After the crash and tragic death of driver Eric Medlen, team owner John Force and Eric’s father and JFR crew chief John Medlen have tasked themselves with developing a racecar that will make a bad crash much more survivable for their drivers. They are also looking for solutions to improve the driver’s ability to egress the car after a crash and improve the safety crew’s access to the driver after a crash. With the cooperation of the NHRA and manufacturers, John Force Racing has been investigating and implementing solutions beyond the obvious to not only make the cars themselves safer but deal with the issues of debris on the race track and driver safety equipment.
Words and photos
by Jeff Burk
One of the innovations the Force camp has implemented is to hinge both the driver side and passenger side windows to make it easier for the driver to exit the car and for safety personnel to have access to the driver.
After an initial flurry of activity that included two fairly drastic changes to the cockpit area by Force’s car builder Murf McKinney which John Force himself tested, NHRA mandated new rules that among other issues dealt with safety belts and their installation. And there are likely going to be more changes to the current safety regulations in the near future, thanks to the cooperation ongoing between the NHRA, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, the SFI and John Force Racing as they try to make 330-mph nitro-burning racecars as safe as humanly possible.
I had a chance to spend quite a bit of time with John Medlen in the Force pits during the St. Louis NHRA event and he showed me just a few of the programs and changes the team was engaged in to improve the safety of their fuel cars. Even though we just looked at what JFR was doing to their cars, many of these programs could be applied to make Top Fuel cars and racing as a whole safer too.
One thing that Medlen stressed throughout our meeting was the complete dedication and cooperation JFR was getting from the NHRA and in fact all of the manufacturers involved in the building, racing and safety of nitro-fueled cars.
“I just can’t stress enough how co-operative everyone has been,” he said. “While improving the safety of the cars is my main mission in racing I just couldn’t do what we are doing without the massive amount of aid and support we are getting from everyone involved. There is no doubt everyone from NHRA, our team and the manufacturers will do whatever it takes to make the cars and drivers safer in the future.”
On the weekend I spent observing and watching what the Force team it was obvious they were concentrating on several issues regarding the car and chassis itself