Notes & Quotes: Grand Prix of Portland

SHAWN FORD has worn more uniforms in one season than he did in the last three years. He joined AJ Foyt Racing this season as crew chief of the No. 11 Chevrolet driven by Tatiana Calderon and J.R. Hildebrand. He became the crew chief of the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet driven by Dalton Kellett in July. We asked him a few questions…

How did you become interested in motorsports?

SF: “My Dad was a car guy and we spent a lot of time as a family at the racetrack (Spokane, Wenatchee and Ephrata, mainly).”

Where were you born?

SF: “Helena, Montana”

Ever watch the TV show Yellowstone?

SF: ” Yellowstone is one of my favorite shows, it’s filmed about 100 miles from Helena!”

When is the first time you attended an INDYCAR event?

SF: “The first Indycar event I attended was Qualifying for the Indy 500. I was there to watch my brother’s team Team Green at that time.”

Shawn Ford with his brother Nick at the Indy 500.

Who is your brother?

SF: “My brother is Nick Ford and he was working with Team Green when Paul Tracy was driving the year of the controversial finish at Indy with him and Helio Castroneves. Nick started out doing some NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) stuff for the first few years. He mainly worked for Andretti for 10 years and Ganassi for around 10 years as well. He worked on Tony (TK) Kanaan’s car at Andretti for I think eight years and also worked on his car at Ganassi for a year or two there. So, he worked on Tony’s car for 10 years or so. We both had a chance to win a championship on the same day in 2003. We were both racing in Dallas, Texas that weekend. I did it with Larry Dixon and he finished 2nd with T.K. We did however win championships in the same year in 2011. I won with Del Worsham (NHRA Top Fuel) and Nick won with Dario Franchitti (INDYCAR), so that was our banner year! We also both had a chance to win the INDYCAR championship at the last race of the year in Sonoma in 2015. Myself with Graham Rahal and Nick with Scott Dixon. Scott Dixon was the champion that year. It was special to compete against my brother for a championship. Nick is no longer in racing; he is now the production manager at the California Closets factory here in Indianapolis.”

What does your resume look like?

SF:NHRA Short Block Specialist for Don Prudhomme Racing (2000-2006), won championship with Larry Dixon as driver in 2002 and 2003, and for Al-Anabi / Alan Johnson Racing (2011-2014) won championship with Del Worsham in 2011. Shawn Langdon 2013 (short block specialist)

INDYCAR Front End Technician for Andretti Green Racing (2007-2009). Was on the crew when Danica won her race in Japan. In 2010, worked for DeFerran Dragon Racing. Worked for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2015 – 2018) and won five races with Graham Rahal including a Detroit doubleheader sweep.

IMSA – Car Chief for Wayne Taylor Racing (2019 – 2021), No. 25 Lamborghini Super Trofeo Series with driver Ashton Harrison; also assisted with the No. 10 DPI car.”

Left to Right: Shawn Ford with IMSA driver Ashton Harrison, celebrating with Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon, shaking hands with Graham Rahal in Victory Circle.

What is your favorite race track and why?

SF: “My favorite race track is Road America. It is unique and a nice change compared to a lot of the tracks we run on. I like the location and the cool and calm vibe the place has. To me, Road America is as American as apple pie.”

Ford awaits crew to finish during pitstop at Road America before releasing Tatiana Calderón.

What is your highest achievement in racing?

SF: “I would say my highest achievement in racing was crew chiefing a car that finished 12th at the Indy 500 this year. It’s not often one gets to do something they dreamed of as a kid and I feel very fortunate AJ Foyt Racing gave me that opportunity.”

Ford (left) looks over the No. 11 Homes For Our Troops Chevrolet prior to J.R. Hildebrand driving to a 12th place finish in the Indianapolis 500. Crew members D.J. Ellsworth and Zach Smith (L to R) await direction.

Did you ever race cars yourself?

SF: “I never really drove anything other than my own car I used to take to the dragstrip.”

What is the most challenging part of your job now?

SF: “The most challenging part of my job has been learning how to deal with the guys. Everyone is different and everyone deals with adversity in different ways. Twenty years in this business should give a guy a degree in psychology.”

What gives you the most satisfaction in your job?

