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Romeoville Fire Department and Funny Car driver Chris King Host NHRA Firefighter Experience

NHRA professional drivers (l to r) Travis Shumake, Krista Baldwin, Chris King, Buddy Bull and Cody Krohn following firehouse experience in Romeoville, Innovation Creative Experts/Katie Krohn photo

For the second year in a row Funny Car driver and full-time Chicago firefighter Chris King introduced some of his NHRA competitors to the challenges and thrills of being a firefighter leading up to the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals. 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 on Thursday, May 16.
 
“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.

“The Romeoville fire department experience was awesome,” said Baldwin.  “It really showed me how special our local heroes are and how much work they do. I work out, but I’ll apparently, I don’t work out enough to lift all the tools that they just carry and run up thousands of flights of steps every day. It was cool to experience something like that. I had a lot of respect for firefighters before but now I have even more respect for them because it was pretty sweaty in those outfits. Today was an awesome way to kick off the Chicago race and I was proud to be here representing McLeod Racing. Hopefully I can see some of my new firefighter friends at the track this weekend.”

Krista Baldwin(left) and Cody Krohn take turns wielding axes at Romeoville Fire Department, Innovation Creative Experts/Katie Krohn photo

In addition to wielding firehoses to extinguish a controlled fire and swinging axes to simulate making entry, the NHRA drivers also used the jaws of life to cut into cars. The coordination and physical activity showed all the drivers the physicality and skill it takes to be a local firefighter. All four NHRA professionals walked away with a newfound appreciation.

“What a great experience. These firefighters are real athletes,” said Hull. “They work so hard to save our lives. Thanks to Chris for organizing today and thanks to all the firefighters who showed us the ropes.”

Buddy Hull smashes the rear window of a car during a simulation at Romeoville Fire Department, Innovation Creative Experts/Katie Krohn photo

King and the drivers wanted to be sure to thank the leaders of the Romeoville and Joliet Fire Departments that helped may the experience happen. In addition to the fire departments representatives from NHRA sponsor Fire Department Coffee were on the scene with one of their marketing response rigs. They provided beverages for the participants and donated product and some FDC swag to the Joliet and Romeoville fire houses.
 
“This event couldn’t have happened without Deputy Chief Mike Pembel and John Hardy,” said King. “From Joliet Fire Department I want to tank Deputy Chief John Koch, Chief Jeff Carey and apparatus operator Brian Hertzman.”
 
King along with the rest of the NHRA participants will be on track today for the first day of qualifying for the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 Nationals. During the weekend they are looking forward to showing off their skills to the members of the Romeoville and Joliet Fire Departments who come to the race as their guests.

This story was originally published on May 18, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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