In the second major defection from John Force Racing in the last six weeks, and just as shocking as when crew chief Jimmy Prock left in late October with two races remaining in the season, came Friday’s news that veteran crew chief John Medlen has left JFR.
And equally as surprising as Prock’s move to Force’s chief rival, Don Schumacher Racing, was Friday’s announcement that Medlen will be joining Prock at DSR as well.
Prock will serve as crew chief for former NHRA Funny Car champ Jack Beckman, while Medlen will serve as assistant crew chief on Beckman’s 2015 Dodge Charger R/T.
To say the least, Beckman – who has the colorful nickname of “Fast Jack” – is ecstatic.
“I feel like Santa made an early stop and left three wonderful gifts under the tree,” he said in a SHR media release. “It’s been a while since we started the season knowing we had funds for the entire season.
“And to find out Jimmy Prock was coming on board. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be driving for him one day.
“Then the third gift was when Santa dropped John Medlen off. John and I have a very special history. I’ve emceed the Eric Medlen Nitro Night Charity dinner for Sonoma Raceway the last two years and have become very close to John and his family.
“Having those two guys up in our crew chief’s lounge is just unbelievable. I feel when I go in there I’m going to want to ask for their autographs.”
Medlen had replaced Prock for the final two races of the 2014 season as Force’s crew chief. Force ultimately lost the championship to another DSR driver, Matt Hagan, who earned his second championship in four seasons.
The 65-year-old Force, of course, is the winningest driver in NHRA history, including 16 Funny Car championships.
Prock is a two-time Funny Car champion crew chief, doing so with Force in 2009 and 2013. Medlen, meanwhile, was a Funny Car champion crew chief with then-JFR driver Tony Pedregon won the title in 2003.
This will be Medlen’s second stint with DSR, having worked there from 2010 until 2012. He returned to JFR this past February as director of safety for the organization. The 62-year-old Medlen is also a past crew chief for other NHRA notables including Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Chuck Etchells.
DSR has won 240 national event titles and 13 world championships, including 2014’s eighth Top Fuel title by Tony Schumacher and Hagan’s second Funny Car crown. It is already busy preparing for a major test by all seven of its teams Jan. 12-16 at Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla.
That test will also include competition in that weekends fifth-annual Professional Racers Organization Winter Warm-up, also at PBIR.
The 2015 NHRA Mello Yello drag racing season begins Feb. 6-8 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.
After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.
Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.
Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.
Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.
Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.
After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.
The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.
Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.
It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.
Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.
Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.
Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.
Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.
Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
Max Anstie – E
Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
Haiden Deegan – E
Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
Mitchell Oldenburg – W
Michael Mosiman – E
Jeremy Martin – E
Tom Vialle – E
Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
Chance Hymas – E
Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
Max Vohland – W
Cullin Park – E
Chris Blose – E
Derek Kelley – W
Enzo Lopes – W
Pierce Brown – W
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.