Chicago Tough Start For Chris King

Story By: ELON WERNER / NITRO FUNNY CAR 343 – CHICAGO, IL – Funny Car team owner and driver Chris King spent the off-season chasing sponsors, adding to his Funny Car team assets and as a full-time Chicago firefighter putting out actual fires. The third-year pro was focusing on the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 Nationals as a debut event that would help the aspiring Funny car team build momentum for a handful of NHRA national events in 2024. Unfortunately, a series of new team and early season gremlins derailed his best efforts at Route 66 Raceway this weekend.

“We just ran into one thing after another this weekend,” said King, driver of the Howards Cams/Competition Products Funny Car. “We were working until 1 a.m. every night almost leading up to the race and we did some really cool events in advance to promote the race. I was away from the team on Thursday and on Friday we just struggled. This is a brand-new team and the one thing we will never do is take a racecar to the starting line that isn’t 100 percent.”

On Friday the team worked all day prepping for the two qualifying runs on Saturday. In the first session of the day, they made a planned shutoff at 300 feet. The run showed promise from the starting line until they shut off the 12,000-horsepower nitro Funny Car. Posting an elapsed time of 7.013 seconds that have crew chief Bob Peck a baseline to build off. Prior to the final session the team ran out of time to prep the Howards Cams/Competition Products Funny Car for a final attempt to make the 16-car field.

“I had to make one of the toughest choices any team owner has to make,” said King. “I didn’t want to go up there and hurt anything or oil down the track so we sat out the session and forfeited any shot of qualifying for my hometown race. I want to thank everyone that supported us this weekend. We will keep working to be ready for Norwalk.”

On Thursday before the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals King introduced some of his NHRA competitors to the challenges and thrills of being a firefighter. In conjunction with the Romeoville Fire Department, Romeoville Fire Academy and the Joliet Fire Department NHRA Top Fuel racers Cody Krohn, Krista Baldwin and Travis Shumaker along with Funny Car driver Buddy Hull joined King in an afternoon of drills and activities highlighting just a few of the incredible activities firefighters experience.

“We want to thank Romeoville Fire Department and the Romeoville Fire Academy, along with Joliet Fire Department for supplying us with the equipment and facilities to host the event,” said King. “Everybody was excited and it was great to have Cody, Buddy, Travis and Krista get an eye-opening experience to realize the physicality of being firefighters and how heavy the equipment is and a few of the things that I do on the job away from the track. They had fun, cutting cars, dragging hoses, chopping, dragging manikins, climbing ladders, and various tests that firefighters do every day and their job duties.”

The crew of NHRA professionals first put on the standard gear worn by firefighters across the country. The drivers are used to firesuits, but these pants and jackets plus additional gear added nearly 50 pounds. The drivers were also given the opportunity to run some obstacles and use a variety of the day-to-day tools firefighters have at their disposal. Later that night King hosted a dinner for the Joliet Firehouse No. 1 with food supplied by NHRA series sponsor Mission Foods. King cooked with the firehouse crew and they enjoyed a fantastic meal thanks to Mission Foods. Several firefighters came to the race as guests of King and his Howards Cams/Competition Products Funny Car team.

Fans will be able to continue to cheer King on in 2024 at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, June 28-30.