A selection of media and business partners met at the John Force Racing Indianapolis headquarters and race shop on Wednesday morning for a forum that was formally hosted by Peak Auto. All of the hospitality boxes were checked. A complimentary breakfast greeted each of the inbound attendees, then a grande tour followed.
According to our guide, the team stopped offering tours to the general public prior to the beginning the Covid-19 epidemic, but the virus and public regulations certainly haven't made it any easier for them to reconsider that decision.
Approximately ten people were guided by a gentleman named Steve that was an employee of JFR since 2007, but worked with John Medlen for over a decade prior to that.
He walked us down a 600 foot hallway that was divided into different work bays, each with a set of machinery or supplies dedicated to a type of automotive engineering. There was a paint booth, a CNC shop, a body shop, chassis room, and a graphics department. This insider view was considered behind the scenes and at different times along the way we were advised that photography was not permitted.
The tour stopped for several minutes between each bay for the opportunity to ask questions or see a machine or worker grinding. The team was making their final touches and preparing to leave the bay for the 2022 US Nationals, their home race and the most prestigious of the annual national Camping World Drag Racing Series calendar.
At the completion of the tour of the race shop, two separate heritage facilities bookended the shop on the second floor of the property. First was the John Force Racing museum. We w
ere given the opportunity to see in person many of the team's most recognizable cars including John Force's famed 'Elvis' ride, Robert Hight's State of California Highway Patrol livery, and old tools and industry memorabilia. To enjoy a similar experience I encourage you to check out the shop tour that was granted to NHRA's youtube channel at your leisure.
The completion of the walkthrough was an intimate, calm, and peaceful tribute as we walked through the Eric Medlen Project, which is both a safety initiative the team created with their partners and an homage to their fallen driver Eric Medlen who passed away as the result of
a blown tire and a brain injury in 2007. With an emotionally charged voice, the tour guide emphasized that Eric was family.
And so it goes. Racing royalty to outsiders, but John Force Racing functions internally as a 'small business'. They believe that the men and women who work for their operation are family and a team. Many of the folks we encountered working through the shop emphasized their tenure, some in the tens, fifteens, and even twenty years or more of employment...proudly.
The team's drivers, who many fans young and old believe are horsepower heroes, think of themselves as employees. In an interview each of their drivers, the philosophy is consistent.
Top Fuel champion Brittany Force answered simply, 'We're teammates, We're family.'' when asked about the ritual that she shares with father John. Both drivers are known for standing at the staging lane when the other makes a pass.
16x champion John Force indicated the same repeatedly. "Brittany, and Robert, and Prock, all of em. They're family. When we lost Eric, he was family too."
The team may be named after the hall-of-fame racer, but it carries the weight of so many more.
Robert Hight, who is both a funny car champion and President of John Force Racing talked about the team's goals as the Countdown approaches, but was also fond on what he felt was an NHRA family atmosphere. He referenced his recent match race at Summit Motorsports Park and his memories with the Bader family, one of the most respected track owners in the sport.
In Seattle's National NHRA event in 2019, the Top Fuel winner was JFR's Austin Prock. Prock's father has been a mainstay at the team and a leader on Robert Hight's funny car team for a number of years. Austin stated that he essentially grew up with John Force Racing, and he feels like he is family, but so are his sponsors. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Austin's sponsor Montana Brand was forced to make a decision to leave their motorsports marketing budget behind. Prock told me there wasn't lost respect, but instead they regularly shared calls and texts between him and the respected former partner. He said Montana Brands' and Rocky Mountain Twist owner Frank Tiegs is a loyal member of the John Force Racing family as well.
Despite losing his opportunity of being a top fuel racer, Austin continued to work on race cars until his return in 2022. A rare scenario in racing, Tiegs' brands resumed their relationship with JFR and Prock with a full season of support.
Whether it is in the shop, on the road, or at an appearance somewhere along the way, the John Force Racing team is a true American made family. Their pride and trust for one another's talents is a formula for success. They are positioned well heading into the countdown for a record breaking (their own) 22nd championship.