerfield joined Snider on the sidelines with a third-best 5.66.
“Nobody wants to red-light, but we still learned a lot this weekend,” Snider said. “People think a converter just won’t work in a Funny Car, but how hard has anyone ever really tried? It’ll work. Clutches have been around forever. We’re just getting started with this thing, and I think we can be more consistent than the clutch cars when the weather gets hot. By the end of the year, we might just be running all the way to the quarter-mile like them.”