McCulloch adds to John Force’s NHRA Funny Car manpower
John Force Racing (JFR)went from having among the oldest tuning crew when 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion John Force earned his 14th title (Austin Coil and Bernie Fedderly) to having among the youngest tuners in the business. Since 2015 Jon Shaffer, now 29, has been in charge of Force’s effort to take home a 17th Wally champion’s trophy.
To further strengthen his 2016 chances, John Force announced the addition of Jason McCulloch to share tuning duties with Shaffer for the six-race playoffs that begin this weekend at zMax Dragway outside Charlotte, N.C. McCulloch, son of Ed “Ace” McCulloch, grew up in the Funny Car ranks where his father both drove and tuned, but found his professional expertise suited, before now, on the Top Fuel side. Now he returns to the “family” business, albeit with a different family.
Heading into the ninth annual Carolina Nationals, Shaffer and McCulloch will share tuning duties while Nick Casertano continues crew management and Funny Car operations on John Force’s Peak Chevrolet Camaro team.
“Growing up in California I always felt like my heroes Don ‘Snake’ Prudhomme, Tom ‘Mongoose’ McEwen and Ed ‘The Ace’ McCulloch were the boys of Southern California,” John Force recalled. “I used to see Jason sitting on truck tailgates learning from all these legends just like me.
“The McCullochs are Funny Car people just like the Forces. It just seemed like a natural fit to bring Jason over with me and team him up with Jon Schaffer. I have always worked to build the next generation of drivers and crew chiefs. This move is part of that plan and one that I think will make all my teams stronger,” he said.
This year alone, Shaffer led the JFR Peak team to two victories during the very difficult three-race Western Swing. Californian Shaffer worked with Top Fuel’s David Baca, JR Todd and Doug Herbert before returning to JFR, where he’d been a mechanic with Eric Medlen. Connecting with tuner/driver Mike Neff at the close of the 2009 season, Shaffer admits that, while he learned a lot in all of his jobs, “I learned a lot more since I started working with Mike. He has taught me everything from how to tune a race car to how to live a good life.”
Now, paired with McCulloch, 45, raised to understand the business of Funny Car, this trio of Force, Shaffer and McCulloch have impetus to succeed in the tough six-race playoffs, NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship.
McCulloch, who worked in Top Fuel over the past decade, winning championships along the way is ready for the challenge. “I learned a lot growing up in this sport. One of the best lessons I picked up was to work as hard as you can and do whatever job needs to be done,” McCulloch said as his new position became public knowledge. “This team has a lot of talent and I am ready to do my part to win John Force another Funny Car championship.”
Words and Photos By Anne Proffit