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

John Force Racing
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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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Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.