Force To Go For Title No. 16 With New Knee
YORBA LINDA, Calif. – Drag racing icon John Force answered any lingering questions about his level of commitment to winning a 16th NHRA Funny Car world championship by undergoing post-season surgery to repair a damaged right knee originally injured playing high school football.
Following the 2011 NHRA season and championship banquet, Force checked into Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles for a procedure to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his throttle leg that he re-injured in a 2007 crash at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, and subsequently aggravated with the exercise regimen he adopted in its aftermath.
“This knee never affected my driving, but it became more of a nuisance the past year because I was working out and irritating it,” Force said in a news release. “It began to affect my everyday life (so) the timing was just right to get back to normal. I had polio as a kid and then I banged my knee up playing football.
“I had the crash in Dallas and then I started working out. When I met with my doctors, who were the same guys that worked on Kobe Bryant (the LA Lakers All-Star), they said this would get me back to 100 percent. I told them I still have championships to win and grandkids to chase around and I have to be back in the seat for testing and for Pomona in February.” The season-opening 52nd annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals are scheduled for Feb. 9-12, 2012 at Auto Club Raceway.
Force’s career was nearly ended in September 2007, when he suffered multiple foot and leg injuries at Billy Meyer’s Motorplex in a grinding crash that split his car in two. Force spent a month at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, where he launched a rigorous rehabilitation regimen that allowed him to return to the cockpit for the 2008 season-opener.
“I’m doing what the doctors are telling me to do,” said Force, 62. “I learned that from my doctors at Baylor. I’m getting electro-shock and I’m walking around a little. I’m not going to overdo it but I also see these NFL players get the same surgery and then get back out on the field. All I need to be able to do is drive my hot rod. It’s not like I have to run down the track and tackle Matt Hagan to win the championship.”
Hagan, driver of the DieHard Dodge Charger R/T fielded by archrival Don Schumacher Racing, won his first Funny Car title during the season-ending 47th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona on Nov. 13.
Force is re-habbing the knee at his home with special equipment designed to fast-track the recovery. He expects to be back in the cockpit of the Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE Ford Mustang for official PRO pre-season testing at Palm Beach International Raceway in West Palm Beach, Fla., Jan. 20-21.
“I still have a lot of racing in me,” the hall of fame driver said, “and I wanted to be the best that I could be for my team and my sponsors: Castrol, Ford, Auto Club, BrandSource and Mac Tools. They’ve been there for the good times and the bad. Hopefully, we can give them a lot more good times in 2012.”
Although he made the Countdown to the Championship playoffs in 2011, won the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Morrison, Colo., and secured his 27th straight top-10 finish (ninth), Force lost more racing rounds than he won for just the second time in 27 years (14-21). He will start the new season four round-wins shy of a career record 1,100.
In addition to his hot rod, Force owns the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang driven by 2009 series champion Robert Hight and the Castrol GTX Ford tuned and driven by Mike Neff. Force has left open the possibility that he will add a fourth Funny Car team to the mix in 2012.
John Force Racing, Inc., which operates facilities in both Southern California and Brownsburg, Ind., has won the NHRA Funny Car Championship 17 of the last 22 seasons with three different drivers.One Comment