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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Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
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You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

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