Thursday July 18th, 2024 6:43AM

NHRA drag racing great John Force shows improvement but long road to recovery after brain injury

By The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — NHRA drag racing great John Force suffered a traumatic brain injury in a fiery, 300 mph crash at the Virginia Nationals a week ago but is showing “daily signs of improvement” in a neurological intensive care unit, according to his team.

John Force Racing said Sunday that the 75-year-old Force initially couldn’t follow commands to open his eyes, squeeze the hands of care providers or move his extremities following the crash. After five days of heavy sedation, he began to gain momentum, including being able to respond to commands such as giving a thumbs-up and to recognize family members, calling them by name and saying “I love you."

Force was transferred Wednesday from a trauma ICU to the neurological ICU, where he will remain for the immediate future and still faces “a long and difficult recovery ahead,” the team's statement said.

“The biggest challenge has been managing his extreme agitation and confusion, which causes him significant distress," the statement said.

During the first round of Funny Car eliminations on June 23, Force’s car had a catastrophic engine failure at the finish line, with the vehicle going across the centerline and slamming into the left concrete guard wall, then careening back across into the right wall.

Force was alert and talking to safety workers immediately after crashing at 302 mph. The Hall of Fame owner and driver was examined at the track by the NHRA medical team before being transported by helicopter to a hospital.

In 2007, at age 58, Force was seriously injured in a racing crash in Ennis, Texas. He has continued to race at the highest level; four weeks ago in New Hampshire, Force raced to his record 157th NHRA victory and second of the season.

Force’s daughter, Brittany, a two-time world champion, was at the hospital with her mother, Laurie, and three sisters. She will not race this weekend in Norwalk, Ohio, remaining with her family at the hospital.


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