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Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Bonding time with Dad in Indy

By Courtney Force

John and Courtney Force spent the week in Indiana preparing for the U.S. Nationals.

The U.S. Nationals got postponed because of rain, which left me a whole week in Indiana ... with my dad. The rest of my family flew back home, but my dad and I decided to stay in town until we could continue the race. It's a lot of work to travel all the way across the country for a day and then back!

We kept ourselves occupied by cruising around town and checking out Brownsburg. We had dinner at an amazing restaurant on the lake several nights in a row and spent most of the time during the day at the shop or checking out the race track. I kept up with media to promote the race and got to share my feelings on being No. 1 qualifier, even though I wasn't sure if my spot would hold.

Even though we were busy with meetings at the shop, doing radio call-ins or other media appearances, Dad made sure we also used this time off to regroup, relax and get ready for the big race ... again. We went to the movies throughout the week and hit the gym.

My dad had been talking all week about the famous St. Elmo Steak House in downtown Indianapolis and decided he wanted to go there one night for dinner. I called to make reservations but, since the golf tournament was in town, the only opening they had was for 10 p.m. I still agreed to take it.

I knew my dad would be bummed and not want to eat so late, but I knew how bad he wanted to do something different, so I took it upon myself to find out what other restaurants downtown were good by posting on my Twitter. Next thing I know, fans are naming off the best restaurants in town and another race car driver and friend, Brandon Bernstein, said we should go to St. Elmo. When I explained we couldn't get an early enough reservation, he mentioned his friendship with the owner and got us a table. I told my dad, and although he was excited to be able to eat there, he made sure we were all aware he was bummed he didn't have the clout to get us a table. He said Brandon must have been able to because his dad, Kenny Bernstein, was the first to run 300 mph.

I think Dad's ego might have been hurt, but all in good fun! Thanks to the Bernsteins and St. Elmo, we were eating steak and their famous shrimp cocktail half an hour later! It was packed and Dad, of course, used this opportunity to network with all the people, talking about the race and getting them to come out and watch that weekend.

It never ceases to amaze me how he just never stops working for the sport he loves, even when we're at a nice restaurant for dinner. It's awesome watching him interact with people. He can hold the room's attention, and it's something I try to learn from. Believe it or not, I'm shy in person and shut down in a room full of people who I don't know, unless I'm there to talk about racing because that's when I enter my comfort zone. I'm a lot like my mom, but when it comes to racing, it shows how much of my dad I've got in me. We both have a passion for the sport.

The next couple of nights I grabbed dinner with friends from the track and talked about nothing other than preparing for the race. I was so excited to be back at the track and with the rest of my family. When the weekend came, the skies were clear and sunny. Being one of the biggest races of the year, I was really fighting to keep that No. 1 spot through qualifying and was able to accomplish it! I was officially named the first rookie driver to grab the No. 1 qualifying spot in Funny Car since Henry Harrison in 1971. It was such a huge accomplishment for my team and I'm so proud to have these guys working on my race car this season. Along with the top qualifying position going into the U.S. Nationals on Sunday, I was also one of the 10 drivers to clinch a spot in the Countdown to the Championship! With only six races left after Indy, the top 10 drivers will have the points reset and will get ready to battle for the championship. I'm ready to go after it!