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).