Brittany Force
Driver

DATE OF BIRTH: July 08, 1986
HOMETOWN: Yorba Linda, Calif.
CAREER WINS: 0
CAREER FINAL ROUNDS: 0
CAREER BEST E.T.: 0
CAREER BEST SPEED: 0

Brittany Force wrapped up her sophomore season in 2014 driving the JFR Top Fuel Dragster. Once again, the 27 year-old will be a serious threat to the competition in the next lane during the 2015 NHRA® Mello Yello® Drag Racing season. To say 2014 was a steep learning curve for the second-youngest daughter of John Force would be an understatement, but she’s ready to make some noise and win races.

With the highs and lows of any competitive sport, Brittany showed she had the right attitude, skill and determination to be a Top Fuel pilot every time she got behind the wheel. In 2014 she raced to four runner-up finishes (Phoenix, Joliet, Denver, and Reading) and started from the No. 1 spot three times (Topeka, Bristol and Sonoma). She had top speed of the meet at three of 24 events and posted a new career best ET and speed in Reading, Pa. with a stellar 3.733 second run at 329.91 mph.

Early in 2014, Brittany was award RACER magazine’s Rookie of the Year for all Motorsports. With a staggering 78 percent of votes, Brittany lapped the rookie field. Her Nearest contender was Carloz Munoz, whose second-place finish on his Indy 500 debut earned him nine percent of the poll.

At the 2014 NHRA Kansas Nationals, Brittany and her sister Courtney Force made history as they both raced to the No. 1 spots in their respective classes. It was Brittany’s first Top Fuel No. 1 and it came at a track she has raced throughout her career. The pair became the first ever sisters to qualify No. 1 in professional categories the same event.  

Also in 2014 and for the second year in-a-row, Brittany won the fan vote for the Traxxas Nitro Shootout and competed as the eighth and final entry in the specialty race during one of the biggest and most prestigious NHRA events of the year, the Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indy.

Brittany never has driven anything but dragsters. After earning her Super Comp dragster license under the watchful eye of NHRA Funny Car Champion Jack Beckman, who was her teacher at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, she raced in the entry-level class, along with sister Courtney, for three years before moving up to the Top Alcohol Dragster class. Driving for Jerry Darien and BrandSource, she was the No. 1 qualifier at the 2009 SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J., and at the 2010 O’Reilly Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., her home track. Brittany spent all of 2012 testing in a Top Fuel dragster, logging almost 80 runs before becoming a professional Top Fuel driver.

Brittany won the Auto Club’s Road to the Future Award and became the 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year. It’s a fitting title that has also been bestowed upon sisters and Ashley, Courtney and brother-in-law Robert Hight.

Like her 16-time NHRA world champion father, and her sisters Ashley and Courtney, Brittany is fiercely competitive. When the helmet goes on, the visor comes down, and her dragster rolls up to the starting line, she’s ready to win. That’s what NHRA Mello Yello drag racing is all about.

Finishing in the top-ten in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Top Fuel points, her best finish to date, Brittany is more driven and focused than ever to get her first Top Fuel win in 2015.  

 

 

Todd Smith
Crew Chief

Three years ago, Todd Smith won a Funny Car world championship with driver Jack Beckman, but it was the Oklahoma native’s expertise in a different drag racing discipline that landed him a crew chief job at John Force Racing, Inc.

Smith has stepped into the role of continuing to develop the John Force Racing Top Fuel effort with 2013 Rookie-of-the-Year Brittany Force as they try to contend for the NHRA Mello Yello Championship with the Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster.

It’s a daunting challenge but one Smith relishes. Last season Force’s Top Fuel dragster raced to four finals and three No. 1 qualifiers in only its second year on tour or in existence for that matter.

The 53-year-old, who tuned Beckman to a third place finish the year after they won the championship, spent 24 of his seasons in the sport working on Top Fuel cars for everyone from the late Jimmy Nix to Bobby Baldwin, Cory McClenathan, Andrew Cowin, Larry Dixon, Spencer Massey and Brandon Bernstein.

Smith has enjoyed considerable success working with young drivers.  He directed Massey to Rookie-of-the-Year recognition in 2009 for car owner Don “the Snake” Prudhomme and put 22-year-old Australian Andrew Cowin at the top of the qualifying order four times in breakthrough 2002 campaign.  

Born into a racing family, the son of 1965 Winternationals and U.S. Nationals Comp Eliminator champion Charlie Smith and the nephew of 1966 Winternationals runner-up Frank Smith, Todd did not initially embrace drag racing with the kind of enthusiasm one might have expected.

