Dallas: John Force preview

FORCE BATTLES BACK AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX 14-Time Champ Confronts Injuries and Race Car Woes DALLAS, Texas - A year after he flew out of the Texas Motorplex in an Air-Evac Life Team helicopter, John Force hopes to make a somewhat less dramatic...

FORCE BATTLES BACK AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX
14-Time Champ Confronts Injuries and Race Car Woes

DALLAS, Texas - A year after he flew out of the Texas Motorplex in an Air-Evac Life Team helicopter, John Force hopes to make a somewhat less dramatic exit this week when he returns to the scene of his most serious racing accident as one of the unknown Funny Car factors in the 23rd annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Super Start Batteries Fall Nationals presented by Castrol SYNTEC.

Although he is not completely recovered from the life-threatening injuries he suffered when his Castrol-backed Ford Mustang broke apart at 300 miles per hour and even though he is coming off consecutive qualifying failures at Indianapolis and Charlotte, N.C., Force returns to the Motorplex with renewed enthusiasm born of recent changes to his Castrol GTX ® High Mileage Ford Mustang race car.

Not only will he have a new chassis beneath him this week when he tries to add an eighth Motorplex victory to his resume, he also should benefit from new clutch technology tested in his car for the first time last Monday at Rockingham, N.C., Dragway, with son-in-law Robert Hight in the cockpit.

To deal with the psychological aspects of his return, Force made a pre-emptive strike on Monday when he flew back into the Motorplex on the same helicopter on which he flew out the year before. The homecoming was more emotional than the 14-time series champion had anticipated.

"It was strange," Force said, "when I got back in (the helicopter), it kind of scared me. The smell, you remember, and the chopper noise. But I also remembered the lady (flight nurse Kim Loflin) that held my hand and told me everything would be all right.

"In all the hero stuff, yelling and screaming that I was gonna be back racing the next week, I really kinda thought (my career) was over," said the 126-time NHRA tour winner. "But your biggest fear is that you ain't gonna see your kids again."

     Force will see plenty this week of daughters Ashley, 25, Brittany,
22, and Courtney, 20.  All three will be competing in the Fall
Nationals   Ashley in Funny Car, her sisters in the Top Alcohol Dragster
class.  A fourth Force daughter, Adria, 39, is the Chief Financial
Officer at John Force Racing, Inc.  She is married to Hight.

"We've struggled with our car," Force acknowledged, "but we made it into the Countdown and even though we didn't make it in at Charlotte, we're not out of (the hunt for the title).

"If we could come in here and win some rounds, we could be right back in it. We've done good here on the all-concrete (track), but with these new, heavier cars, you don't know what to expect. They don't react like the old cars."

Nevertheless, Force knows he can't complain too much. The new cars are 100 pounds heavier, but they are exceedingly safer because of his vision. In fact, Force insists that he wouldn't have survived last year's crash (which left him with broken bones in every appendage) if it wasn't for changes to the chassis implemented after the death of team driver Eric Medlen in a 2007 testing accident.

"At the end of the day, I still want to win," Force said, "but if I helped make these cars safer, that's more important."

-credit: jfr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight