WADE: Does John Force Have To Do Everything?


SEATTLE — Good gracious. Does John Force have to do everything?

Is it not enough that his organization has claimed 17 of the past 21 National Hot Rod Ass’n Funny Car championships and that he won 15 of them?

Was it not enough that he established the Eric Medlen Project and with John Medlen’s contributions brought together so many manufacturers, engineers, chassis builders and sanctioning bodies to initiate and then continue the commitment to safety improvements for drag racers?

Is it not enough that he brought to the forefront this Next Generation notion? He not only has beaten the drum about the need for fresh, young drivers and new, capable mechanics — he has orchestrated a symphony of change. He has laid a strong foundation with emerging crew chiefs and is mustering all his resources to help youngest daughter, Courtney, grow into a competitive Funny Car driver.

Yes, Don Schumacher has partnered with Indiana-Purdue University at Indianapolis to prep young high-performance racing engineers. These bright students have gotten hands-on experience, and the DSR Top Fuel teams have benefited from the program’s input.

Top Fuel owner/driver Terry McMillen has embraced the University of Northwestern Ohio and its impressive program at its seven-acre, 70,000-square foot high-performance motorsports complex. Moreover, he has for several years mentored Austin Lambright, who at 23 already is his car chief and will debut later this year as a driver, as well, in the team’s second dragster.

Reigning Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon long has had non-traditional ideas to excite a refreshingly young wave of fans.

So others are addressing the question of who drag racing will appeal to in the next few years. But no one has attacked it like Force. Among his blockbuster announcements Jan. 25 was the unveiling of the John Force Racing Road Show, a multiple-trailer caravan that will travel the country, shadowing his four Ford Mustang Funny Car teams.

Its job is to spread the gospel of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing at drag race events, movie theaters, malls, airports, car shows and anywhere else Force thinks he can get a crowd and sell the sport with which he fell in love as a young man in Southern California.

“I love this sport, and I want as many people to see my hot rods as possible,” Force said. “Last year, we added a sponsor trailer to help our sponsors, like Castrol, Auto Club, Ford, Mac Tools and BrandSource, activate at the track with us. I want to take it to the next level and activate for my sponsors away from the track in the cities where we are racing.”

The John Force Racing Road Show — multiple Ford Mustang show cars and an apparel trailer, as well as interactive displays — will set up on Wednesday or Thursday and be open free to the public through the race weekend.

“I know once fans see my Mustangs and maybe watch a video, they will want to see more. We have a great sport, and NHRA is a great partner. I want to do everything I can so my sponsors, my drivers and our sport can continue to succeed,” Force said.

n With JFR’s plans to acclimate Courtney Force to her BrandSource Ford Mustang on the Mondays following selected races throughout the year, the NHRA gave a special testing exemption to the organization.

The new rule is that in certain conditions, testing can be conducted for the purpose of new-driver training and licensing as long as the race car uses a supercharger air intake restriction (restrictor plate) on all training runs.

No one said that JFR is the lone recipient of this dispensation. But why not mandate new driver training for all pro drivers stepping up from the sportsman ranks?

Perhaps mechanic certification would be a helpful idea, as well.

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