Instead, like JFR crew chief contemporary Mike Neff, he channeled his competitiveness into motocross racing.  Starting as a 10-year-old, he raced bikes for 10 years before he first began delving into his father’s sport as an entry level crewman.

Early on, he worked on fellow Oklahoman Steve Hodkinson’s Funny Car. His first Top Fuel gig was with Baldwin for whom he was crew chief for six seasons (1988-1993).   He then served as assistant crew chief for Nix before taking his skills to Kalitta Motorsports where he was an assistant crew chief from 1995 through 2000.

Although his Top Fuel drivers were Top 10 finishers from 2004 through 2011, his Funny Car success was a stunning.  He came on board with Beckman four races into the 2012 season before guiding the former driving instructor to victories at Topeka, Kan., Denver and St. Louis and to national records for time and speed at Reading, Pa., (3.986 seconds at 320.58 miles per hour).

Beckman’s four No. 1 starts in 2012 doubled his total for the previous seven seasons and although he went winless in 2013, Smith directed him to another No. 1 and three runner-up finishes en route to third place overall.

 
Ronnie Thompson
Assistant Crew Chief

Top Fuel crew chief Ronnie Thompson’s drag racing career started out on the water but quickly picked up speed on the NHRA tour in the mid-90s. The Pittsboro resident joined John Force Racing in the off-season of 2014 to team up with crew chief Todd Smith running the JFR Top Fuel dragster driven by Brittany Force.

“The exciting part about coming to a new team is meeting the guys and working with a new team. I enjoy spending time with the team at the track and on the road. I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching the younger guys mature and help them along the way.  You have that camaraderie that you don’t have a lot of other places,” added Thompson when he was asked about joining John Force Racing.

In the beginning Thompson credits his father for passing on some mechanical abilities by using him as his apprentice in his early teens. He also had a next-door neighbor as an early teenager that was involved in drag boat racing. He became a crew member on his blown alcohol hydro boat, and then on his top fuel hydro drag racing boat. In 1994 Dan Olson came out and ran a Top Fuel drag boat and at the same time Thompson’s team was sidelined after a serious accident. Olson was going back to run Bob Vandergriff’s operation and he took Thompson back to Atlanta with him.

Thompson was with Vandergriff from 1995-99 and in 2000 he worked with Jerry Toliver on Jim Eppler’s WWF campaign. In 2001 Thompson moved to Don Schumacher Racing with the Matco team when it first started from 2001-04. Thompson was a fly-in tuner and helped Paul Smith with Jeff Arend’s Funny Car for the first part of the 2005 season.

Later in the season Ed “Ace” McCullough was diagnosed with cancer in Englishtown and he was going to miss the St. Louis race so current JFR crew chief Mike Neff, then a crew chief at DSR, had Thompson come in to run Ron Capps’ Funny Car at St Louis. Thompson stayed on the rest of the season to help the team.

In 2006 Thompson jumped at the opportunity to work on the start-up of Morgan Lucas Racing and was involved with the team along with John Stewart. In 2007 Thompson returned to DSR with McCullough on the NAPA Funny Car from 2007-10. At the end of 2010 with McCullough’s departure from DSR Thompson moved to Al Anabi Racing where he remained until he was hired by John Force Racing in the off-season of 2014.

“I have worked with crew chiefs that I have admired and I have tried to take something from every crew chief I worked with. I loved working with Ace. He is like a father to me. There are a lot of crew chiefs and guys I worked with I feel that way about.  In this job you have to keep your cool, be a good teacher, and understand that drag racing a humbling trial and error sport,” said Thompson when asked about the lessons he has learned over the years.
In his time away from the track, Thompson likes to spend time with his wife, Leslie, and their two young children, Connor and Olivia. He also has his pilot’s license and enjoys flying small aircraft.

 
Aaron Cave

Birthdate: 12/22/1986
Hometown: Spotsylvania, VA
Current Residence: Avon, IN
Year Hired at John Force Racing: 2011
Which Team (s): Brittany Force (Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster)

How did you get involved in drag racing: He grew up around the sport and knew that’s what he wanted to continue to be around.

Background (education/work/racing experience): Before he actually worked in the automotive field, he spent his time doing construction at the airport near his hometown and working on a coal mine. He then spent his time working on Bunny Burkett’s car in the IHRA before joining John Force Racing.

