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FORCE RETURNS TO DALLAS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE ACCIDENT AS SERIES CONTINUES MARCH TO TITLES DALLAS -- John Force may have reenacted the moments before, during and after his accident last year at Texas Motorplex over and again in his head. On...


DALLAS -- John Force may have reenacted the moments before, during and after his accident last year at Texas Motorplex over and again in his head. On Monday, he'll do it again, this time in reverse.

Force will travel by medical helicopter from a nearby airport to the top end of Texas Motorplex, where, Ike permitting, he'll address the same media that charted his progress post-accident last fall.

It's not time travel and it's not rewriting history. It's more like a giant mental reset button that's the next best thing to erasing, correcting and cementing what's been done. It's healing a spot that's been raw for much too long.

From the starting line the Force-Kenny Bernstein accident really didn't appear that serious. A cloud of what looked like dust and smoke formed at the top end, but even that is not unusual. Then NHRA announcer Bob Frey addressed the crowd and from his tone of voice it was clear the drivers had undergone four seconds of trauma most fans mercifully could not see.

It's not overdramatic to say something in the NHRA POWERade Series world shifted that day. What perhaps stands out even more than the accident itself are the safety developments that have already resulted and continue to emerge from it. Force and Bernstein want it that way.

The hunger for forward progress, more than grief, self-pity or helplessness, has been a motivation.

NHRA, John Force Racing and many other NHRA POWERade Series teams are working together to make a safe sport better in ways no one would have dreamed up before. And now, on a list of iconic footage from this generation of drag racing, the images of Force from accident to walker to healed and driving again have been added.

Many of the tracks on the NHRA POWERade Series made immediate changes to their facilities to accommodate new, yet heavily evaluated ideas. Texas Motorplex is one.

"I'm excited Billy Meyer (Texas Motorplex owner) is making additional safety improvements to the Texas Motorplex," Force said. "As a former Funny Car driver, Billy has always wanted what is best for the racers. He has always been an innovator and I think the changes he is making to his track, especially the longer sand pit, will give drivers a better chance to avoid serious injuries."

No matter what, for Force the trip is mental as much as it is symbolic. The O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals is the second of four races in a five-week period that's sure to test the perseverance of those drivers still in the hunt for 2008 NHRA POWERade Series world championship titles, and John Force hasn't had the best of luck lately on the track. He has posted DNQs (did not qualify) at the last two races. Force hopes to fare better starting this weekend, where he, his daughter Ashley, his son-in-law Robert Hight and rookie Mike Neff, a favorite for this year's Auto Club Road to the Future award, continue to be in the hunt for this year's season title. Jack Beckman continues to sizzle in the category as the winner of the last three races. Defending NHRA POWERade world champion Tony Pedregon also remains a man to beat. He won in Dallas in 2007.

Tony Schumacher has decimated the rest of the Top Fuel category after getting early-season threats from the two-car David Powers Motorsports team of Rod Fuller and Antron Brown. Schumacher earned a category record 53rd career win yesterday at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C., moving past Joe Amato. The victory was also his seventh in a row and 12th of the season, also NHRA records. Larry Dixon won at Texas Motorplex in 2007.

Kurt Johnson raced to a runner-up finish in Charlotte to take over the POWERade Series points lead. Regular season champ Greg Anderson is looking to get back on track, as is Dave Connolly, the defending event winner, who made the playoffs despite missing the first five races of the year.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending NHRA POWERade Series world champion Matt Smith continues to lead the category, but don't count out red-hot Steve Johnson who has won the last two events and moved into second in the points standings with his Charlotte win yesterday. Last year's surprise winner in Dallas, Peggy Llewellyn, is a San Antonio native who recently rejoined the tour.

SCHEDULE: The first two of four pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3 and 5:45 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 19. Qualifying continues at 11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 21.

TICKETS: Tickets are available for the 23rd annual O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec. Call (800) MOTORPLEX (668-6775) for ticket information, or check online at texasmotorplex.com.

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise NHRA Race Day, a 30-minute pre-race show, at 11 a.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 21. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise the race beginning at 8:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 21.

LUCAS OIL SERIES: The O'Reilly Super Start Batteries NHRA Fall Nationals also will feature competition in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, where the future stars of the NHRA POWERade Series earn their racing stripes. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 18, with eliminations starting on Sept. 20 at 8 a.m.

-credit: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Greg Anderson , Peggy Llewellyn , Jack Beckman , Matthew Smith , Steve Johnson , David Powers , Robert Hight , Rod Fuller , Dave Connolly , Mike Neff