ARCA: Linville Returns to Competition After Long Battle with Cancer
25 September 1998HARRISBURG, N.C. -- For more than 20 years the only battles John Linville had to fight were on the race track. In 1985, he prepared to fight for his life.
Linville, a Kernersville, N.C. native, and a NASCAR Busch Grand National Series regular was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Linville's prognosis was unknown because there were few documented cases in the world.
"I was stunned," said Linville. "My entire life I may have had the flu twice and to find out that I had cancer was devastating."
The chemotherapy and radiation treatments took their toll on Linville. He wasn't strong enough to get out of bed, much less compete regularly on the rigorous Busch circuit.
"I had to give up racing cold turkey," continued Linville. "I didn't have time to think about anything else but getting better. I remember watching every race on TV wishing I was there.
I sold all of my Busch equipment due to my health. The costs to be competitive in the Busch Series were more than I could keep up with due to my medical bills. I decided to get a Late Model car to tinker with when I felt able.
"I drove the car a few times, but I just didn't feel physically ready to be back. I asked Ed Berrier, a long-time friend, if he wanted to try his luck with the car."
Berrier ran the car twice over a span of a year and a half until landing a full-time ride in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series in 1997. Eventually the treatments began to produce favorable results for Linville, allowing him to once again do periodic battle on the race track and also act as crew chief for Berrier who drives the No. 90 Mean Green Ford in select ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series races.
"I always tried to stay involved in some area of racing no matter what role I played," said Linville. "I prefer to be behind the wheel, but as long as I am involved I am content."
Berrier, still a regular competitor in the Busch Series and the regular driver of the Mean Green Ford, found it difficult to compete in both series due to the demands on his time. This left the No. 90 team without a full-time driver.
Will Spencer, team manager and co-owner of Three Star Motorsports, the team that fields ARCA cars for Berrier, approached Linville about the vacancy.
"We had the team, the sponsor and the equipment, all we needed was a driver," Spencer said. "Since John's health was better and we needed a driver, I couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather put in the car.
"He had been our crew chief and I saw his ability to lead the team. Pair that with his driving ability, and I knew he was the one to drive the car," said Spencer.
"I was surprised to be given the opportunity," Linville said. "I know I can drive. I guess it's like riding a bicycle. You never forget, but I haven't been on a speedway in 10 years."
Berrier, also co-owner of the team, felt Linville was the obvious replacement. "I just wanted to make sure John wanted to drive the car," said Berrier. "When I didn't have a ride and he was sick, he gave me an opportunity to drive his Late Model, so I was just returning the favor."
Along with the September event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Linville hopes to run the No. 90 Mean Green Ford at the season finale in Atlanta.
One thing for certain, Linville may have been racing close to 30 years, but he is not afraid to be a rookie in the ARCA Series.
"You never know, I may be the first 55-year-old rookie in victory lane," said Linville.