Jack Beckman said his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger has been treating him terribly in the preseason test session. “We’re 0 for 5,” he said of his sluggish start to the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park event this week. “But you know what? Literally half our clutch pack is brand new, so you have to be patient about this. It would be different if this was a Monday test after a national event where we knew exactly what the track conditions were and what clutch combination it needed. We’re running on a track that hasn’t seen nitro cars in months.   We’re also running with 40-degree headers, which in essence makes the car seem heavier.

“So if we had all of our stock discs in, it would be easier to adapt to the track and the headers. But why would we? We’ve only got enough of last year’s stuff to go two and a half races. Why use that up getting acclimated to the new headers and rev limiter and stuff and know we’re going to have to change it again come two races into the season?” he said. “So we’re going to bite the bullet right now, make wholesale changes in the bellhousing and just stay until we figure it out.”

He said he figured the team, with about a dozen total passes, had enough data by the close of Saturday to be ready for the season opener in Pomona, Calif.

“One of the great things about being on the well-funded teams is we have the parts to be able to make a lot of runs and still not deplete our inventory for Pomona,” Beckman said. “You know, some of the independent guys really have to pick and choose on their test runs.”

Despite the difficult start to the 2018 effort, Beckman said, “Nobody’s pulling their hair out. This is just the nature of nitro racing. When you change half the clutch discs in there . . . yes, we have a clutch dyno. Yes, it tells us some things about the disc. But we dyno one disc at a time against an electric motor. This is an 11,000-horsepower nitro motor with five other discs and a lot more things in the bellhousing that are potential variables. And then throw in the new header rule here and it’s a lot of things to sort through.”

However, he said, “We’ll be fine. I’m really confident. Honest to God, this is why we test.

“Last year, two weeks before this point, we still didn’t have a full crew, and we were switching from the five-disc to the six-disc clutch. We were making tons and tons of changes here. So, no, this year – yes, we’re changing disks around but we’re keeping the same clutch platform and we’ve got all the same people back on the car. So everybody’s got to deal with the header change. Everybody’s got to deal with the rev limiter change, and we’re just doing a couple of things that will help us get through the year.”

For Indianapolis-based crew chiefs Dean Antonelli, John Medlen, and Neal Strausbaugh and the crew members, this week’s opportunity to come to Phoenix and simply thaw out has been a positive step in prepping for Pomona, Beckman said.

“It’s been a long, cold winter in Indy. I live in Southern California, I’ve been going surfing a lot. These poor guys, there haven’t been a whole lot of days that it’s been above freezing in Indy. So for them to get out here in the sun and get back to doing what they get paid for, which is to run a nitro car down the track, it’s a great feeling,” the 2012 champion said. “You can see the smiles back on their faces. But what we really need to underscore and put the exclamation point is a good E.T. to the finish line.”