Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Thanks to his family’s unwavering support, accomplished Jr. Dragster driver Jonathan McClain took the next step towards accelerating his future when he completed the NHRA Super Comp competition licensing program at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School.
The young racer was gifted his 2002 Spitzer Junior when he was just seven years old. Although he didn’t make his first run until he turned nine, Jonathan showed tremendous natural talent as a driver and went on to earn some serious accolades.
Hailing from the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, Jonathan was a runner-up at the 2015 NHRA Bracket Finals in Texas and went on to win the NHRA Western Conference Finals Championship in 2017. He earned many more wins and runner-up finishes over the years, and was both the Tulsa Raceway Park track champion and the Mid-West Drag Racing Series Jr. Dragster Pro champion in 2021.
Jonathan has been featured in multiple magazines, interviewed by many media outlets, and has received a plethora of awards for his impressive achievements. “He’s also made it to the final round at every Western Conference Finals or Eastern Conference Finals that he’s raced in for five years in a row,” added his proud father and fellow School graduate, Jacob McClain.
Jacob completed his Super Comp course with Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in 2016 at Gainesville Raceway in Florida. At the time, he drove a big block Chevy-powered Altered and was hoping to improve his own career, but decided to sell his car and focus on his son’s future instead. “I tried to teach Jonathan a lot of what I learned from Frank [Hawley] about the mental and psychological preparedness so that he could put the knowledge to use, too,” noted Jacob. “I got a ton out of the class that I use in everyday life, not just at the track.”
Jacob and his wife, Jayme, wanted their son to enjoy the same great Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School experience, too, so the McClain family packed up and headed down to Gainesville in early February.
Just a few short days after Jonathan’s sixteenth birthday, he began the 2-day course and spent time in the classroom learning from Hawley’s comprehensive program. “Being in the classroom for 14 hours was a lot, but it wasn’t overwhelming – it was fun and Frank made it interesting. It was a lot better than being at school,” proclaimed the respectful young man. “I learned that you can’t make excuses about your environment, you’re in control and the outcome is based on how you handle everything.”
When the time came for Jonathan to step up into a big car for the first time, he was both excited and apprehensive. Just as expected, though, the experienced NHRA Jr. Dragster champion easily transitioned to the more powerful Super Comp dragster.
“It was different learning to use the trans brake instead of foot braking, but I came back from my first run with a big smile on my face,” Jonathan recalled excitedly of how he couldn’t wait to make another pass. “I would tell other drivers coming to the school that they should be prepared to get a lot of information really fast.”
Jacob and Jayme watched their only child from the sidelines with pride and were impressed by how consistent, and quick, his reaction times were. “It was a little like watching him run his junior for the first time. He took it seriously and seeing his excitement was worth every penny,” affirmed Jayme, who knows the Super Comp course will help Jonathan as he transitions into the next stage of his racing career. “I’m planning to have him go back to Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School to take the Top Alcohol Dragster course after he’s been in a Super Comp-style bracket car for a year.”
Both parents have worked hard to give Jonathan every advantage they can to help him understand all aspects of the racing business. They encourage him to work out his own deals with sponsors, such as FTI Farm Team, E3 Spark Plugs, Trailer Alarms LLC, and Viperizer, and know the practice will help him later in life, too. “We truly appreciate everyone that has helped us along the way, and we wouldn’t be where we are without the assistance of good people, great friends, and supportive sponsors,” added Jacob.
Looking ahead, the McClain family plans for Jonathan to continue to run his McClain Racing Jr. Dragster until he ages out of the category and has also secured a seat for him in a Super Comp dragster so that he can race in the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Top Dragster class as well.
“The NHRA Jr. Dragster program is a fantastic way to get started, and every Junior driver we’ve had does a great job. Jonathan was a classic example of that; he was very familiar with the sport and took to the Super Comp car quickly,” added Hawley, whose school has hosted hundreds of second- and even third-generation drivers over the years. “I had very supportive parents throughout my driving career and Jonathan does as well. I look forward to working with him and his family in the future.”
With many years of on-track experience under his belt already, the up-and-coming driver’s time spent at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School will surely aid Jonathan wherever he winds up – whether that’s crewing on a top-level Nitro car or, perhaps, even driving one himself.
Written by Ainsley Jacobs
For NHRA Top Fuel legend and three-time world champion Antron Brown, there’s something even more important than the success of his career – the success of his children. Now, as his middle child, Anson, prepares to age out of Junior Dragster competition, Antron is passing the torch to the next generation of Brown family racers.
Before he got started racing in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, Antron attended Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School to complete their Pro Stock Motorcycle class; he joined the Don Schumacher Racing team in 2002 and returned to the School with teammate Angelle Sampey in 2005 to brush up on his skills.
In 2007, Antron once again trusted Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School to prepare him for the next step in his career when he received his Top Alcohol Dragster license and went on to pilot the pinnacle of performance, a Top Fuel dragster.
Antron remembers that time at the School as if it were just yesterday, as he shifted his alcohol dragster quicker than Hawley had ever seen anyone do before. “I was swapping feet and doing everything to leave the line and shift down the racetrack,” laughed the driver, who impressed his instructor tremendously. “Frank [Hawley] said the Top Fuel Dragster would be easier for me to operate, but more difficult due to the rate of acceleration and was prepping me to understand what would happen when I moved up.”
