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NHRA: Brittany Force escapes major injuries in Top Fuel crash

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For the second time in three days, a member of the John Force drag racing family has escaped relatively unscathed from an incident in the season-opening weekend of the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.

Friday, team patriarch John Force experienced a massive engine explosion that blew the body off his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car. The 16-time Funny Car champion was taken to a local hospital for precautionary reasons, but was released after a few hours.

During the first round of Sunday’s eliminations at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, Force’s daughter, 2017 Top Fuel champion Brittany Force, experienced the worst crash of her career.

Brittany Force, the No. 2 qualifier for the event, was in the right-hand lane vs. No. 15 qualifier Terry Haddock. Shortly upon launching, Brittany’s dragster appeared to lose traction, causing her to lose control of her 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster.

Force’s dragster veered left, crossed the center line and the driver’s compartment made heavy lateral impact with the retaining wall.

The car then spun, flipped on its side, slid back across both lanes and made impact on the opposite retaining wall before coming to a rest past the finish line.

Force was carefully extricated by rescue workers from the mangled dragster and immediately transported to a local hospital by ambulance. According to team officials, she was conscious and responsive when removed from the dragster and during the ambulance ride.

Ironically, Brittany Force left Auto Club Raceway en route to the hospital right about the same time her father’s car suffered yet another engine explosion in its first round elimination run, the team’s second engine explosion in three days.

An update from John Force Racing late Sunday afternoon said Brittany will remain in the hospital overnight and undergo additional tests and evaluation, but appears to have not suffered any major injuries.

However, she did suffer some bruising of the lungs, the team report stated. A CT scan was negative and an MRI “showed subtle findings likely from previous injuries.”

John Force made this statement after his daughter’s incident:

“You look at how these cars evolved over 40-50 years,” the elder Force said. “We made a lot of changes after the loss of Eric (Medlen, former JFR driver who lost his life in a 2007 testing accident). A lot came out of that. Building better chassis, safer. Want to thank Simpson safety for building helmets, equipment and everything to keep our drivers safe.

“The car giving way when it hit the wall head on allowed it to take the impact and fold up (as it was designed to do). I want to thank Schumacher Racing for creating the canopy (over the driver’s seat). When the car was upside down, you know that protects the drier’s head.

“I want to personally thank Don Schumacher for his investment (in the canopy program). Very important. Thanks, Don. Safety Safari was right on top of it, as always, that’s why they’re the best in the business. Finally, John Medlen, was one of the first to come to me, and want to know if she was okay. I didn’t have an answer at the time. But he’s lived it. He knows what all of us go through: owners, friends, parents and sponsors. End of the day, we keep addressing it to get it better.”

Also in the first round of eliminations, eventual Top Fuel winner Doug Kalitta suffered a supercharger explosion (but still managed to continue on after repairs were made).

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.