In only her 26th start, Brittany Force raced to her first career final round, losing a close race to 2012 Top Fuel champion Antron Brown and capturing the runner-up position for the event.
Brittany Force and the Castrol EDGE dragster enjoyed their best career finish after making eight consecutive quality passes (four in qualifying and four on race day) en route to their final round appearance. The team started strong in qualifying, taking the #10 position with a 3.813. This put Brittany on the line during the opening round of eliminations against David Grubnic, ready to avenge her 2013 loss. After cutting near-identical reactions, they raced side-by-side to the finish line, with Brittany just edging out Grubnic with a 3.821 to a losing 3.826, a difference of just five thousandths of a second.
Round two paired the sophomore driver against 7-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher. The challenge of running against class-heavyweight "The Sarge" would pose a bucket list item that the young driver was gunning towards. Crossing that big item off the list, Brittany would take the round win with a winning elapsed time of 3.805 to Schumacher's 5.017 seconds.
“That round win will definitely be a highlight of my season until we get that first win. Tony Schumacher is awesome he is the champ. He has beaten my butt many times so I was happy to go out there and get the win. That is a round win I always wanted to get. To win against him was awesome,” said Force.
Force made quick work of Steve Torrence in round 3, posting a consistent 3.814 to Torrence's losing 4.187. This would place her in the final against former champ Antron Brown. The Castrol Edge team knew they would have to step up for the final to take on the popular and successful Brown.
The last woman to win in Top Fuel was Hillary Will on June 1, 2008 at Topeka where she beat Larry Dixon in the final. With history in the making and the win on the line, both drivers nailed the tree, launching together and charging to the finish line. Despite running her strongest run of the weekend, it was Brown getting the win light 3.755 seconds to Force’s 3.793 at the stripe. While there was no winner’s circle celebration there was still plenty of excitement in the Castrol EDGE pits.
“I am still so excited. I wanted to get that win in the first final but I know that first win is coming. We are getting closer. We did great today and we made our best run in the final with that 3.79. I am stoked and I am so proud of my guys. This Castrol EDGE team is really coming along,” said Force. “We are getting better. It is the second race of the season and to go to our first final. I couldn’t be happier.”
The Phoenix performance for Brittany made her the first Top Fuel driver to reach the finals in a Ford powered dragster since "Sneaky Pete" Robinson won the Summernationals at York, Pa., on July 19, 1970. This is just the seventh time a Ford-powered dragster has been in an NHRA final round.
While Force is still learning the ropes, her competitors are taking notice of her continued development and success. Perhaps the best compliment any young driver can get is the respect of their fellow racers.
“She’s in a young stage in her career and she’s just getting better and better and you can tell it. That’s how she got to the final. Her car was on point and it was consistent all day and that’s what got her those round wins. I didn’t look at who I raced, I know I’m racing John Force (Racing) and you know they can step up and they did step up. We’re not taking any of them lightly. None of these teams are out here to play games. It’s not recess anymore. School is in and you better have your thinking caps on and be ready to go out there and do work,” said Antron Brown, 2012 Top Fuel champion and 26-time Top Fuel winner.
“I don’t look at her as being a female, not because she’s a sophomore, I look at her as a tough, top competitor, and I’m going to give her my A+ game like everyone else. She was a strong competitor all day and we were not taking them lightly at all. It’s got Castrol on the side, that’s John Force Racing. We’re going after them just like we do everyone else.”