When he finally did make the jump, Antron’s natural aptitude made others wonder if he was a true rookie or a veteran of the category. Driving the 10,000-horsepower machine was practically second nature to Antron, and he credits the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School with helping him get to that point.
“It’s more than just learning how to go down the racetrack, it’s also a mind game. Frank has all of the knowledge to give you the mental focus and preparation to be repeatedly successful,” asserted Antron. “From true beginners learning the basics to experienced professionals, Frank can take a racer of any phase and help them learn something. If you have the willingness to learn, you’ll improve.”
When Antron’s son, Anson, wanted to go racing at just 8-years-old, the Indiana-based family fully supported the budding racer’s dream and got him started in the Junior Dragster ranks. With a few championship titles of his own in the Midwest Jr. Super Series, Anson showed promising skill early on. For his upcoming seventeenth birthday in 2021, though, Anson decided he wanted to step up to a bigger car and his parents gave him the gift of a Super Comp license course at Frank Hawley’s in June at the famed Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Thinking back to his own days at the School and the nerves that came along with the unexpected, Antron tried to reassure his son that he would be just fine – and he was. “All of the kids in Anson’s Super Comp class listened and responded well. It’s amazing to see the next generation of drivers come up all together,” shared Antron, who enjoyed seeing the kids compete on the track and cheer each other on throughout the entire experience. “I remember seeing Anson’s face and his excitement when he came back from making his first full quarter-mile pass over 150 miles per hour and thinking… wow, he’s all grown up.”
Anson was admittedly nervous at first, too, but quickly realized that he had no reason to be. “I had a great time and Frank was amazing with his instruction. I don’t think anyone could have taught me better, not even my dad,” laughed Anson, who enjoyed receiving feedback on how he could improve as a driver and hopes one day to get behind the wheel of a Pro Mod doorslammer or nitro-fueled Funny Car or Top Fuel Dragster just like his father. “The Super Comp car was bigger and faster than my Junior Dragster and was really exciting. Whenever I’m in a car, I’m happy.”
Hawley loves shaping a part of drag racing’s future through helping aspiring drivers, especially teens, to cut their teeth in a safe and controlled environment.
“Anson clearly has learned a lot from watching and listening to his dad,” affirmed the School’s founder. “Antron is a perfect example of how you can actually achieve your dreams in our sport. He has worked his way up to a champion driver and now an NHRA Top Fuel team owner. He’s one of the best drivers in our sport, and he does an incredible job for his sponsors. He is truly a perfect role model for Anson.”
Although Antron and Anson both are ready for the next phase of the young man’s driving career, the elder knows that there is no rewind button on life. Instead, he’s simply trying to enjoy the moments, memories, and time that they have in the Junior Dragster ranks while they still can.
In addition to Anson, Antron’s two other children, Adler and Arianna, are also carrying on the family’s drag racing tradition with their own endeavors. Where all of their careers ultimately take them (after college, of course), and whether that’s within the automotive industry or not, Antron and his wife, Billie Jo, will always love and support them unconditionally.
By Abby Werner: Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School continues to be the best as they train two future NHRA competitors. Austin Prock and Jordan Vandergriff are currently going through a multi-year program with Frank Hawley’s and are excited about what their future in drag racing will bring.
Austin Prock is the 21 year old grandson of Tom Prock, a former NHRA Funny Car driver, and the son of Jimmy Prock, a crew chief for John Force Racing. Jimmy Prock led John Force to his 16th championship in 2013 and is currently the crew chief for Robert Hight’s Auto Club of California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. Austin has experience racing Sprint Cars and Midgets, and works on the JFR cars as well. He is part of John Force Racing’s driver development program.
“I’ve already been through Frank’s S/C program. Up next I’m gonna test in the School’s Alcohol Funny Car. We’re hoping to make some runs soon. We’re going to do several laps in that. And then once I get my license, I hope to start testing in a Nitro Funny Car,” explained Prock.
Jordan Vandergriff is the 22 year old grandson of Bob Vandergriff, the owner of Hedman Hedders, and the nephew of Bob Vandergriff Jr., a Top Fuel driver who has raced in the NHRA for over 20 years.
“It’s pretty exciting knowing guys like me and Austin Prock are the future of the NHRA. It’s amazing- I grew up going to the races, watching my uncle. I never thought that I would be the guy to be up next, and now that it’s happening, it’s surreal. Next up is the alcohol program. I am very excited. Hopefully I can win and carry on the family name,” said Vandergriff.
Both Prock and Vandergriff have already attended Hawley’s S/C and S/G program and agree that Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School is the best, and what they have already learned from Frank Hawley will be invaluable in their racing careers. Since Frank Hawley has trained many of the top competitors in the NHRA, they are each optimistic that the racing education they receive at Hawley’s will propel them to the top of the NHRA leaderboard.
“What I liked best about Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School was how Frank was one-on-one with each driver and after you made a lap he would take you back into the classroom and break down the run for you. Frank knew what mistakes you were gonna make before you even made them. It was cool how knowledgeable he was about the human body and your reaction times and your composure as a driver,” said Prock.
Prock and Vandergriff came to Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School to train from the best of the best. But the individual faith and support they have each received from Frank Hawley himself is another huge aspect of why they both loved the experience so much.
“Both of these young men come from strong racing families and are excellent examples of the future champions we train here at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School. I’m excited to see what they will accomplish in their racing careers, and I look forward to working with them on their journey,” expressed Frank Hawley.