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John Force Racing - Team

     
 
John Force
Driver

DATE OF BIRTH: May 04, 1949
HOMETOWN: Yorba Linda, Calif.
CAREER WINS: 143
CAREER FINAL ROUNDS: 241
CAREER BEST ET: 3.965
CAREER BEST SPEED: 324.83

JOHN FORCE 16-TIME NHRA WORLD CHAMPION

John Force continues to rewrite the record books with every run. This season he will be going back to his roots racing the PEAK antifreeze and coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car and chasing his unprecedented 17th Mello Yello Series Funny Car world championship. There are few professional drivers that have had such an amazing and illustrious career like John Force.

Force started 2014 by setting both ends of the NHRA record with a 3.965 second ET at over 324 miles per hour while winning the NHRA Winternationals. Force is still running strong and shows no signs of slowing down.

Force was in the fight for the 2014 Mello Yello NHRA Funny Car championship until the last day of the season where he came up just a few rounds short of winning another championship. The legendary Force raced to twelve final rounds, won three times and raced to the No. 1 spot six times last season.

Force will also be starting the season with a brand new crew chief, Jon Schaffer, who was promoted after fining tuning his crew chief skills from JFR crew chief leader Mike Neff. As Force told his team before the season started, “I am an old truck driver, you guys are a bunch of young kids and we are going to have some fun this season.”

Force’s last championship in 2013 was an uphill battle. To say it was a dogfight for just going rounds, let alone winning races would be an understatement. Some racers even doubted John’s ability to stay in the game and felt his best days as a competitor were in the rearview mirror. Little did they know this iconic driver had a plan and was well on his way to winning his 16th NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car World Championship.

Maybe it was John’s humble beginnings of being the youngest of five siblings with his fry cook mom and truck driving dad. He overcame childhood polio to become the quarterback of his high school football team only to lose every game he played for three seasons.

However, that didn’t discourage John to follow his dreams and achieve his goals in life. If anything, it taught the 16-time champ a valuable life lesson to never give up, especially when he began his racing career way back in 1974. It was on a tour of Australia that the novice John Force experienced his first catastrophic mechanic failure of his hard charging Funny Car as flames engulfed the fiberglass body. Exiting the burning wreck, John was okay but he would later tell fans for decades, “I’ve been on fire from here to Australia.”

John Force’s reputation as “disaster on four wheels” was prevalent among the established Funny Car racers of the late 1970s and early 1980s. For nine long seasons, he didn’t win a single NHRA tour event and was looked down upon as a half-baked racer that blows up his engine and throws parts all over the track. Starting his racing career with less than stellar reputation as a serious competitor, who could have imagined that John Force would become the most prolific winning driver in NHRA history.

Behind every good racer is a spouse that helps do whatever it takes to get the car down the race track. John’s wife, Laurie, met John when he was get beat every weekend at drag strips across the country. Laurie knew what she signed up for and the fact she was a team member that packed the parachutes, mixed the fuel and backed the car proved her love and dedication to her husband and his dreams. With virtually no encouragement from anyone, Laurie even suggested that John should quit but then realized that she and John were in this for the long haul through good times and bad.

It wasn’t until 1985 and the arrival of Austin Coil as crew chief that John Force’s career began to get traction. With his newly acquired sponsors, Coca-Cola and Wendy’s, fellow racers began to take John’s Corvette Funny Car seriously.

It’s this fighting spirit within John’s soul that has had him putting on his fire suit and strapping himself into the seat of a nitro Funny Car for over three decades. Force has won more rounds, more races and more championships than anyone. He’s sold more souvenirs, given more motivational speeches and delivered more memorable one-liners.

Even through the darkest days of Force’s racing career such as the tragic and sudden death of his friend and teammate Eric Medlen along with John’s own crippling accident at Dallas, both in 2007, John never threw in the towel. If anything, he was more determined to make these 8,000 horsepower Funny Cars safer. Even though it’s about winning, John knows it’s also about safety. With daughters Ashley, Brittany and Courtney behind the wheel of their own supercharged race cars, John makes sure they’re as safe as possible.

Another aspect that sets John Force apart from those who have dominated in other fields, from sports to business to politics, is his longevity and his determination. Force has replaced long-time sponsors with new sponsors Lucas Oil, Chevrolet and PEAK antifreeze and coolant to join Auto Club, Mac Tools ad Traxxas for 2014. The constant salesman and showman continues to amaze on the race track.

He has been a Top 10 finisher for 29 consecutive seasons, an NHRA record, and has won a tour event in 25 of the last 26 years, failing to do so only in 2009, two years after surviving a potentially fatal accident at Dallas, Texas.

Such success led in 2012 to his enshrinement as a first ballot inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala. He also is a member of the Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America in Novi, Mich., and in 1996 was the first drag racer ever recognized as Driver of the Year for all of American motor racing.

