John Force answered any questions about his level of commitment to winning another NHRA Funny Car Championship by undergoing postseason surgery to repair a damaged right knee originally injured playing high school football.
Following the 2011 NHRA season and championship banquet, Force checked into Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles for a procedure to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his throttle leg that he re-injured in a 2007 crash in Dallas, Texas, and subsequently aggravated with the exercise regimen he adopted in its aftermath.
“This knee never affected my driving, but it became more of a nuisance the past year because I was working out and irritating it,” Force said. “It began to affect my everyday life (so) the timing was just right to get back to normal. I had polio as a kid and then I banged my knee up playing football.
“I had the crash in Dallas and then I started working out,” he explained. “When I met with my doctors, who were the same guys who worked on Kobe Bryant (the L.A. Lakers All-Star), they said this would get me back to 100 percent. I told them I still have championships to win and grand kids to chase around and I have to be back in the seat for testing and for Pomona (the season-opening O'Reilly Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway) in February.
“I am doing what the doctors are telling me to do. I learned that from my doctors at Baylor (University Medical Center in Dallas, where he spent a month of rehabilitation after the crash). I am getting electroshock and I am walking around a little. I'm not going to overdo it, but I also see these NFL players get the same surgery and then get back out on the field.
“All I need to be able to do is drive my hot rod. It's not like I have to run down the track and tackle Matt Hagan to win the championship.”
The 62-year-old is rehabbing the knee at his home with special equipment designed to fast track his recovery. He expects to be back in the cockpit of the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang for official PRO preseason testing at Palm Beach International Raceway in West Palm Beach, Fla., Jan. 20-21.
Although Force made the Countdown to 1 playoffs in 2011, won the Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Denver, Colo., and secured his 27th straight Top 10 finish, Force lost more racing rounds than he won for just the second time in 27 years (14-21). He will start the new season four round wins shy of a career record 1,100.
In addition to his own car, Force owns the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang driven by 2009 series champion Robert Hight and the Castrol GTX Ford tuned and driven by Mike Neff. He has left open the possibility that he will add a fourth Funny Car team to the mix in 2012.