NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Chad Green proves resilient through crew chief change-up

Funny Car's brutally competitive environment is tough to break into, but Chad Green rode right into the thick of things in 2023. Despite a significant changing of the guard, the amiable Texan hasn't veered off the championship trail.
22 Apr 2024
Kelly Wade
Chad Green

Funny Car's brutally competitive environment is tough to break into, but team owner and driver Chad Green rode his Bond Coat Ford Mustang right into the thick of things in 2023. Despite a significant changing of the guard for this season, the amiable Texan hasn't veered off the championship trail.

Pro Mod racer-turned-nitro Funny Car pilot Green put together an undeniably respectable scorecard last year with young Daniel Wilkerson in the role of crew chief. In 21 events, the Bond Coat team reached the semifinals or better 10 times, with Green picking up the first Funny Car No. 1 of his career in Epping, flying to the final round in both Sonoma and Reading, and finally closing the deal on his first win in the category at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals. 

Green was a well-earned fifth in the championship standings when all was said and done. Though a relative newcomer to the category — Green made his debut in 2020 — a strong statement had been made, and that statement came with an assumed promise of threat for the future.

But then came the announcement of crew chief Wilkerson's departure from the team as he transitioned to a full-time role driving the Funny Car previously piloted by his father, 24-time nitro winner Tim. It was a surprise to many, but it was actually the fruition of a plan that had long been in motion, and with the installment of veteran crewmembers Joe Serena (who spent the better part of a decade learning from the elder Wilkerson) and Dean Marinis (a diversly accomplished driver and tuner outside of the Funny Car ranks) as leaders, Green's cage was not rattled. 

"We knew that, eventually, Tim wanted Daniel to take over driving for him. It happened a little sooner than we expected, but we were already preparing when everything came into place for those guys," said Green, who explained that Wilkerson had worked with Marinis and Serena throughout 2023 to ensure they would be ready to collaborate as crew chiefs when the time came. 

"I think we were all a little nervous, to begin with, but after going testing, we were feeling pretty good about it," said Green, who went on to reach the semifinals at the season-opening Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. "Nothing had really changed; this is our fifth year together now, and those guys were a big part of our success last year, along with Daniel. It was really just them stepping up, and they've done an awesome job so far."

Green admitted that it wasn't immediate smooth sailing, but he explained that the team's struggles in their early test hits were an opportunity that Marinis and Serena used to their advantage. The two effectively worked through the issues and turned around the performance, thereby infusing confidence in themselves and in every member of the team. 

"We knew then that we could go out there and do it without Daniel," said Green. "That, and running really decent in Gainesville, were what we needed to start the season off."

Early losses in Pomona and Phoenix did not give Green cause for concern, and at the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas, his car was in competitive mode. After qualifying in the No. 12 position on a 4.018, his rejuvenated Bond Coat Ford fired off a 3.972 in the opening round and an even better 3.954 in round two. 

Green didn't reach the four-wide final in Las Vegas, but he'll have another shot at this weekend's NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte. 

"We had a really good season last year, and now the pressure is on to perform at least as good as or better than we did last year, and that's tough to do," said Green. "You can see the other cars stepping up — J.R. Todd, Paul Lee, everybody. But we actually found what was wrong with our race car at Vegas, and we think we got that fixed. We're real hopeful and excited to get to Charlotte and see what we can do.

"I have great confidence in these guys. Besides a guy here or there, I've pretty much got the same guys with me. It's becoming like family, and I'm really pleased that I've been able to put together a team like this. It doesn't matter how good you are if you don't have a good team behind you. I'm real excited about where we're going."