Story and photo by Patrick Reynolds
“Will you be asking the first question, sir?”
The comedy routine was about to start.
A moderator spoke into a podium microphone at the zMAX Dragway’s media center in Concord, NC. Something seemed off about his question as his line of vision was directed into the rows of chairs which were almost empty.
Only one seat was taken so far while reporters were still at their laptop work stations awaiting the fastest NHRA Funny Car qualifier from the Four-Wide Nationals. The one man sitting in the chair had a recognizable face and voice to anyone with interest in the NHRA. Realistically, his face and voice are recognizable to most with auto racing interest.
John Force took the seat.
We were awaiting the arrival of his daughter Courtney who just set quick time at 3.851 compared to her Dad in third at 3.889. John had beaten her to the interview area but not on the track.
Courtney stepped through the door a few seconds later, took her seat on stage, noticed her Dad, and let out a sheepish laugh. She smiled with an expression a middle-schooler has when a parent interrupts a math class to drop off their lunch. Courtney wore the “don’t say or do anything to embarrass me” smile.
“I’m just here to see how she does!” bellowed John as Courtney’s smile grew a little bigger and her cheeks changed to a little more red towards the color of her firesuit.
The moderator spoke up again and questioned John if he would like to handle moderator duty for Courtney’s press conference.
Her eyes shut, her chin dropped, her head shook “no” in a back and forth motion, while her bright smile and chuckle never wavered. The middle-schooler was figuratively now getting a big hug and kiss from Dad in front of her classmates.
Like any good parent, sensing his daughter’s embarrassment, John hopped up out of his chair and double-timed it to the podium.
He turned his Peak sponsorship cap around backwards and quickly adopted a confident good ol’ boy accent.
John let loose with a stereotypical Southern, country impression. He joked about being interviewed, racing cars, and a loose interpretation of the English language.
Courtney’s face turned a few more shades of red.
“Now all of you- do your jobs!” said John as he relinquished his brief control over the proceedings back to the assigned media. Everyone in the room laughed and probably spilt opinions on whether John should have taken it further or glad that he stopped when he did.
Courtney looked relieved as the color in her face returned to her usual complexion and she fielded questions of the common drag racing variety.
She talked of racing four lanes once a year, husband Graham Rahal’s Indycar race that weekend, her car’s performance, and her father’s personality.
John stayed and watched the proceedings. Like he said, “I’m just here to see how she does!”
I tweeted out a photo of John at the podium with Courtney at the head of the class. She retweeted my post with her own quote….
“Dad tried to be the MC in the media center for me… I was scared.”
At the conclusion of Courtney’s Q & A, the Forces made their way to the exit. Class was dismissed but there are always the hallways and locker rooms to navigate.
One final question was tossed to John as the pair headed through the door.
“Are you still going to try to beat her tomorrow?”
“Hell, yeah!” John brashly said.
Courtney had more speed than her Dad on the track but was less bold in her talking.
“I’ve got to start hanging out with my Mom more.”
Patrick Reynolds is a former professional NASCAR mechanic who hosts Speedway Report Mondays 7:30 pm ET/ 4:30 pm PT on http://racersreunion.com/podcast-library . Follow on Twitter @SpeedwayPat.