Allen Lessels on Motor Sports: He's still a Force in drag racing
Funny Car driver John Force signs autographs during the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping on Friday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Her dad, John - a bundle of energy and enthusiasm and the patriarch of drag racing's First Family and the National Hot Rod Racing Association - had other ideas.
Courtney, who celebrated her 25th birthday on Thursday in Manchester by getting a rare chance to relax around the hotel pool and then dinner with the family at Hooked Seafood Restaurant, lined up against her father in the first round of the Funny Car finals last Sunday morning in Bristol, Tenn.
Force is on a bit of a roll now.
His Friday night qualifying run of 4.051 seconds - he was clocked at 313.44 miles an hour - stood up through two more rounds of qualifying on Saturday and he's the top seed going into elimination rounds today.
Force declined to agree that with his confidence and the way crew chief Mike Neff is setting up his cars that he's maybe the most dangerous driver here.
"Mom was rooting for me," Force said. "My Father's Day card said, 'Don't tell Courtney, but I'm rooting for you today.'?"
Force turned 64 last month and has no intention of slowing down just yet.
"As long as I can," Force said. "I love it. I'm good for five more years. I want to drive with my kids."
He and Courtney both race Funny Cars along with Robert Hight, who is married to his oldest daughter, Adria. Brittany, 27 next month, competes in Top Fuel.Another daughter, Ashley Force Hood, gave birth to her second child last month and is taking time off from racing. Her husband, Dan Hood, is one of the crew chiefs for Courtney."Ashley will come back driving," John said.
Force won 10 straight series championships from 1993-2002 and grabbed his 15th title in 2010. But in 2009 he finished ninth in the points, the same place he ended up in 2011 and 2012.
The win last week at Tennessee moved him up a spot and back to ninth in the points. He came into this weekend two points behind Del Worsham in eighth and five behind Courtney in seventh.
They all run into it.
"This market is huge," Force said. "They come out of Canada and upper New York and all that. Loudon is huge up here for NASCAR and NHRA's wanted back in this market and it's taken years."
On Thursday, a fan wearing a John Force t-shirt and getting an autograph from Morgan Lucas, a Top Fuel driver, tried to apologize.
Lucas was having none of it.
"John Force is still my favorite," the fan said sheepishly.
A few minutes later, Lucas elaborated: "I am a big fan. He's the Dale Earnhardt of drag racing and he built the sport into what it is. He's got a great personality and he appeals to the young and old and now he's got his daughters in it. He's got great marketing ideas. It's a multitude of things."