Drag Racing Maybe Missing a NHRA Legend at Indianapolis
After four and a half months without NHRA drag racing, the biggest stars in the National Hot Rod Association 2020 Mellow Yello Drag Racing Series are set to return to action this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. Nonetheless, with COVID-19 cases on the rise in every state that is set to host an event based on the current revised schedule, uncertainty remains at the center of the “New Normal” for everyone associated with the NHRA. Completing the 2020 season could still prove difficult as new coronavirus cases continue to climb in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, California, North Carolina, and Georgia. Rather than gamble, several drivers and top tier teams are noticeably absent from preregistration for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA National scheduled for July 11-12.
The National Hot Rod Association had already been notified of a driver change for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang Funny Car after driver Bob Tasca was diagnosed with COVID-19 about a week after a family gathering on Father’s Day. The 44-year-old native of Cranston, Rhode Island, has shared a Twitter post for race fans as a warning as to how seriously you take measures to minimize the spread of the debilitating viral infection. Jonnie Lindberg, who drove Jim Head’s 11,000 hp Ford Mustang Funny Car last season, will be subbing for Tasca this weekend at Indy. The 31-year-old Lindberg is a two-time Top Alcohol Funny Car champion. Tasca’s plans to return to the driver’s seat will come after getting the green light from his doctor… and his wife.
Notably missing from the lineup are members of John Force Racing. At 71, Force is the oldest active full-time driver in the professional ranks of the NHRA. The team has not commented as to whether his being in the high-risk group for COVID-19 has anything to do with the JFR’s decision to not compete at the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals. None of Force’s JFR teammates are currently entered, which includes the NHRA defending and three-time Funny Car Champion, Robert Hight, as well as Top Fuel competitors Brittany Force and Austin Prock. Prock claimed his first career win in Top Fuel at the NHRA Northwest Nationals last season by defeating a red-hot Steve Torrence. Although rumors abound online, there is a good chance that the team is parked due to a loss of sponsorship for the remaining races.
If John Force does not compete in the restart round at Indianapolis, it will mark two years since the sixteen-time Funny Car Champion has missed a race. On the other hand, should the entire JFR racing team remain sidelined, then it would be only the second time in team history, as the team withdrew from the 2007 NHRA O’Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston following Eric Medlen’s death from a violent tire vibration while testing at Gainesville Raceway. Even with issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, nearly all the full-time NHRA regulars are expected to compete at both Indy events. NHRA Top Fuel Champion from 2018, Steve Torrence and his father Billy Torrence, are not on the entry list. However, a social media post did confirm that both Capco team drivers are expected to race.
Photo credit: John Force in a cloud of smoke at 2010 Gatornationals by Walter G. Arce of Grindstone Media Group.