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Top qualifier Brittany Force falls just short in final

NHRA Top Fuel driver, Brittany Force, made it to her second career final round Top Fuel appearance Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Illinois. Beginning the weekend on a strong note, the 27 year-old sophomore year driver would top the charts during qualifying Friday, before settling into number four qualified position on race day. But Force fell just short of claiming her first career victory in the finals, losing by just 0.035 of a second at the finish line.

NHRA Top Fuel driver Brittany Force falls just short of her first NHRA victory in Chicago.
NHRA Top Fuel driver Brittany Force falls just short of her first NHRA victory in Chicago.
Ron Lewis, John Force Racing

In the opening round, Brittany faced Terry McMillen, a series veteran and independent. Both Force and McMillen were quick on the tree, and had nearly identical reaction times. Brittany was able to make a clean pass, posting a winning 3.828 second elapsed time (ET) at 319.75 mph to McMillen’s tire smoking 9.608 second ET.

Second round, Brittany Force met reigning Top Fuel champion Shawn Langdon. Prior to this match up, Force held a losing 0-2 record against Langdon. Once again, the reaction times were nearly identical, but Langdon lost traction quickly, tires up in smoke. The reigning champ was unable to hold off Force, who made another solid pass right down the groove and got the win with her 3.940 second run at 308.57 mph.

Brittany faced J.R. Todd in the semi-final round, with consistency on her side, and a winning record over Todd (1-0) in prior events. Todd took a starting line advantage and led almost to the finish line, where Brittany's dragster was just able to overtake Todd at the finish line stripe, snagging the win by a mere 0.0018 seconds, or approximately 10 inches.

“Looking at the ladder and the guys I’m going to be going up against; Shawn Langdon, Antron Brown, (Terry) McMillen, these guys have been out here forever, and they know what they’re doing. I use that to make sure that I do my job in the car. I jumped on the tree and got the car down there. There wasn’t a single round that felt smooth to me. It felt all over the place and was crazy but I hung on to it and got it down there and I’m excited. We went rounds this weekend and I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Brittany Force.

In the final round, Brittany faced former NHRA Mello Yello World Champ Antron Brown. She had lane choice over Brown and she knew he would be tough competitor. Brittany stayed focused, went through her routine and did her job as a driver. Unfortunately, Brittany's 3.850 second ET at 320.89 mph wasn’t enough to hold off Antron's 3.814 second run at 317.34 mph.

“Honestly, I don’t even know what happened on that last run, everything went by so fast, we didn’t have time to warm up, I got ready in the pits, and we pulled up there and I thought; okay, I’ll have a moment to get in and take a deep breath, and there were funny cars going down the track, and we were the next pair, so I jumped in, suited up and didn¹t have time to think about anything, so before I knew it, the tree was coming down and we were heading down there. I knew I had to cut a good light, because Antron (Brown) always has good lights, so that was my number one thing I wanted to do ­ make sure the crew guys know that I’m working hard and working on my tree, and I left on him, by a little bit, and I’m happy about that. I’m proud of every single one of these guys, because they’ve worked so hard this weekend, and even though we went out in the final, it’s still a great weekend. We had a consistent car ­ it went down the track every single round and I’m so proud of these guys. I’m excited ­ I’m pumped now for Norwalk,” said Brittany Force.

Brittany’s Castrol EDGE team, under the guidance of crew chief Todd Smith has produced a consistent, fast race car that is now a major threat.

“We couldn’t have made it to the finals without a great effort by John Force Racing, and every member of the other three teams here helping our guys out and contributing to this thing. The turnaround is very quick ­ and we’re not as quick as we need to be but we’re improving and getting better, and so the other teams helping us was monumental,” said Todd Smith. “There are some great teams out there. Both nitro classes are really tough. On race day, you just can’t slip up at all. We had a great day today, and the car has been good. We’ve needed an ounce of luck, and didn’t get it in the final, but the guys performed well today, and did good, and I couldn't be happier.”

The 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year has moved up to the seventh place and has 638 points. With the Countdown to the Championship cut looming in the not so distant future, Brittany has some breathing room above the fold.

The next event on the schedule will be the 8th Annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, July 3-6 in Norwalk, OH.

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