John Force dedicates driving simulator similar to one that played key role in comeback from horrific 2007 crash

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John Force not only believes in giving back, he also believes in paying it forward.

Even though it’s been nearly seven years since it happened, the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion still recalls the worst crash of his career late in the 2007 season at the Texas Motorplex, as if it was yesterday.

“When I had my accident in 2007, the doctors told me I’d be lucky to walk, let alone drive a race again,” Force said in a media release.

That’s why it was so meaningful for Force to help primary sponsor Castrol Oil donate and dedicate a state-of-the-art WT-960 TRAN-SIT Car Transfer Simulator Thursday at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Wayne, N.J.

“I was even more determined to prove them (doctors) wrong and began going through recovery and rehab on car simulator just like this one,” Force said. “Since then, I’ve won two NHRA Funny Car Championships.”

The simulator is designed to help patients at the hospital to “reclaim their independence by providing them a convenient and safe method of regaining their basic driving skills within a controlled environment,” according to the release.

Force suffered a long list of injuries in his horrific wreck at Texas (see three videos below), including a compound fracture of his left ankle, severe abrasion and tendon damage to his right knee and leg, a dislocated and broken left wrist and several broken fingers on his right hand.

Playing a key role in his more than six months of therapy and rehabilitation were dozens of hours spent on a car simulator similar to the one he donated Thursday.

And given that the hospital is near one of the NHRA’s oldest and most popular racetracks – Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., site of this weekend’s NHRA Summernationals – it was a fitting recipient for the simulator.

“The simulated car or vehicle that we have on the unit will allow our patients the freedom and ability to get back on the road as well as feel safe about it,” said Dr. Massod, Medical Director of the Acute Rehabilitation Unit. “They will also be safe for other passengers and other drivers.

“The fact that John and Brittany Force came out today to support this product and show that there is a need for rehabilitation equipment like this. We are very grateful to them and Castrol BP.”

Joining her father for the dedication, 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year Brittany Force recalled what he went through following the worst wreck and injuries of his career.

“We were worried about my dad after that horrible crash and questioned if he’d ever race again,” Brittany Force said. “After seeing his hard work and determination (to come back from his Texas wreck), he’s inspired all of us.”

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Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?