I've been with Austin Coil for 25 years this year. You know, he's taught me so much about driving.
Coil had two championships with Frank Hawley, 14 with me, one with Tony Pedregon -- that's 17 championships he's earned as a crew chief. Nobody's even close.
I remember Coil putting a block of wood under the throttle when he was teaching me how to pedal the car. He made a bracket so I wouldn't go down all the way. We were racing tracks like Odessa (Texas) or El Paso and they were really rough tracks.
One winter when I couldn't make payroll, I told him I was going to have the let the team go. He took money out of the bank to finance payroll, and kept me going through the winter.
He's the guy who got me out of driving the truck. He said, "I work for you and I'm flying, and you're driving the 18-wheeler." He bought me my plane tickets so I could fly.
We've just become family, like a brother to me. He was there when Ashley was just a baby, with her running around the racetrack. If I would put Ashley with anyone other than Guido (Antonelli), it would be Austin and Bernie Fedderly.
Austin and Bernie, I've always joked and called them the "Odd Couple." They room together, they're best of friends. They tune together, which is why we didn't miss a step when Coil was out at Indy. I was so proud of the way when Coil was hospitalized "the machine" went into play.
Bernie steps up, takes care of the overall picture of the tuning, and the brain trust rallied around him. The choice was to not move anybody on my team, because Bernie could work with everybody else on how Coil runs this car. On the starting line you saw Jimmy Prock, John Medlen, and even my son-in-law, Danny Hood, at the starting line supporting my team. Nobody would leave me alone, even giving up the focus on their other cars.
Plus Coil was on the phone from the hospital continually wanting to know everything that's going on round for round.
Almost 18 years ago, Coil and I had been winning championships. We were sitting in the staging lanes one day, and after we'd won the race in Dallas, Coil said, "I can't go to the winner's circle, I'm too sick." He'd caught the flu. Can you imagine if that had been Friday? He told me we needed someone to back up the crew chiefs for a situation like this, and that's when I went after Bernie. It showed me the way and I've always had backups. Which is why Mike Neff and Ron Douglas have been brought in, so if someone goes down, somone will be there to carry the ball.
There's been a lot of talk about my people getting older. Yeah, that's true, but like I've always said, as long as they don't fall and hit their head, they're just as intelligent. Maybe they don't move as fast as they used to, but we'l let the young kids do the running. My generals still run this ship.