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Force Applauds Austin Coil’s Induction Into Motorsports Hall of Fame of America

Legendary crew chief Austin Coil, who tuned John Force to 15 of a record 16 NHRA Funny Car championships and over 130 national event wins, will be among 10 individuals to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America’s Class of 2024 on Tuesday night in Daytona Beach, Fla.

After leading Frank Hawley to two NHRA Funny Car championships in the “Chi-Town Hustler” in 1982 and 1983, Coil joined forces with the up-and-coming Force. And for more than three decades, they became the most dominant driver-crew chief combination in drag racing history.

“It’s a real honor,” Coil said of his induction. “I really was surprised when I came to find out that I had gotten this award and I’m just tickled pink.”

But Coil isn’t accepting his induction solely for himself. There was a huge family at JFR that helped him and Force achieve the success they attained over the decades.

“You know, it takes a lot of people to make a car win a lot,” Coil said. “The driver is important and the crew chief is important, but everybody is important.

“My co-crew chief throughout most of these wins was Bernie Fedderly and he seems to get so little credit. It’s a terrible shame because I guarantee if it wasn’t for Bernie’s help, a lot of those win lights wouldn’t have come on. … And there also was our car chief through most of those wins, Dean Antonelli.”

While it was Force’s talent behind the wheel that led to the team’s wins and titles, it was Coil’s talent under the hood that laid the foundation for Force’s success.

“He taught me so much not just about driving a car, but also about business,” Force said of Coil. “He rode in the truck with me in the early days. There were times when I couldn’t make payroll, he didn’t have any money either. But he’d help me make payroll to keep the team going. He was a special individual.”

Unfortunately, the now 78-year-old Coil will be unable to attend the induction in-person (he has sent along a taped interview that will be played), but Force will humbly accept the honor on behalf of his longtime friend.

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“You know, they talk about the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). Coil is the real GOAT to me, and that’s what I’m going to say when I get up there,” Force said. “If anyone deserves to be called GOAT, it ain’t me, it’s him. He made John Force. I was there all along, I get all the credit, but it was his magic.

“Coil was someone who made me believe. You only build that with trust in time. They may try to call me the GOAT, but if that’s true, Austin Coil is the guy that created the GOAT.”

Along with Coil, nine other luminaries from the world of motorsports will also be inducted: six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon (Open Wheel); seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (Stock Cars); late actor, IndyCar team co-owner and amateur racer Paul Newman (At Large); Jim Downing and Dr. Robert Hubbard (Technology); Bud Ekins (Motorcycles); John Surtees (Sports Cars); and Earl B. Gilmore and Phil Walters (aka “Ted Tappett”), both in the Historic category.

This story was originally published on March 12, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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