SF: “What I think is special about the racing industry is the camaraderie we all have. Everyone pulls toward the same goal. It doesn’t matter what race, age, religion, political view or whether you’re a man or woman. When the car comes in for a pit stop, none of that matters, you just get it done. Everyone looks out for one another. I wish the real world was more that way!”

What hobbies or interests do you have?

SF: “My hobbies include working on my hot rod projects. I also enjoy traveling with my family when I get the chance. Sitting in my hot tub and doing nothing after one of Chris McFadden’s (trainer for AJ Foyt Racing) workouts is fun too!”

Shawn with wife Brenda and their son Landon. The couple married in 2012 and make their home in Brownsburg, Ind.

What are the top three things on your Bucket List?

SF: (1) Finish restoring my 1964 Ford Falcon before I die; (2) Doing the Hot Rod Power Tour in the Falcon once it’s done! (3) Take the family on a trip to Iceland. Nature is cool!”

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

SF: “I remember the best advice I’ve ever gotten. A guy named Wille Wolter told me when I was young and just starting out in this industry to “just care about what you do.” That has stuck with me and I think about those words he said to me 20 some years ago often.”

DALTON KELLETT will be making his second INDYCAR start at Portland. Last year his race was cut short due to a fuel injection issue which was particularly disappointing because he was running 12th at the time.

“It’s crazy to think that the end of season is almost here! I’m looking forward to finishing off with a couple west coast races. The layout at Portland International Raceway is exciting and challenging. We tested here last week, pretty much everyone made a trip through the gravel. The track was very fast, compared to qualifying last year, so everyone was pushing hard. We ran through some important setup work and we tried some stuff that was good and a few configurations that weren’t the right direction, so I think we have some good information leading into the race weekend. Barring chaos in the festival curves, it can be a tough track to pass at so qualifying will be important to a good race!”

Kellett Fast Facts: Age 29 (as of Aug 19)…Born in Toronto, Canada and lives in Indianapolis…Became engaged to Nicole Westra and they plan to wed on New Year’s Eve…Graduated from Queens University with a degree in Engineering Physics in 2015…Brand spokesman for Ten80 Education’s National STEM League…Enjoys rock climbing, backcountry skiing, camping, playing guitar, cooking and golf. For the technically curious, Kellett posts TikTok videos (@dalton_kellett) about the race car labeled “Indy Mondays” with subjects ranging from the steering wheel to the weight jacker to cold tires.

KYLE KIRKWOOD will be making his first INDYCAR start at the 12-turn, 1.964-mile track. He has raced and won at the track in USF2000 and Indy Lights.

“Portland has been especially really good to me. It’s the track where I won the USF2000 championship, and in my eyes, the track that won my Indy Lights championship. We were fortunate enough to be able to test there this past week in preparation for the Grand Prix. That has definitely given us a head start on the weekend and hopefully what we learned there will translate into a good performance.”

Kirkwood Fast Facts: Age 23…Born in West Palm Beach, and lives in Jupiter, Florida… Only driver to win championships in all three divisions of the Road to Indy ladder system…Began racing karts at age 5…Won the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 title (12 wins in 14 races) and won 15 of 17 races to claim the F3 Americas Championship…Won the 2019 Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with nine victories and five poles in 16 races (RP Motorsports)…Won the 2021 Indy Lights championship with 10 victories and seven poles in 20 races (the 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic). Enjoys surfing, deep-sea fishing, diving and golf.

Past Performance at Portland: Dalton Kellett started 24th but dropped out with mechanical woes just before the halfway point, he placed 26th. Kyle Kirkwood’s best start in the Indy Lights Series last year was fourth and he won that race after finishing second in the first race of the doubleheader. AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is 10th and best finish is eighth (1993 with driver Robby Gordon). Matheus Leist also finished eighth in 2019.

Last Race: At World Wide Technology Raceway, Kellett started 24th and finished 18th, his second-best result of the season (best finish is 17th). Kirkwood started 20th and finished 17th, tying his third best finish of the season (best ones were 10th and 15th).

Broadcast/Streaming Information: The Grand Prix of Portland will be broadcast live on NBC and streamed on Peacock Premium on Sunday, Sept. 4, starting at 3 p.m. ET. Qualifying (Saturday, 3:05 – 4:20 p.m. ET) will be streamed live on Peacock Premium as will all practices: Friday – 5:30 p.m., Saturday – 12 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. (all times Eastern).