Another NHRA shocker: John Medlen leaves John Force for Don Schumacher Racing


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.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski