NHRA: Swedish driver, 2-time champ Jonnie Lindberg jumps to Funny Car for 2017

Photo courtesy LindbergBros.com
1 Comment

Competition in the NHRA Funny Car class is hard enough with the likes of defending champion Ron Capps, 16-time champ John Force, Matt Hagan, “Fast Jack” Beckman, Del Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr., Courtney Force, Alexis De Joria, Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson and more.

But the competition just got even tougher with the announcement that two-time defending Top Alcohol Funny Car champ Jonnie Lindberg will move up to the nitro fuel Funny Car class in the 2017 season with Head Racing.

According to NHRA.com and National Dragster, Lindberg – a native of Sweden – will take over for Chad Head, who stepped out of the driver’s seat of his family’s long-time Funny Car operation after last season to devote more time to the overall family business.

“This is a dream come true for me,” Lindberg told Kevin McKenna of NHRA.com/National Dragster. “I’ve always wanted to drive a fuel Funny Car. Last year, my goal was to win a second [Top Alcohol Funny Car] championship and then get my fuel license.

“… I thought it was a good idea to have the license just in case someone was looking for a driver. I didn’t expect that anything would happen this quickly, but I’m happy that it did.”

Lindberg has been a dominating force in Top Alcohol Funny Car – which is similar to the Xfinity Series in NASCAR, namely, one step below the NHRA’s big leagues. Not only did he win back-to-back TA/FC championships in 2015 and 2016, he also has six national event wins.

And, according to McKenna, Lindberg is the first driver in Top Alcohol Funny Car to break the 5.3-second barrier and to surpass 270 mph.

But by moving up to nitro Funny Car, Lindberg will also be making a big step: Funny Cars typically run less than four seconds and oftentimes over 330 mph down a 1,000-foot drag strip.

Per NHRA.com, the initial plan for Lindberg calls for him to compete in between 16 and 18 of the NHRA’s 24-race national event schedule, according to team owner Jim Head. Lindberg’s first race in a nitro Funny Car will be the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, March 16-19, in Gainesville, Florida.

Lindberg will also be in contention for the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Road to the Future award as NHRA’s top overall rookie driver.

Click here for McKenna’s full story on Lindberg.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
1 Comment

With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”