Force sets sights on return to dragstrip

Less than 24 hours after a horrific crash, Funny Car champion John Force was in a Dallas hospital bed trying to figure out a way to return to drag racing in two weeks.

That’s not going to happen, but the 14-time NHRA Drag Racing Series champion was in good spirits Monday morning after spending six hours in surgery the night before at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

“John’s still in a lot of pain, but he’s been telling jokes all morning and talking about getting back into his car,” Force publicist Dave Densmore said Monday from the hospital.

Densmore said it will take several weeks for Force to recover from injuries sustained when a possible tire failure led to his car splitting in half at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas. Force, 58, remained strapped in the car while the front half broke away and slid down the dragstrip.

Surgeons inserted three screws into Force’s broken left ankle, and skin grafts were required to close bone-deep abrasions on his right knee. His left wrist was dislocated — not broken as initially diagnosed — and three temporary pins were inserted for stabilization. The tips of several fingers were broken and badly scraped.

Doctors said Force did not sustain any internal or head injuries, and the prognosis for a full recovery was termed “very good” by Densmore.

The accident was the second traumatic blow to John Force Racing this year. Funny Car driver Eric Medlen died in a testing accident six months ago Monday.

Ironically, Force was declared the winner in Sunday’s race with Kenny Bernstein because Bernstein crossed the dragstrip’s centerline just before the finish line and was disqualified.

It appeared on the ESPN2 telecast that Bernstein hit blocks of foam that hold timing reflectors and the debris might have made contact with Force’s car. But Densmore said the team’s video clearly shows the blocks flew behind Force’s car.

The victory over Bernstein moved Force up to fourth in series points and had put him in good position to remain in title contention when the series next competes Oct. 5-7 at Richmond, Va.

After that event, the top four in points in each of NHRA’s pro categories will have a chance to win the championship over the last two races beginning with one Oct. 25-28 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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