DALLAS – Drag-racing star John Force was alert and conscious Sunday after sustaining serious injuries in a wreck with Funny Car rival Kenny Bernstein during the O’Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis.
Team spokesman Elon Werner said the 58-year-old Force broke his left ankle and his left wrist and suffered a severe abrasion to his right knee.
“John’s chassis broke in half and the engine and front two wheels were over in Kenny’s lane, and that’s what Kenny hit,” Werner said.
Force, a 14-time champion, was airlifted to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, where Werner said doctors planned surgery Sunday night to clean up the abrasions and possibly set the broken bones.
“He was alert and obviously in a lot of pain, but the whole time he was asking questions. His primary concern was for Kenny Bernstein,” Werner said.
Werner said a CT scan came back negative for internal injuries. He also said Force sustained some minor fractures and severe abrasions to the tips of his fingers.
The John Force Team issued a statement saying the prognosis for a full recovery was very good.
The wreck occurred just after the two cars crossed the finish line in the second round of eliminations.
Daughter Ashley Force, also a Funny Car driver, pulled out of the semifinals.
Force’s wife, Laurie; Ashley; and son-in-law Robert Hight – also a Funny Car driver – were with him at the hospital.
“First of all, I just pray that John’s going to be OK,” said Bernstein, who wasn’t injured in the accident.
“I know he’s hurt and the main thing I’m praying for is that he gets 100-percent recovery. That’s more important than anything right now for me, Sheryl, and our team. I know he was talking to me there and he was asking if he hurt me. That’s typical John right there. He’ll be OK. He’s a strong-willed man. He’ll be fine.”
Top Fuel winner Larry Dixon spoke about Force.
“I’m glad that (John Force is) alive,” Dixon said. “From that point you can fix anything. A lot of credit goes to the Safety Safari, the medical team, and the rules package for the way the cars have to be built so that you can survive an accident like that. I feel safer in my car that goes 330 mph than I do in my rental car going 55 mph on the way to the track. I feel like I could run over a nuclear bomb, and I trust in that. He’ll be back racing one day. You can count on that.”
Ennis is about 30 miles south-southeast of Dallas.