Photos courtesy NHRA

NHRA: John Force Racing tweaks crew chief and assistants lineup for 2018

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With two defending championship teams ready to go for two in a row, John Force Racing announced a few adjustments to its crew chief and co-crew chief lineups Tuesday.

Here’s now the 2018 JFR lineup will look:

* NHRA Top Fuel champ Brittany Force’s dragster sees Brian Husen returning as crew chief, joined by new assistant crew chief Ronnie Thompson.

Alan Johnson will return as consultant to the team, which won four of six final rounds, as well as set the national speed record last season.

* NHRA Funny Car champ Robert Hight’s car will remain the same with Jimmy Prock as crew chief and Chris Cunningham as assistant.

The team reached seven final rounds last season, earning four wins, and also setting both the Funny Car speed and elapsed time national records.

* There has been a change on Courtney Force’s Funny Car team. Dan Hood returns as co-crew chief and will be joined with the addition of fellow co-crew chief Brian Corradi.

Corradi has three Top Fuel world championships to his credit, but had sought to return to the Funny Car ranks and return to work with former teammate Hood, who is married to John Force’s daughter Ashley, a former Funny Car driver herself.

“This move was a great opportunity for me and the timing just worked out,” Corradi said. “Danny (Hood) and I have a long history both on the track and with our families.

“I am excited to get back to Funny Car. This Advance Auto Parts team was very successful last year and I think we can be even better this season.”

* Lastly, John Force’s Funny Car will continue to be managed by co-crew chiefs Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch.

“We have a lot of talent top to bottom with our crew chiefs,” John Force said. “With that talent, hard work and a little luck we were able to come away from the 2017 season with the Top Fuel and Funny Car championships.

“We’re welcoming Brian Corradi to the team and back into the Funny Car world with Danny Hood. Now we are all going to work together, just like we always have, to put all four of these hot rods in as many winner’s circles as possible.

“I am excited to get to Phoenix (for this week’s preseason testing) and see where we stand. All these guys have been working hard all off-season and now it’s time to go racing.”

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

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With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

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