Team Responsibilities: left side heads, fuel system, valvetrain

Favorite part about being involved with drag racing/ working at JFR: He enjoys being a part of a championship caliber team and working with a great group of guys

Career Highlights: getting a job at one of the most respected teams in drag racing and winning in Denver with John

Favorite Track/ Race: Bristol

Hobbies/Interests: cars, racing, dirt bikes, spending time with family and friends


 
James Underco

Birthdate: 09/04/1986
Hometown: Mentor, OH
Current Residence: Avon, IN
Year Hired at John Force Racing: 2013
Which Team (s): Brittany Force (Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster)

How did you get involved in drag racing: A friend of his was getting married and the team he worked for gave him a weekend audition.

Background (education/work/racing experience): After graduating high school, he attended Lakeland College for graphic design. He then decided to change directions and head up the engineering path. After spending time at school, he got a job doing construction. While he was working, he received the opportunity to a trail run with a race team and since then he has worked in the racing world.

Team Responsibilities: Clutch specialist

Favorite part about being involved with drag racing/ working at JFR: getting the opportunity to work for an 18 time championship organization; having a family feel work environment

Career Highlights: first race win in Sonoma; winning the championship in 2012 and setting the national record

Favorite Track/ Race: Bristol

Hobbies/Interests: building mustangs, pool, darts, playing guitar, kite flying


 
Aaron Hess

Nickname (If any): AJ
Birthdate: 08/16/1988
Hometown: St. Henry, OH
Current Residence: Indianapolis, IN
Year Hired at John Force Racing: 2014
Which Team (s): Brittany Force (Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster)

How did you get involved in drag racing: After he attended a technical institute, he decided he wanted to work in racing so he went to the races in Phoenix, AZ to network with different teams. He handed out resumes and talked to the crews before getting hired at Don Schumacher Racing.

Background (education/work/racing experience): He worked on Jack Beckman’s funny car at DSR

Team Responsibilities: left side head and racks

Favorite part about being involved with drag racing/ working at JFR: team environment, traveling and trips to the winner’s circle

Career Highlights: winning 2012 Funny Car Championship and the 2013 Traxxas Shootout

Favorite Track/ Race: Bristol and Denver

Hobbies/Interests: motorcycles, boating, camping


 
Jon Repp

Birthdate: 10/09/1986
Hometown: Grants Pass, Oregon
Current Residence: Brownsburg, IN
Year Hired at John Force Racing: 2014
Which Team (s): Brittany Force

How did you get involved in drag racing: His father is a Pontiac Racing Engine Builder

Background (education/work/racing experience): JR Dragster – Pro Class (‘67 GTO) Super Pro (220” Rear Engine Dragster)

Team Responsibilities: assistant clutch specialist

Favorite part about being involved with drag racing/ working at JFR: the positive and motivating staff

Career Highlights: track championships and 3 Wally wins in JR Dragster; winning “Big Bucks” race and semi-final finish at Super Pro ET Finals

Favorite Track/ Race: Pomona and Indianapolis

Hobbies/Interests: drag racing – professional and sportsman; hot rods; Pontiacs ; guitar playing; Traxxas cars


 
Steve Cleavenger

Birthdate: 04/19/1983
Hometown: Wellington, OH
Current Residence: Wellington, OH
Year Hired at John Force Racing: 2015                                    
Which Team (s): Brittany Force

How did you get involved in drag racing: He enjoyed going to the track by his hometown and would go every chance he could.

Hobbies/Interests: anything racing


 
Chance Scott

Birthdate: 09/03/1991
Hometown: Homeland, CA
Current Residence: Homeland, CA
Year Hired at John Force Racing: 2015
Which Team (s): Brittany Force

Career Highlights: working the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosports

Favorite Track/ Race: Indy; Pomona

Hobbies/Interests: drag racing, motocross, music


 
Jason Paul


 
Eric Chambers

Birthdate: 09/19/1983
Hometown: Ventura, CA
Current Residence: Avon, IN
Year Hired at John Force Racing: 2015
Which Team (s): Brittany Force

Background (education/work/racing experience): He has previously worked for several USAC Sprint, Midget and Silver Crown Teams such as Irvin Motorsports, Whitt Racing and RW Motorsports

Favorite part about being involved with drag racing/ working at JFR: the feeling he gets when the nitro monster comes to life

Favorite Track/ Race: Pomona, Indianapolis

Hobbies/Interests: baseball, ice hockey, dirt bikes, motocross, dirt circle track racing, music