With over 8000-horsepower at his command, Force can rest assured that when he steps on the throttle, his engine is protected by great products that are up to the task of him getting him to his 17th world title.

 


 
Jon Schaffer
Crew Chief

Motivation and opportunity have been two key elements in the rise of Jon Schaffer through the mechanical ranks of the NHRA. In less than a decade Schaffer has moved from a part-time crew member on a single car team to crew chief for 16-time Funny Car champion John Force starting in 2015. While the rise might seem meteoric to an outsider, for the soft-spoken Californian it has been a steady climb put together with hard work and dedication.

As a high school student with aspirations of racing in open wheel, Schaffer was looking for a career in racing but unfortunately he didn’t have an “in” with anyone who could give him an opportunity. The now 27 year-old from Discovery Bay, California asked the only person with a race team he knew, Top Fuel team owner David Baca, if he could get some experience. The high school junior began working on the Baca’s Top Fuel entry and even took on extra school work to graduate half a year early so he could start full-time with Baca sooner rather than later.

The year and half with Baca from 2005-06, started Schaffer on a career path that included beginning to understand the inner-workings of some of the most complex race cars on the planet. After Baca parked his team, Schaffer was hired by John Force Racing after long-time crew chief Bernie Fedderly saw the chance to add a young talented crewman to Eric Medlen’s Funny Car team.

Schaffer was on Medlen’s team from the end of 2006 through the mid-point of 2007. After the tragic testing accident, Schaffer stayed on but eventually moved to JT Todd’s Top Fuel team after taking some personal time off and closed out the 2007 season with Todd.

Schaffer started the 2008 season for Doug Herbert’s Top Fuel team before moving back to Baca’s team that had re-established funding. With even more experience, Schaffer was the only full-time crew person and he worked on every facet of the Baca racing operation from driving the trucks to working on the race car. Schaffer returned to JFR at the end of 2009 in the off-season after Baca parked his operation to focus on his business.

This last move proved pivotal in Schaffer’s career. His hands-on experience had jumped tremendously in the previous three and half years but now it was about to take a huge step forward. Under the tutelage of crew chief Mike Neff, Schaffer got a dual master’s degree on crew chiefing and leadership.
“David Baca was always a good influence on me. He kept pushing me and on the motivational side he was very influential. The biggest thing he gave me was an opportunity to start out and he trusted me. Mike Neff has been the main guy on the mechanical side even though I learned a lot before I came to JFR,” said Schaffer. “I have learned a lot more since I started working with him. He has taught me everything from how to tune a race car to how to live a good life. He shows you how to be a good person, how to treat people and how to run a team. He gives you a lot of life lessons. He has taught me a lot more than just the race car.”

As the assistant crew chief to Mike Neff on Robert Hight’s Auto Club Funny Car as well as John Force’s Funny Car in 2010 championship season Schaffer took in more and more information and direction from Neff that ultimately led to his recent promotion to crew chief. Schaffer will join a crew chief fraternity that includes Hall of Fame tuners Austin Coil and Fedderly along with his mentor Neff and world championship tuner Jimmy Prock. Adding Schaffer’s name to this list does not seem out of place to Neff who recommended the rising star for the position.

“There are a lot of things that go into being a good crew chief or a good leader. Jon is very intelligent, has a great work ethic, and is a great leader. Those are the key elements it takes to be successful. He has worked hard and proven that he is capable of doing anything he needs to do,” said Neff, himself a crew chief that worked his way up from the bottom end to the top job. “It is exciting to see that hard work pay off. Some people just stand out above the rest you could just see that in Jon once he got enough experience. I have no doubt he will do a great job and it is really nice to see someone have the chance to move up.”

For Schaffer the biggest asset be brings to Force’ team is experience from other teams and seeing what to do and what not to do. That foundation from a number of different companies and teams has taught Schaffer a variety of different ways to do things and fine-tuned a strong decision-making process running these race cars.

“You get to see different parts and you learn how to put different brands of motors together. You learn about different cylinder heads and different clutches. You get a crash course in how all these parts work together,” said Schaffer. “You really learn a lot on a low budget team because you don’t have seven or eight full time guys you have to just make it work with the resources that you have on hand. You still have to get the job done.”
Schaffer sees running a race team as more than tools and car parts.
“You have to be able to run a car but you also have to know how to treat people and build a team. Neff has helped on that front and he gives me a different perspective. My dad Jeff helped me get started in racing and he funded that when I was first driving. He has always encouraged me to keep going and just do what I enjoy,” added Schaffer.

Other influences on Schaffer throughout his career have included crew chief Kevin Poynter from the Medlen team and Bernie Fedderly who saw his talent at Baca’s and kept an eye on him. Throughout the past years it has been Schaffer’s work ethic that stood out and will continue to be a driving force.


