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What's next for Jonnie Lindberg?

Two-time world champion Jonnie Lindberg is building race cars and planning his return to Top Alcohol Funny Car class after three-year run with Jim Head Racing in the Mello Yello series.
18 Dec 2019
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Feature
lindberg

Top Alcohol Funny Car racers who thought they’d seen the last of Jonnie Lindberg might be in for a surprise as the two-time world champion appears headed back to his old stomping grounds. While Lindberg admits that his 2020 plans are still somewhat up in the air, he’s certain that in some capacity, he’s going to return to the Top Alcohol Funny Car class, where he won back-to-back titles in 2015-16.

Lindberg could return as a driver or a tuner. Most likely, he’ll be both.

 “Ideally, the plan is to run a two-car team with me driving one car and Brian Hough driving the other,” said Lindberg. “It might be a little tricky to drive one car and tune another in the same class, but I believe we can make it work. That’s the plan anyway. I’m looking for sponsorship to make that happen right now. If I can find a little support, we’ll race two cars for a full season. If not, I’ll just race my car at a few events that are close, and I’ll continue to tune Brian’s car whenever he runs. We raced together last year and had a lot of success and we had a lot of fun so that’s my plan but it’s a long winter so you never know; it might change. I think it’s going to be fun to go back to alcohol racing. I’ve missed calling the shots on a car. When you are the tuner and the driver and making your own decisions, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.”

Following his back-to-back alcohol championships, Lindberg got the break he’d been looking for in 2017 when he was named the driver of Jim Head’s nitro Funny Car. Lindberg spent the last three seasons in the NHRA Mello Yello series “big show” and he enjoyed a moderate amount of success with four runner-up finishes including one recently in Las Vegas, last November. At the end of the 2019 season, it became known that Lindberg was being replaced in Head’s Mustang by Blake Alexander. Alexander got a chance to drive Head’s car at two events this year after Lindberg returned to his native Sweden to work out an immigration issue. It was Lindberg’s dream to drive a nitro car when he first came to the United States, and he’s happy to have fulfilled that dream, but he’s also excited about the next chapter of his career.

“Jim called me after Dallas and told me that Blake was going to be driving his car next year,” said Lindberg. “I understand his decision and I appreciate the fact that he was up front with me and didn’t leave me hanging until January or anything like that. I’m thankful for the three years we raced together, and I have nothing but good things to say about working with Jim. I learned a lot about fuel racing and made a lot of friends. It was a great opportunity just to drive his car.

“The only thing I regret about racing with Jim is that we didn’t get a win,” said Lindberg. “Four finals, and we were runner-up in all of them. Hopefully, I get a chance to drive a fuel car again. I’m sure I’ll miss it but at the same time I missed racing my alcohol car. In some ways, the alcohol car is more fun. There is more flexibility. You can do a long burnout if you want to. You get to rev it up on the starting line and shift gears. I made two runs in testing in Las Vegas last month and had a smile on my face. I mean, if a good opportunity [to return to a nitro car] came up, I’d take it but right now my sights are set on going back to alcohol racing.”

As far as his return to the Top Alcohol Funny Car class, Lindberg would like to think that he’ll be able to pick up where he left off, and challenge for a third championship, but he also understands the class is not the same as it was in 2016.

“Everybody has stepped up since I last raced there so it’s definitely going to be tougher,” he said. “I don’t think I’m out of the loop though. I first tuned Jay Payne’s car and I’ve been working on Brian’s car last year and I think we did pretty well. We won the Northwest Region championship and finished second in the [world championship], so we had a lot of success. I would like to take back my [elapsed time] record from Sean Bellemeur. I had it for three years and now he’s got it. I certainly have a lot of ideas that I’d like to try.”

Lindberg has also made steady progress on his long-term plan to build a successful business in the U.S. Last winter, he purchased a home in Brownsburg, less than two miles from Lucas Oil Raceway. The property features a 6,000 square foot shop that has become the home base for Jonnie Lindberg Motorsports. Currently, Lindberg is in the process of building two new Top Alcohol Funny Car chassis, and he’s planning on building two more before the start of the 2020 season. A gifted welder and fabricator, Lindberg sees his business as a one-stop race car shop.

“I call it the Lindberg Funny Car Factory,” he laughs. “We can do almost anything here up to a complete turn-key car and not just Funny Cars. I’d build a dragster, too. Right now, I’m building two funny cars for Doug Gordon and when they are finished, I have a few other people that are interested. I just finished building a jig so the process is starting to come together. Doug wants his car in time to test before Pomona. I’m also still selling parts to customers in Europe. I have a bunch of alcohol and Pro Mod racers over there.”

When it comes to time, Lindberg also admits that he’s a bit relieved to not be committed to the rigors of a nearly full season in of professional competition. In addition to running his business and returning to his own alcohol car, he’s got other plans, most notably a return to Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week along with his buddy, Richie Crampton with their popular “S**t Box of Doom” ’57 Chevy station wagon. Lindberg also plans to attend a few more races in Europe, where he is always in demand as a tuner.

“I’m really busy with the shop right now but I could see Richie and I doing Drag Week again, and this time we’d like to finish it,” said Lindberg. “There are a lot of things I’d like to do and that’s just one of them. It will be nice to spend a few more weekends at home, but I’m not even sure how that will work because between Brian and I, we might end up running most of the alcohol races. It all depends on finances. I definitely plan on heading back to Europe next summer just to see my family and friends. The bottom line is that I plan on being around for a while. I’ve got a lot of things happening. I came to the U.S. to be able to race and build a successful business. You’re not going to get rid of me easily.”