John McCormack - Up, Up and Away

By Jim Luikens

Thirty-six year old John McCormack got his start in drag racing at age 14 when he began racing a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere in U/SA. Too young to legally drive on the street at that early age, John had to have an older friend tow his race car to nearby drag strips for him. From that humble beginning John has now advanced to a high-flying AA/SA 1964 Plymouth Hemi Savoy. This is the story of John McCormack, who is known for doing some of the best wheel stands in drag racing, regardless of class.

John is the oldest son of Jack McCormack, a well known figure in drag racing. Jack’s company, McCormack Motorsports, operates a fleet of 27 manufacturer display trucks. On any given weekend trucks from the McCormack fleet can be found on the manufacturer’s midway at race tracks across the country displaying the latest in racing hardware. Jack is also the husband of Judy McCormack, who is equally well known for her many years of Stock Eliminator racing. Together they are the parents of three children, John, 36, Jennifer, 33 and Jason, 30, all of whom drag race.

John began working in the warehouse at Wheel City in Dearborn, Michigan nearly simultaneously with the start of his drag racing career. Wheel City was a renowned tire and custom wheel distributor of that era and his father was the General Manager. John worked in the Wheel City warehouse from age 14 to age 18 in addition to his schooling. When he turned 16 he also began working on the Mickey Thompson and Cragar/Weld manufacturer display rigs at the track.

About the time he graduated from school his father left Wheel City to form his own company, McCormack Motorsports. Naturally John was heavily involved in the new company from the start and continued to work on the display trucks. This phase of his life lasted until he was about 25 years old and it left him with little time to race. However, John’s love of actually competing was never far away and at age 25 he began racing again. When he was 27 he began driving a C/SA Dodge Challenger that was powered by a 440 + 6 Wedge engine. This was his introduction to a car that got some “wheels up” time.

When NHRA introduced the Stock Eliminator truck classes the entire McCormack family jumped in with both feet. Each of the four racing McCormacks had a new Dodge Dakota pick-up, which carried sponsorship from long-time supporters Mopar and Sears, to campaign. John raced a 4-speed equipped 360 Dakota while his younger brother Jason drove a 2.5-liter Dakota that was equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission. With his truck John recorded 13 class wins at various national events.

Not to be outdone was the female side of the McCormack family. Mom Judy raced an automatic equipped 360 Dakota that was a perennial #1 qualifier at national events while John’s sister, Jenny, had a 318 automatic Dakota that is best remembered as the first V8 Stock class truck to record an 11-second elapsed time.

After racing his Dakota from 1997 to 2001 John then moved up to his current ride. Originally purchased by his father in California, the Savoy started life as a slant six powered daily driver. Under the careful tutelage of Jack and John it has been converted to a clone of a 1964 factory lightweight Savoy. All of the modifications have been made to convert the car to AA/SA trim. This includes changing to a lightweight hood, fenders and doors, a bucket seat interior and the single headlight configuration that has always denoted a factory lightweight car.

Under the hood the venerable slant six has been replaced by a dual four barrel equipped race hemi engine. The biggest challenge to racing an AA/SA car is getting it to hook up properly and consistently. Needless to say traction can be a problem when you have 500 plus horses under the hood. The fact that stock class competitors are limited to 9-inch wide rear tires compounds the problem. This is where John’s mile-high wheel stands come in.

Although the wheel stands are fun, John would be just as happy if he didn’t need a wheel stand to hook up the car. At last year’s IHRA Northern Nationals John did a 330-foot wheel stand that was a monster, even by his standards. The car was so high that you could easily read the word Moroso on the automatic transmission pan and, in fact, Moroso has used a photo from that run in their ads.

Not so impressed was dad Jack, who was still the Savoy’s owner of record. He said, “if you’re going to continue to race that (My) car you better get some wheelie bars on it” which John has since done. Despite the wheelie bars the car still stands up with the best of them and the underside of the rear bumper still carries the scrape marks from that day at Martin US 131 Motorsports Park.

John’s business career has progressed as well. Today he is the manager of the Mopar Performance tech line and supervises a crew of four. Everyday the line rings nonstop with inquiries from literally around the world. In addition to the calls from this continent the line has fielded Mopar questions from Germany, France, Sweden, Australia and the Middle East to name just a few faraway places.

In addition to his day job, John spends roughly 30 hours a week working on the race car. Needless to say he’s grateful for the help that he receives on the car from his brother, Jason, as well as Chris Sniesak. As a proud papa he also has to find time for the five children of his blended family. Occasionally his sons are able to accompany him to the race track. John always enjoys the good times that he has at track with fellow racers Michael Beard, John Lovins and Terry Knott.

John would like to race as long as he can and, like most racers of a “door” car, he would eventually like to find himself behind the wheel of a Pro Stock or Pro Mod entry. It wouldn’t matter to him whether he was driving for himself or somebody else as long as it was a Mopar. Until then, he will continue to get some serious “hang time” with his Savoy.