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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Supercross Preview: It’s Webb’s World for now

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A short launching area and tight left-hand turn is going to create a lot of drama this week in Round 8 of the Supercross season as the riders invade Detroit’s Ford Field after one year off.

Last week Cooper Webb won for the fourth time in the last five races. Incredibly, two of these count among the five closest finishes in Supercross history with a .760-second win over Marvin Musquin at Oakland and last week’s .028-second win over Ken Roczen. Webb has won in a variety of ways so far this year. He has gained experience protecting a lead and coming from behind with Arlington’s incredible run. He even won the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim II after taking two of the three heats.

Last year, Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to grab the points lead in Round 2. He never relinquished it. Webb has tighter competition in 2019, but he shows know sign of letting up as the four-man battle for the lead became a three-rider challenge last week with Eli Tomac’s trouble.

Eli Tomac cooled off in a hurry. After sweeping the top five in the first five rounds and winning San Diego, he finished sixth in Minneapolis and 12th at Arlington. This week will be a test of his ability to rebound.

Which rider will be the first to win in 2019, Roczen or Musquin? Between them they have finished second or third 10 times this season. They have both stood on the podium in the last three events, but have yet to climb to the top rung.

Vince Friese injured his knee during practice at Arlington and may have a torn ACL. He is unlikely to ride this week.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 12 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 7 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold, 8 p.m. on NBCSN

Last Week:

Cooper Webb won his fourth event in the past five races over Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner won over Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton in the 250 class.

Last Year:

Event was not run in 2018.

In 2017 Eli Tomac beat Marvin Musquin and Ryan Dungey in the 450 class.
In 250s, Jordon Smith won over Joey Savatgy and Adam Cianciarulo in the 250 class.

Winners

450s:
[4] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland, Minneapolis, and Arlington)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)
[1] Eli Tomac (San Diego)

250 West:
[3] Adam Cianciarulo (Glendale, Oakland, San Diego)
[1] Colt Nichols (Anaheim I)
[1] Shane McElrath (Anaheim II)

250 East:
[2] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis and Arlington)

Top-5s

450s:
Ken Roczen (7)
Marvin Musquin (6)
Eli Tomac (5)
Cooper Webb (5)
Blake Baggett (3)
Dean Wilson (2)
Joey Savatgy (2)
Justin Barcia (1)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Bogle (1)
Chad Reed (1)
Justin Brayton (1)

250 West:
Shane McElrath (5)
Adam Cianciarulo (5)
Colt Nichols (4)
RJ Hampshire (3)
Dylan Ferrandis (3)
James Decotis (2)
Jacob Hayes (1)
Garrett Marchbanks (1)
Jess Pettis (1)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (2)
Jordon Smith (2)
Justin Cooper (2)
Chase Sexton (2)
Alex Martin (1)
Martin Davalos (1)

Points Leaders

450s:
Cooper Webb (150)
Ken Roczen (148)
Marvin Musquin (144)
Eli Tomac (134)
Dean Wilson (110)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (114)
Shane McElrath (105)
Colt Nichols (104)
Dylan Ferrandis (102)
RJ Hampshire (75)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (52)
Justin Cooper (44)
Jordon Smith (42)
Chase Sexton (39)
Mitchell Oldenburg (34)
Alex Martin (34)

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