All photos: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery
EPPING, N.H. (June 4) – Brittany Force knew it was only a matter of time for her Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster team.
At the NHRA New England Nationals Sunday at New England Dragway, Force and her John Force Racing team broke through. Force stormed to her fourth career victory, beating defending Top Fuel champion Antron Brown in a thrilling final round.
“We had really been struggling and we got lost for a while but we really seemed to figure it out at Topeka,” Force said. “I knew we had a good race car, we had our Monster car back, our team back, and I knew that first win was right around the corner.
“Our last final round was Phoenix, and that whole time in between was tough for the team. But we never lost focus, and we never gave up and that was what was important. That is what held us together as a team and got us here today.”
Force reached the final round at Phoenix, the second race of the season, but issues with the chassis helped cause her to win only two rounds over the next five races. A new front half was manufactured and re-installed on the car after the Atlanta race, and a test at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis before the Topeka race confirmed other changes helped.
She qualified No. 4 in Topeka, and though Force lost in the second round, she knew the Monster Energy dragster had its speed back from 2016 – when she won three races and finished sixth in the standings.
“The Indy test turned everything around,” Force said. “Really after Atlanta, we already knew what the problem was and we were going to prove it on the race track in testing. We knew we were right, and that we had a problem with the clutch and we were good after that.”
Force qualified No. 2 in Epping, and that speed carried over to race day. She beat Steve Chrisman with a first-round pass of 3.754 seconds at 328.62 mph and knocked out rookie Troy Coughlin Jr. with a second-round run of 3.745 seconds at 330.88 mph.
In the semifinals, as Shawn Langdon had mechanical troubles, Force sped to the final round with a pass of 3.731 seconds at 331.69 mph. Brown had lane choice for the final, but that didn’t deter Force.
Force left with the defending series champ, with a .055-second reaction time, and she flew to the finish line with a pass of 3.716 seconds at 328.62 mph. Brown trailed with a run of 3.728 seconds at 327.98 mph.
Force’s winning pass came moments after she witnessed younger sister Courtney Force fall in the Funny Car final. But Brittany was able to focus and get the job done under pressure.
“You know, there are so many distractions and when you pull up there in that starting line you have to eliminate everything,” Force said. “Really, my sister was sitting there right in front of me in the starting lane and I didn’t want to watch. I had to keep my focus where I was and obviously I could see the team celebrating but I was focused on what I was doing. I was hoping it was just going to be us ladies in the winner’s circle, but we take it one step at a time.”
Force and the Monster Energy team return to the track for the NHRA Summernationals next weekend at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.
- Best Qualifying Effort: 3.686 seconds/331.36 mph (Round 2); Qualified No. 2
- Elimination Round 1 (Left Lane): 3.754 sec./328.62 mph, def. No. 15 Steven Chrisman, 4.782 sec./180.07 mph; vs. Chrisman – now 1-0 all-time; 1-0 this season; 1-0 at Epping
- Elimination Round 2 (Quarterfinals, Left Lane): 3.745 sec./330.88 mph, def. No. 10 Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.822 sec./320.66 mph; vs. Coughlin Jr. – now 1-1 all-time; 1-1 this season; 1-0 at Epping
- Elimination Round 3 (Semifinals, Left Lane): 3.731 sec./331.69 mph, def. No. 6 Shawn Langdon, 17.479 sec./67.72 mph; vs. Langdon – now 5-6 all-time; 1-0 this season; 1-0 at Epping
- Elimination Round 4 (Finals, Right Lane): 3.716 sec./328.62 mph; def. No. 4 Antron Brown, 3.728 sec./327.98 mph; vs. Brown – now 4-8 all-time; 2-0 this season; 1-0 at Epping; 2-4 in final rounds
- Force is now 11-8 this season in 19 elimination rounds.
- Force is now 6-4 at New England Dragway in 10 elimination rounds.
- Force is now 8-2 all-time in 10 elimination rounds from the No. 2 qualifying spot.
- Force is now 98-97 all-time in 195 elimination rounds.
- Top Fuel Points Standings: 1. Leah Pritchett, 809; Antron Brown, 775; Steve Torrence, 746; Tony Schumacher, 712; Doug Kalitta, 571; 6. Brittany Force, 528.