MADISON, Ill. — official series release — NHRA photo —
Brittany Force might not be in the perfect position heading into the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, but the third-year Top Fuel standout doesn’t think she’s too far from it.
After a semifinal finish at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indy, Force headed into the Countdown to the Championship in the fifth position, the best spot she has started the six-race NHRA playoffs from in her young career.
After a first-round loss in Charlotte dropped her two spots, to continue that momentum in her Monster Energy dragster, she will need strong performances early in the Countdown. That includes a great finish at the 4th annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Sept. 25-27 at Gateway Motorsports Park, the second event in a three-race opening stretch in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
“[Indy is] the biggest race of the season, and to have some success feels really good,” Force said. “This race launches the Countdown, and we are leaving on a pretty good note, racing all the way to the semifinals. It just boosts our confidence that much more after Brainerd and gives us that momentum going into the Countdown. We are going to chase after it for these last six races.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock), and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2. The lucrative event just outside of St. Louis is the second of six playoff races in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship and comes at a pivotal time for any driver chasing a championship.
That certainly includes Force, who has again made considerable strides as a driver. After failing to make the Countdown in her rookie season, she qualified a year ago, starting in the ninth spot and finishing 10th overall. But she took another major step this season, advancing to two final rounds and already posting more round-wins this season than in all of 2014.
“This Monster Energy team has been great all season,” said Force, who has six final-round appearances in her career. “I can’t say enough about all my guys. Since Monster Energy came onboard, we have really stepped up our performance. I have an awesome team behind me, and I am so proud of every single one of them. I know how hard they have worked.”
That elusive first Top Fuel victory is still up for grabs for Force, but she seems to be getting closer to it, and picking it up during the Countdown to the Championship would be an ideal situation.
Force entered the six-race NHRA playoffs with momentum as well, posting semifinal or better showings at three of the previous six races, including a final-round appearance in Brainerd that cemented her Countdown berth. The next step is continued consistency on Sunday during eliminations no matter the weather conditions, but Force has supreme faith in her talented team.
“I want to keep running well in qualifying, and also the key is going rounds on Sunday,” Force said. “I have so much confidence in my crew chiefs, Todd Smith and Ronnie Thompson. They have given me a great race car, and every race I feel more and more comfortable.”
Force’s comfort level has certainly increased as her confidence in a Top Fuel dragster continues to grow, but the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will present a pressure-packed weekend early in the Countdown to the Championship.
All eyes will be on points leader Brown in St. Louis as the 2012 Top Fuel world champ looks to make it four straight wins at Gateway Motorsports Park. Knocking off Brown during the semifinals in Brainerd may have given Force confidence, but she also has to deal with a loaded Top Fuel lineup that includes reigning world champion Tony Schumacher, who is gunning for his ninth world title in the class.
Other standouts include Richie Crampton, who has four wins in 2015, three-time world champion Larry Dixon, Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta, J.R. Todd, Steve Torrence, and Connolly, who rounds out the Countdown to the Championship field in Top Fuel.
“We have come so close to getting that first win, [and that] just gives me so much confidence,” said Force, who won the Auto Club Road to the Future Award in 2013 as the NHRA’s top rookie. “Since Monster Energy came onboard in Atlanta, we have been more aggressive and have been really making some positive moves. I am feeling good about our chances every race.”
CREDIT: National Hot Rod Association