When the 2018 NHRA season begins – Feb. 9-11 at the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Richard Townsend will be there.

The veteran Nostalgia Funny Car driver is going to make his NHRA nitro Funny Car debut. Townsend will make the transition with his teammate Dustin Davis.

According to Townsend’s crew chief Lance Larsen, Townsend completed his nitro Funny Car license at NHRA’s Nitro Spring Training last week at Wild Horse Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Ariz.

“The best we ran was 4.09 (seconds) at 288 mph and we shut off at 800 feet,” Larsen said. “We made another run that was 4.16 seconds at 260 mph and that was shut off just past halftrack. The last run was running better than all of them and it broke the push rod at 330 feet.”

The Funny Car Townsend will be driving was last driven by Tony Pedregon. Parts were bought from Lucas Oil Motorsports and the Billy and Steve Torrence. With supplies in hand, Larsen, with help, put everything together.

“We are going to run a limited schedule,” Larsen said. “I know we are going to run at the Winternationals and then the plan is to run at Phoenix (Feb. 23-25) and after that we will probably take some breathing room and we will not run again until Topeka (May 18-20). We would like to run six to seven races and if we get more help we will run more. He (Townsend) and I have been friends for a while and he called me in the middle of the summer before he went to purchase all the stuff and I wanted to make sure he knew what he was getting into. I’ve done it a long time and I know what the aspects of it are and I know how much money it cost, and they were prepared for it.”

Larsen said the Funny Car was purchased in late July and Townsend made his first test session laps in December in Bakersfield, Calif.

“He rented the race track in Bakersfield around Dec. 17-18 and we went up there and we made four passes,” Larsen said. “He wanted to at least make sure the car went straight and get four runs with the crew guys, and I did as well. We did really well there, and it showed promise and I’m really excited about this weekend (at the Winternationals) from the standpoint that it ran as well as it did and the way the parts looked at Phoenix.”

Larsen is taking a simple approach to the team’s inaugural race – the Winternationals.

“The thing is to be successful at this, no matter what level it is, you have to be consistent,” Larsen said. “I think we will start off where we left off (in Phoenix) and if it goes out and God willing runs a (4).05 or something the first session I will probably just try and make it do that over and over again until I’m sure I know how to do that. If you close your eyes, it runs a 4.85 and you have no idea why, repeating is a problem. You are better off to be consistent and more than me to feed my ego by a good ET, Richard is new, and he needs runs. The more runs I can give him to the finish line with a minimum amount of problems is what I want. The reasonable expectation is going to the races, hopefully we will do well enough to qualify and go to six or seven races and at the end of this year we will re-evaluate and see where we are weak mechanical-wise, and we will try and pick that up and hopefully run a few more races next year.”

This is Larsen’s 53rd year of being involved with NHRA drag racing. Most recently he was with Clay Milican’s Top Fuel team as a general manager in 2015.

The last time Larsen served as a crew chief was during the 2010 season for the In-N-Out Burge Nitro Funny Car driven by Melanie Troxel and owned by R2B2 team owner Roger Burgess. He also was the crew chief for the Funny Car driver Dean Skuza for a decade.