Photo courtesy John Force Racing

NHRA: John Force ‘putting band back together’ — Jimmy Prock returns as crew chief

2 Comments

John Force isn’t in contention for any Grammys, but that’s not keeping the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion from “putting the band back together” in hopes of making some great music on the drag strip in 2017.

Force announced Friday that former crew chief Jimmy Prock, who led Force to his most recent championship in 2013, has returned to the John Force Racing fold after spending the last two seasons with Don Schumacher Racing as crew chief for “Fast Jack” Beckman.

Prock, who previously spent 14 years with JFR, will return to his former role as the crew chief for the 2017 season for Force’s PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS, with Chris Cunningham serving as co-crew chief.

“I’m putting the band back together,” John Force said. “Jimmy Prock is returning home, and Chris Cunningham is coming with him. This is a great opportunity to grow the company as NHRA continues to grow, too. To bring talents like Jimmy and Cunningham will make John Force Racing stronger. And it will make the PEAK Chevrolet a NHRA Mello Yello championship contender.”

Prock earned 39 victories as a crew chief in his previous stint with JFR: 27 with Robert Hight, eight with Gary Densham and four with John Force.

“I’m very excited,” Prock said. “I worked here for a long time, and we’re excited to be back working with the JFR brain trust. Plus, with all the of Chevrolet’s support and engineering, this is a whole new adventure. We’re working hard to try to get a championship and win as many races as we can.”

As for the rest of JFR’s four-car lineup for 2017:

* Mike Neff will return as crew chief for Robert Hight’s Funny Car, with Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch as co-crew chiefs. Schaffer spent the last two seasons as John Force’s crew chief.

* Danny Hood returns as crew chief, as well as Ronnie Thompson as co-crew chief for Courtney Force’s Funny Car team.

* Brian Husen remains as crew chief, with 11-time championship team owner/tuner Alan Johnson as consultant for Top Fuel driver Brittany Force.

“A good football team builds its strength on many levels: from the head coach to coordinators to players,” Force said. “You need depth at every level, and these moves makes us deeper and stronger.

“Every one of my crew chiefs and co-crew chiefs can run a successful team, and to have them all under one roof just makes us better as a whole and as individual teams.”

John Force also announced that Jimmy Prock’s son Austin has joined the organization in its driver development program. The younger Prock, a 21-year-old third-generation racer, has spent the last few years racing sprint cars and midgets, including winning the 2014 STARS national midget championship.

“I’ve watched Jimmy’s sons grow up,” John Force said. “It just fits for John Force Racing. The opportunity to bring him into drag racing is great.

“He’s talented, he’s personable, good-looking, lightweight like a jockey and loves auto racing. I know he can drive a race car. It’s in his DNA, in his blood.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

Leave a comment

Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”