In advance of the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals Chicago firefighter and driver of the Howards Cams/Competition Products Dodge Charger Funny Car Chris King took several NHRA drivers through the paces at the Robert Quinn Fire Academy today. King was joined by Pro Stock standout Camrie Caruso as well as Pro Mod drivers Lyle Barnett, JR Gray, Jerico Balduf and Mike Thielen for an afternoon of firefighting skill tests and challenges. The group was outfitted in full fire protection gear including air tanks which added just over 35 pounds to each driver plus a variety of firefighting tools before they took on the challenging “up and over” drill which included five flights of stairs up a run across the top of the training facility and then five flights of stairs down to the main floor. The group paused for a photo with the famed Chicago skyline in the background before continuing with more drills. This event was something King has been planning since he broke onto the NHRA Funny car scene in 2021.
“I think today opened their eyes a little bit to what firefighters do every day for the community and it gave them a different perspective on things,” said King, who will be making his 2023 Funny Car debut this weekend. “I hope they had fun, too. This has been a dream of mine for a long time to bring my life as a firefighter to my life as a racer. Bringing these two together is something I’ve tried to do for a long time but I’m glad we were finally able to pull it off. It’s exciting. I got goosebumps just thinking about it. This is what I do day in and day out. I live for the fire department. I live for drag racing. To be able to combine these into one thing just makes my day I love it. I really appreciate Camrie, Lyle, JR, Jerico and Mike taking the time to try this out.”
Following the “up and over” drill the group was instructed how to properly breach a door and they took turns simulating pulling a 150-pound person out of a fire. They were also provided the opportunity to man a pressurized fire hose, shoot water across the training facility and go through a multi-stage obstacle course. The highlight of the event for the drivers was the chance to use a variety of cutting and prying tools to dissect several automobiles.
“Today was a cool experience that was definitely eye opening to see what firefighters and first responders have to deal with and the challenges that I go through every day to save people’s lives,” said Caruso, who will be competing in not just the national event but the NHRA Pro Stock All-Star Callout. “It doesn’t matter what kind of fire it is, these
guys are really getting a workout. The work they do is amazing. I really appreciate Chris setting this up and I also want to thank all the Safety Safari staff for being at the track and being ready to help us. Wearing all the gear today showed me I might need to spend more time in the gym, but it was a great afternoon.”
The drivers will all be in action on the track starting Friday, May 19 with the first day of qualifying in all their various classes. Fans can purchase tickets to the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals here and follow the NHRA social media channels for additional coverage of today’s event.