Neff dominated the “regular” part of last season.
(RIGHT) Courtney Force will join the Funny Car
ranks this year in a fourth full-time JFR entry.
Force is thrilled to retain Antonelli as part of his team’s brain trust.
format and if every race counted the same.
“We didn’t have a bad year,” Hight
insists. “Between the three of us, we won
half the races [ 11 of 23]. We just didn’t
win them at the right time. We were
having a great season up until the
Countdown. Then we tanked.”
Ne;, who serves as his own crew chief,
won Gainesville in just his second start
since ’09 and later scored in Englishtown,
Norwalk, Chicago and Indy, and, over
Dickie Venables, who was Tony Pedregon’s
crew chief when Pedregon won the 2003
championship driving for JFR.
one amazing stretch in the second quarter of
the season, reached the final round at six of
seven races. Hight opened the season with a
victory in Pomona and won again in Las Vegas,
Bristol, Topeka and Reading. Through the first
12 races, Force or one of his drivers won nine
times, capped by Force’s lone victory in Denver.
But, in the Countdown, Force and Ne; were shut out and Hight
was held to a single win, in Reading. Even then, the team didn’t
gain much ground because Hagan opposed him in the final.
“We didn’t do a good job in the Countdown – any of us,”
A SHOW OF FORCE
Hight says. “John didn’t win a single round, just like I didn’t
last year. Other people caught up to us and now they’ve passed
us by. We changed too many things. You need to already have it
together – not be hunting for something – when the
Countdown starts. At Vegas, we all should have won the first
round, and all three of us lost. We were terrible at two races
– there and Phoenix – but with this Countdown, that’s all it
takes. That’s not going to happen this year.”
For 2012, Force is bringing even more mechanical talent on
board. He hired Danny DeGennaro, who helped Cruz Pedregon
to a third-place finish in the 2011 Funny Car standings, and
The sheer scale of JFR takes some believing
Everything about John Force is big – his
personality, his list of accomplishments,
Force’s teams operate out of two massive
complexes, one in his home town of Yorba Linda,
Calif., (RIGHT) and the other in the undisputed
center of nitro racing in America, tiny Brownsburg,
Ind., just outside of Indianapolis. Neither could be
called a mere “shop,” and both rival any “Garage
Mahal” in NASCAR country. The 48,000sq.ft.
Yorba Linda facility is a former car dealership,
complete with giant showroom, sound stage, movie
theatre, and enough machines and equipment
to run 10 teams. The 130,000sq.ft. Brownsburg
operation is just as big, with an even larger staff.
At any given race, John Force Racing
transporters take up an entire row in the pit
area. There are 12 complete tractor-trailer rigs,
to haul his Funny Car, Mike Neff’s, Robert Hight’s,
daughter Courtney’s, daughter Brittany’s
dragster, and more to transport all the spare cars
and spare engines. One rig contains a rolling
machine shop, with mills, lathes, and every
conceivable piece of equipment for fabricating
virtually anything one of the JFR cars could need.
Another contains his “road show,” which promotes
the sport away from the track. In the pits, there’s
a million-dollar bus that he never has time to use.
All race teams have crew chiefs, assistant
Who else has an apparel store attached to their
crew chiefs, clutch specialists, cylinder-head
specialists, and supercharger specialists, and
some are even setting up their own fabrication
shops, blower dynos and clutch dynos, but who
else has their own video-production facilities?
shop where fans can walk right in and buy
memorabilia? Who else has theatre seating?
“I can’t believe it’s come to this,” Force
admits. “Who knows what’s next? But I know
one thing: it never ends.”