NHRA legend John Force hospitalized in ICU after fiery crash at Virginia Nationals

BRISTOL, TN - JUNE 08: John Force, of Yorba Linda, CA, Peak Chevy '23 Camaro SS watches the action from the staging lanes during qualifying for the NHRA SuperGrip Thunder Valley Nationals on June 08, 2024 at Bristol Dragway in Bristol, TN. (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
John Force was involved in a fiery crash on Sunday at the Virginia Nationals. (Photo by Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

John Force was hospitalized after a fiery crash during the NHRA Virginia Nationals on Sunday.

The 75-year-old racing legend was extricated from his car after an engine explosion caused his Funny Car to make multiple impacts with the outside retaining walls. Per a statement from John Force Racing on Sunday night, Force was hospitalized for “further evaluation” in an intensive care unit at a nearby medical center.

The Sunday statement said that Force was "injured" in the crash, but did not specify his injuries other than saying he was conscious and communicating with NHRA safety team members after the crash. In a statement released Monday night, the team said Force was still in the ICU and that doctors “purposely were moving slowly in assessing the extent of the injuries” to Force “because of the intensity of the impact.” The team also said that a treatment and recovery timetable wouldn’t be provided until Force had been completely evaluated.

The explosion happened after Force won his first-round race.

Force is the most successful racer in NHRA history. He has won 16 Funny Car titles and has 157 NHRA race wins throughout his illustrious career. Force won his first NHRA title in 1990 and 12 more titles from 1991-2004.

His most recent championship came in 2013, though he’s currently second in the points standings behind fellow JFR racer Austin Prock and has won two of the first eight Funny Car races in 2024.

Force began his professional drag racing career in 1978 and his three daughters have all driven at the top levels in NHRA. Ashley Force Hood and Courtney Force have since retired from driving while Brittany Force drives a Top Fuel dragster for her father's team.

Sunday's crash isn't the first brutal wreck Force has been involved in during his career. In 2007, Force suffered a broken ankle and dislocated wrist, among other injuries, during the Fall Nationals in Ennis, Texas. Force had to be airlifted to a hospital after that crash and was forced to sit out the rest of the season. Force’s crash that year came just months after JFR driver Eric Medlen was killed in a testing crash in March. Medlen died after suffering a head injury when his car started violently tire shaking.