Rookie Tries to Move Up in Mello Yello Points in First Trip to Bristol Dragway
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Brittany Force’s idea of the perfect Father’s Day would be racing in the final round of the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway against her dad, 15-time NHRA champion John Force.
The twist is that in her vision such a showdown would not occur in the Funny Car category in which the elder Force has won 134 NHRA tour events, but rather in Top Fuel, the class in which Brittany is competing this season for Rookie-of-the-Year honors at the wheel of the 10,000 horsepower Castrol EDGE dragster.
“I’d love to race him,” she said on the eve of the 13th renewal of an event presented by the Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, “especially in Top Fuel. That would be awesome.”
Of course, that’s not going to happen this Father’s Day, not with her dad still focused on winning the Mello Yello Funny Car title. However, based on her rapid development as a driver, it’s an intriguing scenario that, down the road, is not beyond the realm of possibility.
After all, the senior Force often has talked about driving a dragster and to do so against his daughter would be especially appealing. Moreover, while he’s never driven a dragster at Bristol, he’s certainly driven AGAINST them, winning a special bonus race in 1999 for which the NHRA temporarily modified the rules to allow Funny Cars to race side-by-side against dragsters.
For the time being, though, Brittany is breaking new ground in the 330 mile-an-hour Castrol EDGE hybrid powered by the Ford BOSS 500 nitro motor. She already has become the first driver in 42 years to win a Top Fuel round with Ford power as well as the first ever to win a pro round outside of Funny Car for John Force Racing, Inc.
The second youngest of Force’s four daughters knows the importance of moving up in points this week, especially if she entertains any hope of earning a berth in the NHRA’s Countdown to 1 playoffs that begin this September.
“I’ve really been working on my reaction times,” said the 26-year-old schoolteacher-to-be, “so to get a hole shot win in the first round (two weeks ago at Englishtown, N.J.) was awesome.
“I’ve been talking with my crew chiefs (Dean ‘Guido’ Antonelli and Eric Lane) and some other drivers on how to improve my lights and I’ve been practicing on my ‘Tree (a miniature replica of the NHRA’s Christmas Tree starting system),” she said. “I have really been focusing on that. My lights still need improvement, but they’re getting there.”
In addition to improvement in her reaction times, Brittany has gained valuable experience in developing other skills in racing situations that simply can’t be duplicated in a testing environment.
Notably, she has successfully managed to feather the throttle to regain forward momentum after a loss of traction, a technique know as “backpedaling.”
“I was able to pedal and get it to hook back up (against former Rookie-of-the-Year Spencer Massey, to whom she lost in the second round at Englishtown). That was something new for me and I feel like I’m learning something every run.”
She’ll try to apply that knowledge this week and maybe, just maybe, instead of racing against her father on Sunday, she can share a winners’ circle with him.
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