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Brittany Latest Force To Win Top Rookie Award

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 12 2013

Top Fueler Brittany Force contributes to the family's trophy case. (File photo courtesy of Elon Werner/John Force Racing)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Brittany Force extended a John Force Racing tradition Monday when she received the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year.

Force, 27, became the fifth JFR driver to win the prestigious honor during the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awards ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in West Los Angeles.

The second-youngest daughter of 16-time/reigning NHRA Funny Car champion John Force, Brittany entered her rookie season with reasonable expectations behind the wheel of her Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster. Force closed her rookie campaign by racing to her first career semifinal finish during the 49th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals.

“I am so excited to win this award,” said Force, a graduate of Cal State-Fullerton. “The rookie class this year was very competitive and I have to thank the Auto Club for sponsoring this great award. This year was definitely a learning experience and I learned so much from my crew chiefs Dean Antonelli, Eric Lane and John Medlen. This was a brand new team in a brand new category for John Force Racing. It was an uphill battle but we improved all season and making it to the semifinals and running two career best elapsed times at the Auto Club NHRA Finals this weekend ended our season on a positive note.”

Force’s rookie classmates were Adam Arana, Pro Stock Motorcycle; Chad Head, Funny Car and Sidnei Frigo, Leah Pruett and Billy Torrence, all in Top Fuel. Voting was conducted by nationwide panel of motorsports media based upon on-track performance; relationship with fans, media and sponsors; participation in NHRA promotions; number of events completed and driver’s potential as a future star of the sport.

Additionally, a trio of multi-time world championship winners _ John Force, Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Matt Smith _ were joined by first-time winner Shawn Langdon as headliners recognized during the awards ceremony.

Brittany Force, a former Super Comp and Top Alcohol Dragster racer, qualified in 22 of 24 events during the season, qualified in the top half of the Top Fuel field five times and won ten rounds of racing. She was the lone rookie to compete in the second annual Traxxas Shootout qualifying as the fan vote and lottery winner in Top Fuel. She also led qualifying on Friday and Saturday at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Force is the fifth JFR driver to win the award and its $20,000 payday. Eventual 2009 NHRA Funny Car world champion Robert Hight – Brittany’s brother-in-law – won in 2005, followed by eventual two-time U.S. Nationals winner Ashley Force Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008) a 10-time NHRA Funny Car national event winner and Courtney Force (2012), who went on to win twice in 2013.

“Brittany Force is so deserving of this award and on behalf of everyone at Castrol and especially the Castrol EDGE brand we want to say congratulations,” said Lori Anne Gola, Castrol, Sports Marketing, Sponsor Relations and Promotions. “Brittany’s performance on the track her rookie season in a new class was a learning process but she showed how important it is to be Driven Stronger as she improved every race. Her poise and charm with the media were tremendous and we know she has a growing fan base that followed her all season long.”

In 2002, the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award and the NHRA Rookie of the Year Award were combined to create one award recognizing future stars of the sport. Past winners of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award have developed into some of NHRA’s biggest stars, including Tony Pedregon (1996, Funny Car), Ron Capps (1997, Funny Car), Doug Kalitta (1998, Top Fuel), Antron Brown (1999, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Melanie Troxel (2000, Top Fuel), GT Tonglet (2001, Pro Stock Motorcycle), Gene Wilson (2002, Pro Stock), Brandon Bernstein (2003, Top Fuel), Jason Line (2004, Pro Stock), J.R. Todd (2006, Top Fuel), Spencer Massey (2009, Top Fuel), LE Tonglet (2010, Pro Stock Motorcycle) and Hector Arana Jr. (2011, Pro Stock Motorcycle).

NHRA Rookie of the Year winners prior to the merger of the two awards included the late Darrell Russell (2001, Top Fuel), Don Lampus (2000, Top Fuel), Scotty Cannon (1999, Funny Car), Coughlin (1998, Pro Stock), Gary Scelzi (1997, Top Fuel) and co-winners Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) in 1996.

John Force, Coughlin, Smith and Langdon were honored for their season-long achievements and presented with checks and trophies for their performances during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-event playoffs.

Southern California native Langdon achieved a lifelong dream by winning his first Top Fuel championship. The 31-year-old racer, who now has won championships at every level of racing in NHRA, captured the title at the end of qualifying during the season-ending event in Pomona, Calif. The driver of the Al-Anabi Racing dragster raced to a category-best seven victories, including Sunday’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona, to score the $500,000 top prize from NHRA and Mello Yello.

NHRA icon “Brut” Force celebrated his record 16th world championship title when he clinched at the season’s penultimate event in Las Vegas at the controls of his 8,000-horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Force got hot in the Countdown playoffs, winning three consecutive races in five straight final- round appearances. At 64, Force continues to be the oldest world champion in NHRA history. The Yorba Linda, Calif., driver earned $500,000 from NHRA and Mello Yello for the championship.

Coughlin, 43, earned his fifth Pro Stock world championship and gave Dodge its second consecutive series title and sixth overall. Coughlin drove the JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger to four victories in eight final rounds and held off a tough group of challengers down the stretch including former world champions Line, Edwards and 2012 champ/teammate Allen Johnson. Two of Coughlin’s victories came during the Countdown. The Columbus, Ohio, driver, who became only the eighth NHRA driver to win five titles, was awarded $250,000 for the series title from NHRA and Mello Yello.

Smith, 41, earned his second world championship title in Pro Stock Motorcycle by racing to four victories in eight final rounds aboard his Viper Motorcycle Company Buell, including three victories in four consecutive finals during the Countdown playoffs. Smith joined his father Rickie, who won the Pro Mod Series title, as NHRA champions this season. It marked the first time a father and son have won NHRA championships in the same season. The King, N.C., rider was awarded $75,000 from NHRA and Mello Yello for the championship.

For the sixth time overall and third year in a row, Ford was named the NHRA Manufacturers Cup winner. In addition to the last three seasons, Ford also won NHRA Manufacturers Cup titles in 1964, 1965 and 1982. Funny Car drivers John and Courtney Force, Hight, Bob Tasca III, Tim Wilkerson and Pro Stocker Larry Morgan _along with NHRA Lucas Oil Series drivers Bo Butner, Drew Skillman and Sal Biondo, among others _ contributed to the winning effort for the Blue Oval camp.

Drivers in seven categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series also were recognized as 2013 world champions: Jim Whiteley (Top Alcohol Dragster), Frank Manzo (Top Alcohol Funny Car), Alan Ellis (Competition Eliminator), Byron Worner (Super Stock), Justin Lamb (Stock Eliminator), Luke Bogacki (Super Comp) and Rick Beckstrom (Super Gas).

The 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series awards ceremony will be available in its entirety to fans worldwide on the Internet on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at NHRA.com and the NHRA channel on YouTube.

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 12 2013
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