Force To Go It Alone At U.S. Nationals
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Clermont, Ind. – John Force did not really need more incentive at this weekend’s U.S. Nationals. One of his team’s Funny Car drivers needs a great showing to nail a Countdown to 1 berth, his daughter/driver needs to establish some momentum heading into the Countdown and, oh yes, this is the U.S. Nationals.
But earlier in the week, Force got even more incentive and not the good kind. It came when Austin Coil, his long-time crew chief, his aide de camp, was taken to the hospital with a serious stomach ailment.
Force was quite emphatic about two things as he talked about competing at the Nationals without Coil. First, life won’t be the same in the John Force Racing compound this weekend. Second, this weekend will be dedicated to Coil.
“You’re goddamn right it will be,” Force said thing No. 2.
Coil has been the architect of Force’s Funny Car success. They have been together for 25 seasons and have won 15 championships in Funnies and have 180 victories. They are the winningest driver/tuner combo in NHRA history.
They have won four championships at the U.S. Nationals and this weekend, they will be going for a fifth – with Force in the car and Coil a couple miles away,
“Coil will be tuning the car from his hospital bed,” Force said. “He’ll be on the phone with us all weekend.”
Force was asked if the folks at the hospital know that – if the doctors and nurses approve. Apparently, that doesn’t matter.
“Coil said to the nurse, ‘Listen, lady. This is what I do. I would die to do this.’ And he ain’t kidding. He would die for it,” Force said. “And I know how that is. I’ve always said that when he’s done, I’m done.”
Afflicting Coil are intestinal lesions. The condition is not life-threatening but Coil had lost quite a bit of blood before he overcame his stubbornness and headed to the hospital.
Force started qualifications at O’Reilly Motosport Park on Friday eighth in points and solidly in the Countdown, but without a victory in 2009. One here would make his year.
His daughter, Ashley Force Hood, is third in points but is coming off a three-race stretch where she lost in the first round of eliminations.
A third JFR driver, Robert Hight, is 12th in points and needs to make up 38 points to get the 10th and final Countdown berth.
Force will be racing in his newly adopted home state of Indiana this weekend. He has moved all his operations to a new facility in Brownsburg and now talks proudly about being a Hoosier.
“Why did we move here” after spending all those years in California? “The people here. They are just glad to have you. And it’s the middle of the country. And tax breaks,” Force said. “It just all made sense.”
So, plenty to race for this weekend. But one thing above all the others.
“It’s an emotional weekend for me,” Force said. “Coil has been with me for every race at the Nationals.”
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment