MADISON, Ill. — official release — NHRA photo — The start of Brittany Force’s first experience with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship did not go as planned. But with four more opportunities for playoff redemption, the sophomore Top Fuel driver knows she can still put together a thrilling end to her 2014 season.
Force, at the controls of her 10,000-horsepower Castrol Edge dragster, fell in the first round of the first race in the Countdown to the Championship and those struggles continued throughout the weekend at the Texas Motorplex in Dallas when she failed to qualify for playoff stop No. 2 – the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.
That put an immediate damper on Force’s title hopes in her first Countdown appearance, but a turnaround could come this weekend at the third annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis. A strong showing would erase the struggles of the past two races and go a long way in setting up a banner finish to Force’s second Top Fuel season.
“My team’s focus is to put our best effort into these final four races so we can stand a chance next to all our tough competitors,” said Force, who is 10th in points. “The entire team feels this pressure but we are ready to dive right into it. I will admit there is definitely an added pressure going into the Countdown. I think it’s the combination of competing in my first Countdown ever but also knowing that every move you make can cost you. At this point in the game you can’t afford too many mistakes. Every pass we make has to count.”
Getting right back behind the wheel might be the best thing for Force, who could never find any rhythm in Dallas, qualifying 17th and missing the field.
“We are bummed,” Force said. “This was not the plan. Every run counts and we need to go rounds. We are going to hold our heads up. We will get ready for the next race and keep trying hard.”
That attitude has carried Force a long way in her brief but prospering Top Fuel career, as a constant willingness to learn and work hard has paid major dividends. She has made significant strides coming off her rookie season when she won the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, and has meshed well with a team led by crew chiefs Todd Smith and Dean Antonelli.
But Force also isn’t about to accept results like the one in Dallas, especially during the most crucial point of the year. By advancing to three final rounds this season Force has shown she is capable of winning at the sport’s highest level, but it’s a matter of getting everything to come together against a loaded Top Fuel field.
“Taking home a win at any point in this 2014 season would be unreal,” Force said. “With the Countdown in full swing, going after our first win is at the top of our list. Our team has a lot to do but it is nothing we aren’t capable of handling. Our plan with the final races is to no longer make minor mistakes and to make every run count. We need to qualify in the top half of the field to have a chance to battle it out. I need to make sure my driving routine stays consistent next to my team and our car’s performance.”
Qualifying better is of utmost importance heading to St. Louis where Force will face off against the likes of Brown, the 2012 world champ who is the two-time defending winner of the St. Louis event in Top Fuel and Doug Kalitta, who was the points leader during the majority of the regular season.
But after winning the first two events of the Countdown, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher has taken command of the points lead in Top Fuel. Other championship contenders in the Countdown are defending world champion Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, Khalid alBalooshi, Steve Torrence, J.R. Todd and rookie Richie Crampton.
“To earn a win before our season ends would be an incredible feeling and truly a huge accomplishment,” Force said. “It’s something I want so bad and this year the Castrol Edge team has walked that line barely missing it in three final rounds. I’m very confident in the entire team and believe with the right attitude our hard work will pay off and we will take home a win before our season comes to an end.”