Dallas: John Force preview

force returns to scene of his worst crash DALLAS, Texas - With his bid for the 2010 Full Throttle Funny Car championship suddenly under siege, John Force this week brings his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang back to the site of the...

force returns to scene of his worst crash

DALLAS, Texas - With his bid for the 2010 Full Throttle Funny Car championship suddenly under siege, John Force this week brings his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang back to the site of the 2007 crash that ultimately led him to commit himself to creating a safer competitive environment for a new generation of racers.

After squandering most of his points lead with a first round exit last week at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, N.C., Force tries to rally the troops in this week's 25th annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries Fall Nationals at Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex.

Although he has won seven times on the all-concrete track, Force's resume includes almost as many lows as highs, the biggest of which was the crash in the 2007 semifinals that left him with the most serious injuries of his 33-year NHRA career.

"It would mean a lot to win it," Force said of this weekend's race, the third of six in the NHRA's Countdown to 1 playoffs. "I want to get closure. That's where I got hurt and every time I race there, that's in my head.

"So (winning Sunday's race) could be as important to me as the championship. I don't want to ever leave this sport and not win (again) in Dallas," said the 130-time NHRA tour winner. "I just need to get that out of the way."

Of course, "getting that out of the way" this week would be doubly advantageous for the 61-year-old icon insomuch as it would enable him to extend the points lead that has been his after all but two of the 19 races completed thus far this season.

While he has ridden out numerous crashes and engine fires in his career, none was as serious as the one in 2007 when his Mustang blew a tire and collided with Kenny Bernstein's Dodge, sending both into the wall at 300 miles per hour.

Bernstein was uninjured but Force suffered a compound fracture of the left ankle, broken bones in his hands and feet as well as his fingers and toes, a significant laceration to his right knee and a left wrist dislocated so badly that it initially was thought to be broken. It took six hours of Sunday night surgery to put him back together.

Even though he benefitted from the track's proximity to Baylor University Medical Center and its staff of trauma doctors, the 14-time champion was hospitalized for a month in Dallas before returning to his home in California to continue his rehabilitation.

To the surprise of everyone except those within his inner circle, Force was back in competition to start the 2008 season but struggled the next 24 months to recapture the form that made him the sport's all-time winner. After failing to reach a single final round last year, he has come back with a vengeance this year.

In a season in which he is celebrating 25 years of Castrol sponsorship, Force has gone to more final rounds than any other Funny Car driver (eight), shares the category lead in victories with reigning series champion Robert "Top Gun" Hight, has started from No. 1 on three occasions (his first such starts since 2006) and has posted the year's quickest time at the 1,000 foot distance (4.021 seconds).

That newfound success is a product of a complete overhaul, not just of his team, but of his equipment and even himself. After making wholesale changes to his crew, adding Mike Neff to the crew chief mix, switching to a chassis developed in-house at John Force Racing, Inc., as part of the Eric Medlen Project for race car safety, and working himself back into fighting shape through daily gym workouts, Force finds himself contending for yet another championship.

"It's a struggle every day to race against all these kids," said the 2008 inductee into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in Detroit. "I'm just happy to be able to compete again (but) I really do want this championship. I'm 61 and don't know how many more chances I'm gonna have."

-source: john force racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Mike Neff