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Brittany Force Looking Forward To A No. 1 Moment

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 8 2018

Brittany Force begins defense of her Top Fuel championship this weekend in Pomona.
(RacinToday/HHP file photo by Garry Eller)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

One more celebratory moment looms in Brittany Force’s NHRA Top Fuel championship offseason, which will conclude where it began only three months ago.

Force ended the 2017 season with a sweep at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., where she emerged as No. 1 qualifier, race-winner and first-time world champion during the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals on Nov. 12. Force joined drag racing legend Shirley Muldowney as only the second woman champion in NHRA’s premier category _ and the first since 1982 _ on the strength of four wins in six final-round appearances and two pole positions.

Those accomplishments will be commemorated during a John Force Racing photo opportunity when Force adds the coveted No. 1 decal to her Monster Energy dragster before Friday afternoon’s first round of qualifying for the season-opening 58th annual Lucas Oil Winternationals.

“I want to put that No. 1 on my car in Pomona because that’s where it all happened,” Force said. “That’s where we clinched the championship. We want to go back to where it all went down and put that No. 1 on together as a team.”

A native and resident of Yorba Linda, Calif., Pomona is Brittany’s home racetrack. “I have so many great memories there,” Force said. ”I know we’ll have that positive energy in our pits. I think that will push us all season long. We won the championship, which is why

Brittany Force’s Top Fuel car will be carrying the No. 1 decal this year.

everyone is out here, and now we want to do it again. That’s only going to push us and motivate us more in Pomona.”

In addition to Muldowney, Brittany joined Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) as the fourth female to win a professional NHRA title.

“To take home that title of championship, again, I never thought we’d make it here,” Force said. “It’s so big of an accomplishment. I mean, it’s what every team fights for. But the competition out there is so tough. It’s like, how do you get around those other cars, those other teams? To have my name up there, to share a title like that with my dad (John), Robert Hight _ so many people that I’ve looked up to my entire life _ that’s a huge accomplishment, something I’m very proud of.”

Force wrapped up her portion of preseason testing Saturday with a 1,000-foot lap in 3.692-seconds and 327.43 mph at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., outside Phoenix. Force’s dragster again will be tuned by Brian Husen, with Ronnie Thompson as assistant crew chief. Veteran tuner Alan Johnson also returns as consultant to a team that set the national speed record of 333.67 mph in 2017.

“We’re very happy with how testing went,” said Force, the 32-year-old daughter of 16-time Funny Car world champion and team-owner “Brute” Force. “We came out here and made 10 passes and pretty much accomplished what we wanted to, especially on that last run. It was a pretty successful test session. It’s not just about getting the car down the track and making those runs but I’ve been out of the seat, the whole team has been away from the racetrack, so it really was also pulling together and finding our routine again and getting us ready to jump right into Pomona.”

Despite the perfect finish at the legendary Southern California facility last fall, Force will be looking for her first Winternationals win. Last February, Force notched a first-round win but fell in the quarterfinals to leave the event fifth in the point standings.

Force put together an incredible run during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, winning three of six playoff races and advancing to four finals. That effort was enough to push Force past outspoken Texan Steve Torrence, who ended 2017 with a class-best eight wins but fell 81 points/four rounds short of what would have been his first championship.

Getting off to a quick start in 2018 is Job One for Force, who didn’t win her first race last year until the ninth event of the season.

“I’m OK with that because it just pushes you and motivates you,” said Force, who won the title in her fifth full season in Top Fuel. “Our plan is we want to win more races and we want to go after a championship again. I would love to double-up with my dad and (sister) Courtney. It would be great to share the winner’s circle with my sister. There’s still so many things left to accomplish and try to achieve. That’s just motivation and what pushes me.

“It feels good getting back in the car. It’s a new car and we’re trying to figure this thing to be ready. I’m always going to be learning and for me, I’m going to come out and start our season with a handful of goals in mind. I want to improve as a driver and there’s still things I need to work on. I want to better myself as a driver and always try to do that.”

Brittany’s sisters _ Ashley and Courtney _ both have followed their dad into the Funny Car ranks. Ironically, the Top Fuel class produced the first championship among the racing daughters of John and Laurie Force.

“People always want to put my sisters and I, compare everything we’ve done,” Brittany said. “For me, it’s not about trying to do it first or beat them at it. I always have their back. You know, it was huge, a championship. I mean, Ashley has won Indy, Courtney won tons of races. It took me longer to get the ball rolling on things. But to bring home a championship, I never imagined that. It seemed too big an accomplishment to ever do it. Not that my team couldn’t do it, it’s one of those things that’s a dream. You never know if you’re going to get there. I watched my dad do it. He’s been such a help through this whole thing. Having my sisters out there, having their support…very lucky, very blessed.”

Additionally, Brittany credited the behind-the-scenes support of her mom, who convinced her to at least test a Top Fuel dragster. And if she didn’t like it, to just tell Papa John she wanted out.

