Here is a sort of modern time story for all the John Force haters out
there (I am not one). Later I will write what happened at the next race.
Actually, this is more about my wife (her name is Norma, FYI).
First, you have to understand that she has an amputation of her right leg
above the knee, the result of an accident. She cannot wear prosthesis for
reasons I won't go into; suffice to say she gets around MUCH better than
anyone I've ever seen on crutches. We were at Topeka, Kansas, at the spring
race in 1996 and she had brought a pair of white jean shorts to get
autographs on. She had a lot of success in doing so -- Snake, 240 Gordie,
WJ, KJ, Glidden, Eddie & Ercie Hill, and many others signed but she had
not been able to catch up with John Force. She wanted his autograph because
he is the (now 10-time) champ.
Because of her being on crutches, I always rent a golf cart so we can
easily get to where we want to go. I like to be on the top end some of the
time. We were coming back from the top end through the pits and we hear a
nitro car fire so we head over to see who it was.
At the Force "complex" it was the #2 car of Tony Pedregon.
Austin Coil was tending to the #1 car as we drove up and stopped. Well, most
of you know what that is like (warm up time). Norma says, "They will be
starting up the other car soon and maybe I can get John to sign my shorts
then." I am thinking yeah right, they are getting ready to run and I am
sure Force is gonna stop to sign autographs. There are about a hundred other
people there by this time. I went as far away as I could across the road to
escape the "yellow cloud" and watch. She stood there in that cloud
all the time Tony's car was running with tears running down her face.
Now I love the smell of nitro in the morning, but warming up on 98% is a
little strong for me.
Next thing, they shut the car off and Tony stays sitting in it. The cloud
had just about gone away. Sure enough, here comes Force out of the motor
home and he gets in his car. Coil bends over and says something to him and
he looks around and sees Norma standing there. Force gets out of the car and
walks straight to her. He says something like, "Coil said you stood
there all through the warm up of Tony's car and thinks you are looking for
an autograph." She is stunned but says, "Yes, if it is not too
much trouble." Force says, "If you can stand there through that,
on those crutches, the least I can do is give you a few minutes of my
He not only signed her shorts and a T-shirt for our then 8-year-old
grandson, he gave her a big hug. She said, "Thank you, John
Force." He said, "No, thank YOU," then turned and got back in
his car. Tony came over and did the same. Norma will be a fan of John Force,
Austin Coil, and Tony Pedregon forever... And this little story is why.
P.S. - Just for the record, I am not a big fan of the multimillion-dollar
race teams. BUT this story makes me think maybe Force still remembers the
days of driving all night and not having any money to buy supper, even a
burger and a coke at a 7/11. I have done that myself a couple of times. Ah,
the good old days?