NHRA: John Force released from hospital following Funny Car motor explosion (video)

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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UPDATE 00:55 a.m. ET: John Force was released from a local Pomona, California-area hospital after suffering a motor explosion during Friday’s second round of qualifying in the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals. A John Force Racing team spokesperson told MotorSportsTalk late Friday night: “John is fine. He did go to the hospital as a precaution but was discharged this afternoon and will be racing tomorrow (Saturday).”

UPDATE 2 01:15 a.m. ET: Force said of the incident: “That run just showed you the proof that these race cars, my PEAK Chevrolet Camaro, are built to protect the driver. Anytime I can walk away from an explosion I know these cars at John Force Racing and all our Simpson safety gear are doing their job. I’ll be out tomorrow, the doctor cleared me and I’m ready to race and entertain these fans. Ready to start winning, that’s what PEAK pays me to do.”

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ORIGINAL STORY:

Legendary John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history and a record 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion, started off the 2018 season with a boom.

The 68-year-old Force was making his second qualifying attempt Friday during the first day of the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, when the engine in his Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro suddenly blew up as it approached the finish line at Auto Club Raceway, sending the body of Force’s car flying.

Force appeared to graze the wall slightly but never lost control and completed the ride. While he needed assistance to exit what was left of his car, Force walked to a responding ambulance and entered it under his own power.

A preliminary medical examination found Force responsive and speaking to medical personnel, but he was transported to a local hospital for precautionary reasons.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

Petit Le Mans championship
IMSA
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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”