“You know, she’s just my biggest supporter,” said Force, who won the 2013 Auto Club Road to the Future Award as NHRA’s Rookie of the Year. “She’s had my back through everything. I mean, she watches us every single time I’m on the racetrack. She’s always right there. She always takes our side when it comes to battles between my dad and I, so that’s always very nice. But she’s just the greatest supporter. She watches us do it all.

“She even got in a Super Comp car and got licensed years ago, because she wanted to feel like she understood where we were coming from. I mean, the fact she went out and got licensed just so she could have deeper conversations with us, really get into what we were talking about, really understand what we go through, it’s pretty incredible. She’s just the most amazing woman. Having her out there, having her there to celebrate was just so great. She’s the best mom out there.”

A graduate of Cal State Fullerton, Brittany also has her off-track priorities in order as perhaps the perfect ambassador for professional drag racing.

“Yeah, I went to school to be a teacher, I mean, years ago,” Force said. “When you’re younger, you change your mind a hundred times what you want to do career-wise. When I finally got to a Top Fuel car, made my first full-pass down the racetrack, that’s when I knew what I wanted to do career-wise. I fell in love with the car. I was absolutely hooked. But actually 10 years ago if you said I would have been driving a Top Fuel car, I would have said, ‘There’s no way!’

“I drove Super Comp, I drove A Fuel. For me, I loved A Fuel. I thought that’s where I would stay. Guys going 300 miles per hour, I just thought they were absolutely nuts. I got the bug. I fell in love with it.

“Obviously when I was younger, I went to school, I wanted to be a teacher. I ended up getting my credential. I love working with kids. One of the cool parts about my job is that we have so many kids that come up to the ropes, ask for autographs, ask for pictures, a bunch of them ask for advice on how to get into drag racing. That’s pretty cool. As much as we can, my sisters and I, my dad as well, we do career days. Anything where I can go back to a school that I used to teach at or a school I was involved with, we have a free day and we’re not out on the road, I’m always down for that. That’s so much fun.”

Don Schumacher Racing rival Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) were last year’s Winternationals winners. The event will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live finals coverage beginning at 5 p.m. (EST) on Sunday. The race is the first of 24 events on the schedule, which again features the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff run.

Force will be pushed at Pomona by Torrence, defending event winner Pritchett, three-time world champion Antron Brown, tour veterans Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican and Terry McMillen _ the latter two who both won their first career Top Fuel races in 2017 _ and eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, whose six wins at Pomona are tied for the most in Top Fuel history.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying again will feature two rounds on Friday and the final two rounds on Saturday with final eliminations on Sunday.

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NHRA’s revised 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule with starting times for FOX and FOX Sports 1 and 2’s television broadcasts. (All times ET and subject to change):

Feb. 11 _ Lucas Oil Winternationals, Pomona, Calif. (5 p.m. live on FS1)

Feb. 25 _ NHRA Arizona Nationals, Chandler, Ariz. (6:30 p.m., FS1)

March 18 _Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla. (7 p.m., FS1)

April 8 _ DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals, Las Vegas (6 p.m., FS1)

April 22 _ NHRA SpringNationals, Baytown, Texas (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

April 29 _NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Concord, N.C. (6 p.m., FS1)

May 6 _NHRA Southern Nationals, Commerce, Ga. (6 p.m., FS1)

May 20 _Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals, Topeka, Kan. (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

June 3 _Route 66 NHRA Nationals, Joliet, Ill. (5:30 p.m., FS1)

June 8 _ NHRA Virginia Nationals, Richmond, Va., (television TBD)

June 17 _NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn. (7:30 p.m., FS1)

June 24 _Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, Norwalk, Ohio (6:30 p.m., FS1)

July 8 _NHRA New England Nationals, Epping, N.H. (1 p.m., Live on FS1)

July 22 _Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, Morrison, Colo. (3 p.m., Live on FOX)

July 29 _Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma, Calif. (4 p.m. Live on FOX)

Aug. 5 _NHRA Northwest Nationals, Kent, Wash. (4 p.m., Live on FOX)

Aug. 19 _Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Brainerd, Minn. (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

Sept. 3 _Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Clermont, Ind. (11 a.m. Live on FS1)

Sept. 3 _ Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Clermont, Ind. (1 p.m., Live on FOX)

NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

Sept. 16 _ Dodge NHRA Nationals, Reading, Pa. (7:30 p.m., FS1)

Sept. 23 _AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Madison, Ill. (8:30 p.m., FS1)

Oct. 7 _AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Ennis, Texas (12 p.m., Live on FS2)

Oct. 14 _NHRA Carolina Nationals, Concord, N.C. (2 p.m., Live on FS1)

Oct. 28_ NHRA Toyota Nationals, Las Vegas (7:30 p.m., Live on FS1)

Nov. 11 _Auto Club NHRA Nationals, Pomona, Calif. (4 p.m., Live on FS1) of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 8 2018
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