BRITTANY FORCE CLOSES GAP WITH PROVISIONAL NO. 1 AT POMONA
Brittany Force has been around success her entire life.
She has watched her father, 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, become the most decorated racer in NHRA history. She has watched both of her sisters, Ashley and Courtney Force, make waves in the same class as their father with multiple wins and championship battles of their own.
But none of that truly prepared Brittany Force for a surprise run at her own championship glory, entering this weekend’s NHRA finale at Pomona with a real opportunity at her first world title.
And Force kicked off her bid for the 2017 Top Fuel title in the best way imaginable, taking the provisional top spot in the category with a track-record 3.667-second pass at 330.31 mph in the Monster Energy dragster Friday at the 53rd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
“Obviously we are trying to push the car. After struggling in Q1, I knew our team would get this car figured out and I knew we would make a decent run out there,” Force said. “To step up and jump to the No. 1 spot was huge for us. That is where we need to be. If we are going to chase down the No. 1 spot we have to have killer runs like that. Now that sets us up for race day.
“Going for that top spot, I know how many points I gained and I am excited about that. But for me, with the big picture and so much on the line, we have to have our mind right and take it one run at a time.”
Force entered the weekend 20 points back of class leader Steve Torrence and closed the gap on Friday, qualifying five spots ahead of this season’s most successful Top Fuel competitor. Clay Millican qualified second with a 3.671 at 328.22 mph, followed by Antron Brown in third with a 3.696 at 326.00 mph. Leah Pritchett (3.712) and Torrence (3.719) round out the top five.
“Today was not just a confidence builder for me, but for the whole team to see that number up on the board. I was excited when I found out on the other end and I am sure they were too,” Force said. “The run felt good. I knew it was on a run and I knew if I could hang in there until that 1,000 foot stripe we would be ok. I knew it was a hell of a run and when they told me what it was I was pumped.
“It pushes us forward and gives us that momentum we need going into the rest of the weekend.”
Of course, with the pressure of chasing a championship, there also comes the pressure of having multiple voices in your ear, including your mentor, car owner and father, although Force admits that her crew chief, decorated tuner Alan Johnson, has helped keep her cheerleaders - including her father John - at a distance.
“I have Alan on my side and he is a big blocker between my dad and I. My dad will sometimes stir things up or he will say the wrong thing. He means well, but when Alan came into the picture, he said leave my driver alone, especially on race day,” Force said. “That’s been tough for my dad, he circles our pits, you can tell he wants to come in, but he keeps his distance. He leaves me alone before I climb in the car.”
But even with all of the success the team has enjoyed this season, including two wins and a runner-up in the NHRA’s version of the playoffs, nothing could have truly prepared her to be in the position she is in right now.
“When I look back just five years ago I competed in my very first Top Fuel race right here. To think how far I have come as a driver and the team as a whole just in five years, that we are actually in the hunt for this, it is a huge accomplishment,” Force said. “It is something I am very proud of. Regardless of where we end up this weekend, I am going to be proud of our team. We still have all day tomorrow and then we are going to throw down on Sunday.”