NHRA

NHRA: John Force on death of Tom ‘Mongoose’ McEwen: ‘I never said I loved him, but I always did’

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Like many of his contemporaries such as Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein, NHRA Funny Car legend John Force is also devastated by the death of Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, who passed away Sunday at the age of 81.

Force issued a lengthy and emotional statement Wednesday morning recalling his close relationship with McEwen, one that lasted over the last 40-plus years.

MORE: Don “Snake” Prudhomme on Tom ‘Mongoose’ McEwen: “Like brothers” for 60 years

MORE: Drag racing legend Tom ‘The Mongoose’ McEwen dies at 81

MORE: Column: How ‘Mongoose’ McEwen turned Hot Wheels into sheer genius

Force last spoke with McEwen nearly a month ago after McEwen left a message on Force’s cell phone voicemail, wondering why Force had three big motor explosions, as well as three crashes related to those explosions.

“Force,” McEwen said, “are you trying to kill yourself?  Let’s talk, call me.”

When McEwen talked, Force always stopped to listen.

“He could do that,” Force said. “I know I don’t listen like I should because I’m always too busy talking about my kids or my sponsors or something else, but I would always listen to Mongoose.

“He’d be honest. If he thought I was screwing up, he’d tell me. Sometimes it would piss me off, but when I thought about it, he was usually right. He didn’t pull any punches. He knew the life.”

The late Tom ‘The Mongoose’ McEwen passed away Sunday at the age of 81 from complications related to colon cancer surgery. Photo courtesy NHRA/National Dragster.

McEwen not only was a formidable opponent to Force early in the latter’s racing career, he also was also a mentor to Force, particularly when it came to attracting sponsorship for Force’s Funny Car.

“He was a hustler,” Force said of McEwen. “He was the first marketer (in drag racing). Kenny Bernstein and Raymond Beadle, they sold the sport to corporate America, but Mongoose in my opinion was the first. He was the one who showed the way.

“He was one of the guys who taught me how to chase money and that the sponsors always had to be taken care of.

“Back in the early days he taught me how to talk to the racetrack promoters and what they really expected of me as a race car driver. Tracks like Irwindale, Orange County, Seattle, Bakersfield, Fremont and Phoenix, they wanted a showman, a fast talker, tire smoking, hot cars, and story teller, and he was the king.

“(McEwen) would always tell me like it was and I’m telling you, he was the PT Barnum of drag racing. When I won my first round at an NHRA event in Baton Rouge, all he said was ‘Johnny boy, I’m proud of you.'”

Force then launched into his own personal eulogy of McEwen.

“Drag racing never would be where it is right now without the Mongoose,” Force said. “My kids would never have the kind of opportunities they have, or the lives they live.

“It’s very emotional for me because I’m losing all my heroes Gene Beaver (Force’s uncle), Keith Black, Joe Pisano, Raymond Beadle, (Dale) Armstrong, (Steve) Plueger, and now Mongoose.

“I know (death is) going to happen to all of us; we ain’t getting out of this alive. But this one is really hard because, to me, the Mongoose was invincible. He loved drag racing, he loved the fans and he loved life.

“He would come to my shows for hours and sign (autographs) for the fans. When I was 16 at Lions Dragstrip (in Long Beach, California), I knew that all I wanted was to race but I knew it was impossible.

“But when I saw Hot Wheels with Snake and the Mongoose years later, I saw that you really could make a living in this sport. Mongoose put us on the map.

People who never heard of John Force know about the Snake and the Mongoose. That’s how big they were.

“We all learned from him and right to the end he was still so big in the sport. People who never heard of John Force know about the Snake and the Mongoose. That’s how big they were.

“I was emotional after hearing of his passing while at Richmond (this past weekend’s most recent NHRA national event), because the Mongoose was a racer that took care of so many, including me. He loved the sport, he loved his family, he loved his friends, he loved his fans and NHRA drag racing.”

Force admits he has one regret over McEwen’s passing: “I realized something that I had missed. I never said I loved him, but I always did.”

But Force also takes consolation in knowing McEwen’s legacy and impact upon the sport will continue to be felt for a long time still to come: “Heroes live on, but legends never die.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar: Ed Carpenter Racing signs Ed Jones for road, street course races in 2019

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2017 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Ed Jones has signed on to compete in IndyCar road and street course races in 2019 for Ed Carpenter Racing, the team announced Wednesday.

Jones replaces Jordan King at ECR, whose contract was not renewed for 2019.

“Joining Ed Carpenter Racing and Scuderia Corsa for the 2019 IndyCar Series is a fantastic opportunity to be a part of,” Jones said in a media release.

Jones will also drive a third car for ECR in the 2019 Indianapolis 500, making it 13 races of the 17-race IndyCar schedule that he’s due to compete in.

“Ed Carpenter Racing has shown amazing speed the last few years at the Indianapolis 500,” Jones said. “You can always expect the ECR cars to be at the front. I am really grateful for this chance and will do everything I can to make sure we, as a team, make the most of it.”

In addition, Las Vegas-based Scuderia Corsa will become a partner with ECR on Jones’ No. 20 Chevrolet (as well as the No. 64 Chevy he’ll drive in the Indy 500).

“Both ECR and Scuderia Corsa have been successful in their respective series and I feel the combination of forces will be greatly beneficial,” Jones said. “I’m extremely excited to get underway.”

Jones will yield driving duties in the No. 20 Chevy for four races to team owner Ed Carpenter on oval tracks, while Spencer Pigot returns as the team’s full-time driver in the No. 21 Chevrolet.

“I am very excited to welcome Ed Jones to the ECR family, as well as Scuderia Corsa and Giacomo (Scuderia Corsa co-founder Giacomo Mattioli),” Carpenter said. “I was very surprised when Ed became available at the end of the season. I look forward to working together to get ECR back in Victory Lane.”

The 23-year-old Jones, who hails from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, previously drove for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2018 (finished 13th in the final season standings) and Dale Coyne Racing in 2017 (finished 14th). He won the Indy Lights championship in 2016, as did new teammate Pigot in 2015.

During the 2018 season, Jones had two podium finishes (Long Beach and Belle Isle II) and eight top-10 finishes in the 17-race campaign.

Since forming in 2012, Scuderia Corsa has earned more than 100 wins over numerous racing platforms, primarily sports-car based. However, it made its first foray into IndyCar racing by backing Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and driver Oriol Servia’s effort in the 2018 Indy 500.

Jones began his new job with ECR immediately, watching new boss Carpenter take part today (Wednesday) in a closed Firestone tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski