<
>

Force to miss rest of NHRA season after serious accident

DALLAS -- John Force was able to stand and shuffle his feet
Monday, pronouncing himself "lucky to have my legs" a day after a
wreck at the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex
hospitalized the drag-racing star.

Force has a compound fracture of his left ankle, a lacerated
right knee, a dislocated left wrist and abrasions on two fingers on
his right hand. He had screws inserted into his ankle and temporary
pins placed in his wrist, said David Densmore, a spokesman for John
Force Racing.

Force's prognosis is "very good" after six hours of surgery
Sunday following the most severe accident he's experienced in more
than three decades of racing, Densmore said.

"I just feel so helpless and vulnerable," Force said in
comments released by Densmore. "I have had some burns, but I have
gotten out of every crash and never had a scratch. I have never had
a broken bone, so this is all new to me."

With the help of physical therapists, Force was able to stand
Monday with his weight on his right leg and move both his feet,
although doing so was painful.

"I gnawed off some fingers and toes when they had me trying to
stand," he said.

Force may leave the Baylor Medical Center and fly to a hospital in Indianapolis to continue his recovery, according to ESPN.com's Terry Blount.

Densmore said Force will miss the rest of the NHRA season, which
has three scheduled dates remaining in Richmond, Va., Las Vegas and
Pomona, Calif. Force is fourth in the Funny Car standings.

Force, a 14-time champion, wrecked Sunday while racing Funny Car
rival Kenny Bernstein. A video of the accident shows Bernstein's
car drifting toward Force's lane and striking a foam timing block,
which shot into the back of Force's car. Force swerved across
Bernstein's lane into the retaining wall. Bernstein then rammed
into Force's car, breaking the chassis in two.

The NHRA is investigating the accident, NHRA spokesman Anthony
Vestal said. Several laboratories will examine parts of the tires
and broken chassis.

"The car pulled in half and I have never seen that ever,"
Force said.

Force said he remembers how the crash began and how it ended,
with emergency crews pulling him out of the broken remains of his
car. But he recalls nothing in between.

Force also absolved Bernstein of any fault in the crash.

"He is a good friend and a great competitor and he did nothing
wrong," Force said. "In fact, he did a great driving job."

Force, 58, was airlifted to Baylor University Medical Center in
Dallas, where he underwent surgery. He was alert and conscious
following the accident and a CT scan came back negative for
internal injuries, team spokesman Elon Werner said.

Daughter Ashley Force, also a Funny Car driver, pulled out of
the semifinals. John Force, who won his race with Bernstein, could
have met her in the finals for the first time had both won,
Densmore said.

"I am sure that he will be somewhat depressed when he realizes
his circumstances," Densmore said. "He had just driven his way
into contention for another championship."

Force's wife, Laurie; Ashley; and son-in-law Robert Hight -- also
a Funny Car driver -- were with him at the hospital. Force's other
three daughters were in California, Densmore said.

Force and his four daughters are the subjects of a reality TV
show on A&E called "Driving Force." Three of his daughters are
drivers and one is an executive in John Force Racing.

Force has suffered at least one other serious accident in his
career, Densmore said. An accident in Memphis, Tenn., in 1992 left
Force with second-degree burns on his face and hands. His teammate, Eric Medlen, was killed in a practice session accident in Gainesville, Fla., in March.