NHRA Great John Force Moves to Rehab Center to Continue Recovery

auto sep 30 nhra midwest nationals
Rahal: John Force Has 'Long, Long Road Ahead'Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Graham Rahal’s IndyCar Series season has been a long stretch of struggles, but none of his on-track troubles compare to the stress he and his extended family have faced over the past two-plus weeks.

John Force, one of drag racing’s all-time superstars and Rahal’s father-in-law, was badly injured in a 300-mile-per-hour crash at Virginia Motorsports Park June 23. Since those moments, when Force, 75, slammed into a retaining wall twice during a Funny Car eliminations run, the focus of the Force family has been on John’s treatment and recovery. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and other injuries.

On the day of the accident, Rahal, who is married to Force’s daughter, Courtney, was in Laguna Seca in California competing in the IndyCar Series race there. Laurie, Force’s wife, also was in Laguna Seca, and the family moved immediately to relocate Laurie and Force’s three daughters to Richmond, Virginia to be with Force.


During a press conference Tuesday, Rahal stressed that Force, while improving, has “a long, long road ahead.

“Everybody is hanging in there,” he said. “He is improving, and that’s all we can ask for. … We’ve been very blessed to have support to get John to the place that he needs to go and get the help he needs. Certainly excited about his prospects.”

Rahal said he saw Force’s accident live on television.

“Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of crashes in NHRA,” he said. “With Courtney’s explosion in 2017 and Brittany has had hers and John has had a lot over the last five years or so. But you know when it’s different. You can see it. We all saw it.

“It’s hard because at that stage the reality was that we didn’t know anything. Laurie was with me. There were just so many questions to be asked about what was the condition. So it wasn’t really until a day, day and a half later that we started to get some clarity on what it was.”

graham rahal indycar
Graham Rahal says that crashes like that of John Force can bring back some difficult memories.Penske Entertainment/Paul Hurley

Drivers and the larger racing community seem to move on quickly after serious accidents, but Rahal said some stay with him for long periods of time. He mentioned the deaths of IndyCar drivers Justin Wilson (2015) and Dan Wheldon (2011) in accidents.

“I’ve never said it in a public setting like this, but when we lost Justin Wilson, when we lost Dan, it was hard,” he said. “When he was lost Justin Wilson—he was a very close friend of mine, it took me years to kind of move past the mental side of sitting in a car, particularly at Indianapolis or at a superspeedway, and not having it flash through my mind.”

John Force Racing said Tuesday that the driver has been released from the VCU Medical Center in Richmond and will be moved to at undisclosed neurological rehabilitation center for further treatment. The team said Force has been able to communicate with family members but remains prone to periods of confusion.

Brittany Force, his daughter and a two-time NHRA Top Fuel champion, posted photographs of she and John outside the hospital Monday eating ice cream.

Force, a legendary figure in American motorsports, has won 157 races and 16 National Hot Rod Association championships.