Congratulations to J.R. Todd for becoming the first African-American driver to win in the National Hot Rod Association’s top fuel division over the weekend.
Actually, I should say it this way. Congratulations to Todd for getting his first top fuel victory, and congratulations to the NHRA for having a big jump on other American racing series when it comes to diversity.
Melanie Troxel is in the running for the top fuel championship this year and there are several female drivers competing at drag racing’s top level, too. Shirley Muldowney was winning races in the NHRA before a lot of current competitors were born. And it’s nice that fans of drag racing don’t seem to care too much about what color or gender the driver is, just whether he or she can get down the track really, really fast.
Force is, well, he’s John Force. He’s a little bit of Elvis Pressley, a little bit of Evel Knievel and a little bit of Robin Williams all kind of mashed up into one. Force talks like he races, wide open, but he never hits the chute.
When I first heard that they were going to make a television series about Force and his family, my reaction was, “And people thought Ozzy Osbourne was nuts.”
I went to Barney one day and asked him if he’d let me write a book about all he’s seen and done since he started working races more than 40 years ago. He said that was a fine idea, but that Ben White had already beaten me to the draw.
So I owe Ben White one. No, actually, Ben’s too nice of a guy to be mad at either. Ben and Barney finally got around to writing their book and it’s out now. “Barney Hall’s Tales from Trackside” is a great, great read. The story about how Barney learned to fly his own airplane, the story about how he got arrested trying to go to work at Daytona one day and the story about the legendary Chris Economacki correcting Ken Squier’s grammar on the air one day are among my favorites.
Pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.