- Terry Blount, ESPN Staff Writer
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POMONA, Calif. -- John Force earned his 15th NHRA Funny Car championship Sunday with a surprising come-from-behind effort in the Auto Club NHRA Finals.
Force trailed Matt Hagan by 38 entering Sunday's eliminations, but Hagan lost to Bob Tasca in the first round, opening the door for Force.
Force's second-round victory over Bob Bode clinched the title. It's the first championship for the 61-year-old Force since 2006 and the first since he suffered serious leg injuries in a crash at Ennis, Texas three years ago.
"I love all the people who stood by me when I was sick," Force said. "My arms and legs are good again like I was 40. I had to get back. I couldn't let my career end with that.
"This means everything. It's special to me. Hagan's a great kid and has his whole life ahead of him, but my time is running out. Ford should have fired me. I sucked. But they stuck with me. This old man's legs ain't broke no more. I'm back."
Sunday was the first time Force won a championship by coming from behind in the last event. He also is the first Funny Car champ to come from behind in the final race since the current points system was started in 1982.
Hagan, 28 and competing in only his second season, was trying to win his first Funny Car championship.
"It hurts, Hagan said. "It hurts deep."
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.