 
Tim Dillon

Birthdate: 02/02/1982
Hometown: Nicktown, PA
Current Residence: Brownsburg, IN
Year hired at John Force Racing: 2007
Which Team (s): John Force

How did you get involved in drag racing: His father was a drag racer

Background (education/work/racing experience): Attended University of Northwestern Ohio for High Performance Automotive and has worked for Jim Head Racing, Hartman Racing, Cruz Pedregon Racing, and Cory Mac

Team Responsibilities: Bottom end and short blocks

Favorite part about being involved with drag racing/working at JFR: the opportunity to work with the state of the art cars and equipment and traveling the country

Career Highlights: winning Indy with Robert, winning the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Championship in 2009

Favorite Track/Race: Reading and Bristol

Hobbies/Interests: bowling, skiing, riding motorcycles, dirt bikes, spending time with his family


 
Trevor Huff

Birthdate: 10/28/1992
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Current Residence: Brownsburg, IN
Year hired at John Force Racing: 2013
Which Team (s): John Force


How did you get involved in drag racing: He started volunteering after a friend worked on a race team.

Background (education/work/racing experience): He has worked at Cruz Pedregon Racing and Brian Thiel Racing.

Team Responsibilities: right side head; floater

Favorite part about being involved with drag racing/working at JFR: all the resources and experience

Favorite Track/Race: Sonoma

Hobbies/Interests: football and drag racing


 
Nick Casertano

Birthdate: 09/25/1982
Hometown: Old Bridge, NJ
Current Residence: Brownsburg, IN
Year hired at John Force Racing: 2014
Which Team (s): John Force

How did you get involved in drag racing: He helped Terry Haddock and raced with his family

Background (education/work/racing experience): He started off working at Coast Chassis Design. He has also worked at Kenny Bernstein Racing and Tim Wilkerson Racing.

Team Responsibilities: Assistant Crew Chief

Favorite part about being involved with drag racing/working at JFR: having all the resources needed to have a championship team

Career Highlights: winning Indy with Ashley in 2009

Favorite Track/Race: Las Vegas

Hobbies/Interests: drag racing and building hot rods


 
Ben Ratcliffe

Nickname (If any) Benny
Birthdate: 09/07/1979
Hometown: South San Francisco, CA
Current Residence: Avon, IN
Year hired at John Force Racing: 2012
Which Team (s): John Force

How did you get involved in drag racing: He started helping out at Gotelli Speed Shop which was across the street from his high school where he worked on nostalgia cars.

Background (education/work/racing experience): After he helped out at Gotelli Speed Shop, he started his racing career working for Skuza Motorsports in 2001. He then worked at Jim Dunn Racing, Frank Pedregon Racing, Mike Ashley Racing, and Don Schumacher Racing.

Team Responsibilities: Superchargers

Career Highlights: winning the championship in 2011 and winning Indy with Eric Blake Faulkner’s car

Favorite Track/Race: Sonoma

Hobbies/ Interests: drag racing


 
Jason Wurtzel

Birthdate: 10/06/1973
Hometown: Boston, MA
Current Residence: Greenwood, IN
Year hired at John Force Racing: 2014
Which Team (s): John Force


Background (education/work/racing experience): He has worked at Head Racing, NHRA, NASCAR, and Indy Car

Hobbies/Interests: golf


 
Jessie Freeman

Nickname (If any): Free
Birthdate: 11/12/1988
Hometown: Pikeville, TN
Current Residence: Brownsburg, IN
Year hired at John Force Racing: 2014
Which Team (s): John Force

How did you get involved in drag racing: He grew up watching his brother drag race

Background (education/work/racing experience): Attended University of Northwestern Ohio and participated in the UNOH Motorsports Team.

Team Responsibilities: bottom end

Favorite part about being involved with drag racing/working at JFR: the family and fun

Favorite Track/Race: All of them!

Hobbies/Interests: drag racing; snowboarding; wake boarding


 
Chuck Grospitch

Nickname (If any): Chuck
Birthdate: 05/10/1991
Hometown: Olmsted Falls, OH
Current Residence: Indianapolis, IN
Year hired at John Force Racing: 2014
Which Team (s): John Force

Background (education/work/racing experience): He attended University of Northwestern Ohio. After attending school, he started working on the Kon Rodz Top Alcohol Funny Car.

Team Responsibilities: Cylinder Heads

Career Highlights: 2014 Top Alcohol Funny Car Champion with 5 national event wins in a row

Favorite Track/Race: Norwalk, OH

Hobbies/Interests: racing, jet skiing


 
Travis Wirth

Birthdate: 06/10/1987
Hometown: Erie, IL
Current Residence: Indianapolis, IN
Year hired at John Force Racing: 2015
Which Team (s): John Force

Background (education/work/racing experience): He grew up around Cordova Dragway Park. He previously worked at Tim Wilkerson Racing.

Team Responsibilities: Clutch Specialist

Career Highlights: all the round wins and finals at TWR

Favorite Track/Race: Joliet

Hobbies/Interests: racing, fishing


 

 

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