John Force Racing, Inc., NHRA drag racing’s most successful Funny Car team, announced Thursday an historic expansion that for the first time will give it a presence in a professional racing category other than the one in which it has been dominant for almost a quarter century.
While the team again will campaign four fuel cars, one will be noticeably different from the others. After winning a record 217 NHRA Funny Car races and 17 Winston, Powerade and Full Throttle Funny Car championships, JFR this year for the first time in its 35-year NHRA history will field a Top Fuel dragster.
Powered by the potent Ford BOSS 500 nitro engine developed by JFR in collaboration with Ford Racing, the Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster will be driven by rookie Brittany Force.
“It really is a big honor to be the first to drive a Top Fuel dragster at John Force Racing,” said the 26-year-old who will be the third Force daughter to turn pro. “This team has done so much over the years to evolve and adding a Top Fuel car into the mix I believe will help us continue to grow as a team.
“Being able to drive the first JFR Top Fuel dragster with my dad’s support is still very surreal to me but I think it’s something we’re all excited about and I’m going to do the best job that I can.”
A graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, the second youngest of Force’s four daughters, has put a potential teaching career on hold while she learns the family business from the seat of a 330 mile an hour rolling “office.”
Brittany’s dragster will be maintained by crew chief Dean “Guido” Antonelli and assistant crew chief Eric Lane.
Antonelli, who guided Ashley Force Hood to the Auto Club of Southern California’s Road to the Future Award (Rookie-of-the-Year) in 2007 and tuned Force to victory in last year’s inaugural Traxxas Nitro Shootout, gets his first assignment in Top Fuel as mentor to another of Force’s racing daughters.
Lane, 39, moves to Top Fuel after 12 seasons with the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car, the last four as assistant crew chief to Jimmy Prock.
“I’m excited because I’ve only ever worked on Funny Cars,” Antonelli said. “Just in the testing we’ve done so far, it appears you can be quite a bit more aggressive with a dragster.
“It’s an exciting opportunity and I’m honored that Brittany would want me to be her crew chief and that John trusts me with her,” said the man who celebrated 10 series championships as the Team Leader on Force’s crew from 1995 through 2006.
Meanwhile, Force is looking forward to the new season for multiple reasons, the least of which is not the fact that Mike Neff will be back calling the shots on his Castrol GTX Mustang, just as he did when Force won his last championship in 2010.
The 134-time tour winner also believes that reducing the Funny Car inventory will make his team better overall.
“With four cars, you’re always running into each other,” said the 134-time tour winner. “I think we’ll be a better with three cars. Courtney and Neff ran great last year and we’ve worked really hard to make sure we have three Fords that can run for the Mello Yello championship this year.”
Indeed, JFR President Robert Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford, and 24-year-old Courtney Force, second year driver of the Traxxas Ford, also are looking forward to the new season.
Hight, the 2009 series champion and the biggest winner in the Funny Car category over his eight seasons (27 wins), will try to keep alive a trio of streaks in a car on which his crew chief will be assisted this year by veteran Danny DeGennaro.
A 43-year-old former world class marksman, Hight has won at least two races in every one of his eight pro season, has started No. 1 at least once every year and has led the Funny Car points every year, an performance without precedent.
As for Courtney, she just hopes to maintain the momentum generated in her Rookie-of-the-Year season in the Traxxas Ford.
“I’m really looking forward to the new season,” said the Traxxas Funny Car driver. “Hopefully, we can just pick up where we left off. We finished in the fifth spot and I really couldn’t have asked for a better first year. I still plan to focus on the basics of driving but, at the same time, I’m looking forward to pushing myself, learning new things and improving my driving skills.
“Having my sister Brittany out there racing in the Top Fuel category for the first time is just going to make the 2013 season that much more exciting. I know she is really pumped up and ready to race. I can’t wait to kick off the season at Pomona.”
Check out these John Force Racing Team Stats:
Funny Car races: 599
Funny Car final rounds: 370
Funny Car rounds won: 2,115
Funny Car victories: 217
Funny Car No. 1 starts: 246
Funny Car Championships: 17
Races in other pro categories: 0