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John Force Named Fourth Quarter DOTY Winner

Lewis Franck | , RacinToday.com Thursday, December 9 2010

John Force won races and the Funny Car championship in 2010. On Thursday, he was named winner of the Driver of the Year Award for the fourth quarter of the racing season. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

Three years ago, it appeared doubtful drag racing icon John Force would ever race again following a horrific wreck during an NHRA Funny Car run in Texas nearly killed him.

Force not only recovered from serious foot and leg injuries to return in 2008, he went on at age 61 to win the 2010 Funny Car world championship – the record 15th of his career. Force prevailed in dramatic fashion last month, overcoming a 38-point deficit to rising star Matt Hagan during final eliminations of the season-ending NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event at Pomona, Calif.

On Thursday, the Driver of the Year Foundation announced that Force had emerged as top vote-getter in the fourth quarter balloting that serves as a prelude to the overall DOTY award. In 1996, Force became the first drag racer to win Driver of the Year – the most prestigious award in North American motorsports.

Force was bruised and battered in September 2007 following a crash at Texas Motorplex in Ennis that left him with a broken ankle, punctured leg, severely dislocated wrist, broken toes and fingers, ligament damage and numerous contusions. Months of soul-searching and rehabilitation followed for Force, easily NHRA’s most popular driver.

“After my accident in ‘07, the doctors weren’t even sure if I would walk right again,” said Force, owner/driver of the Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang. “I’m glad I was able to deliver in 2010 for them, and winning the fourth quarter award is a big deal. I have always been focused on winning races and growing the sport of NHRA drag racing. Anytime that I can accept an award like the fourth quarter Driver of the Year and be judged alongside racers like Jimmie Johnson, Dario Franchitti and Jeff Gordon – that is awesome.”

At 61 years and six months, “Brut” Force is the oldest champion in all of motorsports.

“My sponsors like Castrol, Ford Motor Company and Auto Club invested millions into me and my teams, and they probably should have dropped me after the accident. But they stood by me,” said Force, who was presented the prestigious Spirit of Ford Award last month. “I’m glad I was able to deliver in 2010 for them.

“This is a true honor to have a shot at the 2010 Driver of the Year award.”

In its 44th year, the DOTY award is unique. A panel of 20 leading motorsports journalists from across the U.S. determines the winner. In quarterly voting, points are awarded on a declining 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 basis. Force will receive a trophy and a Tissot wristwatch for his latest honor.

Recipient of the overall DOTY award will be announced later this month.

“John Force just keeps adding to his legendary status, and I’m proud of the panel for honoring his achievement,” said Barry Schmoyer, president of the Driver of the Year Foundation.

A six-time national event winner this season, Force received six first-place ballots and totaled 94 points under the DOTY point system.

NASCAR superstar Jimmie Johnson – a three-time DOTY overall winner who put together an impressive record of finishing no lower than ninth during the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup – tallied three-first place votes and 79-points. Johnson, of Hendrick Motorsports, also came from behind in the season finale against Denny Hamlin to win an unprecedented fifth consecutive Cup championship.

Kyle Busch’s versatility in NASCAR’s top three touring divisions earned him three first-place votes and 59 points. Busch, who scored a combined 24 victories this season, drove for Joe Gibbs Racing in Cup and NASCAR’s Nationwide Series and as owner of first-year Kyle Busch Motorsports in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series.

Carl Edwards’ two season-ending wins in Cup for Roush Fenway Racing, and his performance in the Nationwide Series, earned him 53 points.

Cup runnerup Hamlin, of Joe Gibbs Racing, and 2010 Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski of Penske Racing, also received first-place votes. Keselowski gave team-owner Roger Penske his first NASCAR crown this season.

A total of 13 drivers scored points in the quarterly voting.

Further information on the award may be obtained from Driver of the Year Foundation, P.O. Box 49827, Sarasota, Fla., 34230; by calling (941) 379-2318 or email at barrydoty@yahoo.com.

– Lewis Frank is a New York-based motorsports writer for Reuters and a voting member of the Driver of the Year panel

Lewis Franck | , RacinToday.com Thursday, December 9 2010
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