If you had asked Funny Car team owner and driver Chris King a month ago if he thought that he would be competing in the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway, he would have said no. After badly injuring his engine at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, King thought he was done for the season. But he rallied, and with the support of the NHRA racing community, he was back in action this weekend. For him, just having the chance to compete this weekend was a win.
“We didn’t think we would be able to make it this weekend,” said King. “But we figured it out and live to race another day. This sport is all about repetition. I knew we needed to get at least one other race underneath our belts so we could get better and go into next season even stronger.”
King made one qualifying run on Saturday, at 4.771 seconds and 187.50 mph. He was prepared to make an even stronger second run, when his team realized that the car was not in the best place that it could have been, and it would be safer and smarter to conserve parts for next time. The decision robbed him of a final qualifying run and his team slipped to the No. 18 spot going into race day on Sunday.
“We had a similar issue on Saturday night that we had in Denver with our CO2 bottle,” said King. “We thought we had the problem solved but it bit us again. We are going to replace the bottles and valves and we will be good to go. I know we would have gotten into the show if we could have made the run which is the most part about the situation. We made a good run beside Alexis DeJoria and we would have improved on that for sure.”
Even with all of the hurdles that have come with this race season, King has never been more sure that this is something he wants to be doing. The Chicago-based firefighter is determined at best, stubborn at worst. But his perspective as a firefighter always forces him to keep safety top-of-mind.
“A lot of people asked me why I am still coming out here and trying even though we aren’t always qualifying,” said King. “I tell them all the same thing. I am 100 percent committed to becoming a professional Funny Car driver. All these struggles and hurdles are eventually going to make us a good team. You look at all the champions and for the most part they overcame huge struggles. I want to be competitive out here and I am not going to come out and make stupid mistakes that will affect the safety of other teams or the show. I want to do things right, and if that means it takes a little longer and we have some growing pains, that is part of the deal.”
For King, part of growing his team this weekend included adding a few new guys to his crew, as well as purchasing several new parts.
“I have to thank the new guys that have been helping us out this weekend,” said King. “I didn’t think I would be able to make here but we added some great crew guys, and my sponsors Howards Cams and Competition Products continue to have confidence in our team.”
One of the most thrilling parts of the weekend for King was the sold-out crowd at World Wide Technology Raceway on Saturday. Additionally, Fire Dept. Coffee recognized him as the Hometown Hero for the race, acknowledging his work as a first responder.
“The fans this weekend were amazing,” said King. “When you are at a race that is sold out, it gives you so much energy. We had fans wishing us luck in the pits and the staging lanes. And I want to thank Fire Dept. Coffee for honoring me as the Hometown Hero. It’s a cool program and I appreciate them highlighting my career and achievements off the track.”