John Force Racing

NHRA: John Force Racing shuffles 2019 crew chief lineup, adds new driver to fold

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One week after the departure of Courtney Force, John Force Racing announced Tuesday its driver and crew chief lineup for the upcoming 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

When it comes to drivers, team patriarch, 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, who turns 70 in May, returns, as well as two-time Funny Car champion and JFR president Robert Hight.

Also returning is John Force’s daughter, 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion Brittany Force.

John Force Racing drivers (clockwise from top left): John Force, Brittany Force, Austin Prock and Robert High.

And at some point this season, contingent upon sponsorship, will see the debut of Austin Prock in either a Funny Car or Top Fuel dragster. The younger Prock is the son of Jimmy Prock, crew chief for Hight’s Funny Car.

Austin Prock, who earned his NHRA Funny Car license last season and is expected to earn his Top Fuel license shortly, has been part of JFR’s development program. How many races he competes in during 2019 will be predicated upon sponsorship and whether he’ll compete in Funny Car or Top Fuel, according to JFR.

“My operation fully functions with a four-car team, with the chassis shop, machine shop and engine program, it makes it all make sense,” John Force said in a media release. “We will find a partnership to run this fourth car. Chasing sponsorships is no different than chasing a championship, you work on it 24/7.”

As for crew chiefs in the JFR fold for 2019:

* Jimmy Prock returns as crew chief for Hight, which finished second in the standings last season after capturing the 2017 championship. Also returning is assistant crew chief Chris Cunningham. Together, the trio led Hight to four wins in the last seven races of the 2018 season.

* Brian Corradi and Dan Hood, who served as co-crew chiefs for Courtney Force last season, will assume the same roles with the Peak Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro SS driven by John Force.

Corradi, who joined JFR at the start of 2018, and Hood, who is married to John Force’s second-oldest daughter, Ashley Force Hood, helped lead Courtney Force to four wins and 11 No. 1 qualifiers in her career-best season performance, finishing fifth in the overall Funny Car standings.

“Working with Brian Corradi and son-in-law Dan Hood is exciting for me,” John Force said. “They, along with (car chief) Tim Fabrisi, have put a strong team together as proven last year with Courtney making a run for the championship.

“Even with all the day to day operations of John Force Racing, I’m committed to giving 100 percent. I know what it takes to win a championship and its 100 percent focus. I’m committed to giving that to my new team.”

John Force is looking to achieve a significant milestone in the 2019 season: the winningest driver in NHRA history is seeking the 150th national event win of his career. The elder Force currently has 149 career wins.

* And in another personnel move, JFR has hired veteran crew chief and former Top Fuel driver David Grubnic to serve as crew chief for Brittany Force in 2019. Brittany Force, who has assumed her sister Courtney’s prior sponsorship from Advance Auto Parts for the upcoming season, finished fifth in 2018 after capturing her first career Top Fuel championship in 2017.

Grubnic joins JFR after leading Clay Millican to a career-best third-place finish in the Top Fuel ranks last season.

“Everyone wants the chance to get to tune for a legendary team and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Grubnic said in a media release. “I’m sure there will be a bit of a learning curve for this new Advance Auto Parts team but Brittany is a championship driver and this team is ready to put in the work to go rounds, get wins and chase another championship for JFR.”

* Austin Prock will have John Force’s co-crew chiefs the last two seasons, Jon Schaffer and Ronnie Thompson, in the same role once Prock begins competing.

“The 2019 season is going to be an exciting one for John Force Racing,” Hight said. “We have some new faces in the pits, some new sponsors, but the same drive and determination that we’ve always had.

“We’re going after race wins and championships and we have the right people, partners and parts to make that happen. It’s been a long off-season and we’re ready to go racing.”

The new season begins February 8-10 with the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California. A number of primarily Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers will also take part in a three-day test this weekend in suburban Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

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F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.