Crew Chief DeGennaro joins Force team, Venables returns
John Force announced this week that crew chief Danny DeGennaro has joined John Force Racing Inc. and that Dickie Venables, who helped Tony Pedregon win a pair of NHRA Funny Car Championships, is set to return to JFR as part of the crew chief “brain trust” that includes Jimmy Prock, Mike Neff, Dean “Guido” Antonelli, Ron Douglas and Bernie Fedderly.
DeGennaro, most recently tuned side by side with Cruz Pedregon, who finished in third place for the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car title, will assume a similar role on a JFR Ford Mustang Funny Car. With DeGennaro, Pedregon started from the No. 1 position a category-best six times last year and won the Countdown to 1 event at Dallas, Texas.
First hired by Prock to work on Joe Amato’s Top Fuel dragster in the mid-1990s, the 36-year-old DeGennaro also spent time at Kenny Bernstein Racing where, in 2007, he worked with Jimmy Walsh on the Monster Energy Funny Car.
Venables, whose resume includes stints with some of the top teams in the sport including Joe Gibbs Racing, Don Schumacher Racing, Al Anabi Racing and Kalitta Racing, was co-crew chief in 2003 when Pedregon won the NHRA championship at the wheel of the JFR-owned Castrol SYNTEC Ford.
After leaving JFR, he and Pedregon won a second championship in 2007. He subsequently worked with Del Worsham at Al-Anabi Racing, with Morgan Lucas at GEICO Powersports and with Johnny Gray at DSR.
The son of Dick Venables, who drove Top Fuel dragsters for partner Buggs Threadgill in the 1960s, the younger Venables developed his skills working initially with Rahn Tobler on Shirley Muldowney’s championship-winning Top Fuel dragsters. He then worked for 1989 Top Fuel Champion Gary Ormsby, Pat Austin, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme, Connie Kalitta, Whit Bazemore and Cory McClenathan.
“The opportunity to work with Dickie again is exciting,” Force said of Venables’ return. “I’m expanding my ‘brain trust’ with more engineers and new technology and getting someone with Dickie’s experience is important because he knows how we work.”
“My interest in getting back together with Dickie also has to do with the opportunities for longevity at JFR which is important because that helps keep the continuity of our program building.”
“Danny is another great addition and he has been in our Brownsburg shop this past week working with Jimmy on some exciting developments for 2012. We are expanding and looking at running a Top Fuel dragster with the Ford BOSS 500 engine, where they have experience,” Force said, “but we also want to strengthen our run for an 18th NHRA Funny Car championship.”
Venables’ input could prove invaluable should the team opt to launch a Top Fuel dragster effort in support of the world’s fastest female schoolteacher, Force’s third daughter, Brittany.
“What got me started in the whole thing was my dad racing Top Fuel,” acknowledged the 47-year-old Venables. “He used to drive in the ‘60s and he had cars all the way up to 1980. I was always around (and) that’s what got the hook set.
“The summer of my junior year in high school, after (Tobler) had already gone to work for Shirley, he offered me a job to help them during the summer. So naturally I jumped at the chance. Once I graduated high school (Houston, Texas, Waltrip High School), I went right to work for Shirley.”
As a crew chief, Venables has won 19 NHRA tour events, the most recent a 2011 Top Fuel victory with Lucas at the Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.