JOLIET, Il. – IndyCar team owner and former CART champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal was on a scouting trip of sorts on Friday, checking out a driver.
This was a rather unique scouting trip, as Rahal was at Route 66 Raceway, and the driver is National Hot Rod Association Funny Car pilot Courtney Force. It’s the first time Rahal has been at an NHRA race in over a decade.
But Rahal isn’t going to hire Force for his IndyCar team. Rather, he wanted to see how his future daughter-in-law does behind the wheel, as Force and Bobby’s son, IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, are getting married in November in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“I’ve always been very impressed with this sport, and particularly now that my future daughter-in-law is out there,” Rahal said. “She’s a great girl and is doing a great job and it’s fun to come out and cheer her on.”
Rahal is also having fun hanging around Courtney’s father, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force – who is such a contrast to his daughter.
“The first time I met her, Courtney was, I don’t want to say shy, but quiet – not like John,” Rahal said with a smile. “With John, he’s at the rev limit all the time.
“Courtney comes across as a very solid person, and as I’ve gotten to know her a lot better over the last year and a half or so, she’s a great girl. I’m very glad for both of them. She makes (Graham) happy and he makes her happy.”
And the younger Force can certainly wheel a Funny Car. She was No. 1 after the first qualifying round Friday and No. 4 after the second qualifying session later in the evening — two spots higher than dear old dad. There are two more qualifying rounds Saturday night.
There’s no question that the pending merger between two of the biggest names in motorsports may lead to some interesting times in the future.
When asked what direction his future grandkids might follow in motorsports, Rahal smiled and said, “I don’t know what direction they’re going to go, but I’m sure John’s going to do all he can do to make them drag racers.”
But Rahal appreciates his son’s future father-in-law for the person he is and all the achievements he’s made in drag racing.
“What I like about John is what you see is what you get, it’s not an act,” Rahal said. “I love John. I have a lot of respect for the guy, he’s made his way.
“In some respects, I wonder where drag racing would be without him. He’s such an engaging and popular figure, people love him. And I’m impressed that he’s a couple years older than me and he’s still going 300-plus mph, so he’s a lot braver I am, that’s for sure.”
When asked if he’s getting nervous at his son’s impending nuptials, Rahal’s face broke into a big smile.
“No, I’m not nervous because I don’t have to pay for that wedding,” he said with a laugh. “I called John up and left a message on his voicemail that this was going to be the most expensive wedding in Southern California in 2015.”
Like most fathers, Rahal has already given his son some advice about getting married — and about his future father-in-law.
“I told Graham,” the elder Rahal said with another big smile on his face, “you do realize you’re marrying John, too, right?”