The Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster was the quickest dragster in every round of eliminations. In Force’s opening round win she posted a stellar 3.739 second run at 319.45 mph over Lucas Oil backed Morgan Lucas. In the next round she got the win light with a 3.808 second run over rookie Tripp Tatum who was the 26th different Top Fuel opponent for Force. In the semi-finals Force won with an outstanding run of 3.729 seconds, quickest Top Fuel run of the day and advanced to the final by dispatching Dave Connolly.
Brittany is sixth different driver to get their first pro win with Alan Johnson after Blaine Johnson in 1995, Gary Scelzi in 1997, Bruce Sarver in 2000, Shawn Langdon in 2012 and Khalid alBalooshi, also in 2012.
This was Force’s eighth final round and she faced her sixth different opponent. McMillen joined a list that included Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, JR Todd, Richie Crampton and Leah Pritchett. She joins Hall of Famers Del Worsham (2011) and Eddie Hill (1988) along with four others as first time Top Fuel winners at the Gatornationals.
Force is the ninth different woman to win in Top Fuel. This is the first time since 1982 that two different women have won a Top Fuel race in the same season, two weeks ago Force lost to Leah Pritchett in Phoenix. The first time it occurred was 1982 when Shirley Muldowney won the Gatornationals and Lucille Lee won the next race at Atlanta.
“Last weekend was incredible and we almost made it there and I was definitely very bummed but very proud of my entire team because they worked so hard to get here. Today when we came out here, and driving out to the track and I was feeling good,” said Force from the winner’s circle stage. “As a driver I had that feeling, I had it in my stomach and just felt like we were going to go all the way. We finally did and I have been chasing this for so many years and this is a proud moment to be standing here today. I have to thank my entire team, my crew chiefs Brian Husen and Alan Johnson – thank you for getting us here. I love all my guys. Thank you to my family, especially my dad, for giving me this opportunity.”
At the end of the day Force’s crew chief Brian Husen was relieved and excited to get Force’s first win out of the way.
"Everyone has been working their tails off, and it is great to see it all come to fruition. Nobody is slacking on this team and it is more of a relief. I wasn`t worried whether we were going to get her that first win or not. It was more a matter of when. Now we have got that out of the way and can be done with it," said Monster Energy crew chief Brian Husen.
For Hight and the Auto Club Chevrolet team the Funny Car win today was the culmination of three races worth of effort and an off-season spent focusing on the little details.
“We had a great race car the first two races so we actually felt we let a couple slip by that we actually could have won. So to come in here to get it done, and to get it done with Brittany and us leaving here with the points lead it doesn’t get any better. It`s been a lot of hard work and it`s finally paying off,” said Hight.
Facing Ron Capps for the fourth time in a final round Hight knew he was going to have to be prepared for anything. As both Funny Cars launched they charged down the track but it was Capps who drove into trouble first and had his Funny Car briefly cross the centerline as Hight had to pedal his Auto Club Chevy for the win. It was Hight’s only run of the day slower than 3.9 seconds getting the win with a 4.429 second pass.
“When you race Ron Capps, he`s been doing this a long time and I think he`s No. 2 in Funny Car wins, he`s one of the best out here. When you go against him and win in a pedal contest, it`s pretty rewarding. As a driver, its fun to win those every once in a while. You want to go out there and win low ET, but when you can win it pedaling it -- especially against Ron Capps -- it`s pretty awesome,” said Hight in the Gainesville Raceway pressroom.
The first round was impressive for Hight taking out Terry Haddock 3.973 seconds to 4.206 seconds. In the second round Hight had to race Matt Hagan in a tough match-up but Hight’s Mike Neff tuned-up Funny Car was up for the challenge getting the win 3.969 to 4.192. The closest race for the now 37-time winner was the semi-final against Chad Head. Hight once again ran 3.969 seconds just in front of Head’s impressive 4.030 second pass.
Hight joins Kenny Bernstein, Gordie Bonin and Ron Capps as a three-time Gatornationals winner. This was Hight’s third win in five years at the historic track and his second with crew chief Mike Neff who also has a win at the Gatornationals as a driver. This win also extends Hight’s streak of winning at least one Funny Car national event every year of his professional career which started in 2005.
“The first five or six years I came here I don`t think I won a round. It`s funny; sometimes you just have a racetrack that you do well at and this is one of them now. I`m very fortunate to be driving for (crew chief) Mike Neff, and this is my second win at Gainesville with Mike Neff. This is a major race. When you look at the majors in golf, this is a major. To win a major here, the East Coast kickoff, is pretty rewarding.”
Every John Force Racing race car won in the first round for the second consecutive event. No. 9 qualifier John Force outran reigning Funny Car world champion Del Worsham in the first round. It was a close race with Force and his PEAK Anti-freeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro getting to the finish line first with a time of 4.000 seconds as Worsham crossed with a time of 4.474 seconds.
In the second round John Force gave up lane choice to Jack Beckman by a slim margin but as the tree came down Force’s foot hit the pedal .162 seconds early handing the victory to Beckman with a red-light start. As Force’s PEAK Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car came off the starting line he watched as Beckman’s Funny Car went up into smoke, lost power and coasted down the right lane with a winning time of 8.061 seconds. It was Force’s 25th career red-light in 1,762 elimination rounds. His last red-light came at the 2014 Spring Nationals in Houston.
“As an owner, you can’t expect much more than this today. You look at Robert Hight and the Auto Club team and we know he knows how to drive a race car with(crew chief) Mike Neff. The whole operation, with all the changes, we expected that car to come around. Robert’s driving ability on the race track is unbelievable,” said Force.
At the end of the day Force took in the entire team’s success and summed up a historic day for his organization.
“Took several years for (Brittany) to struggle and go through all the teams that she loved and the crew chiefs. But what Alan (Johnson) said, was that you could put me over there with that other stuff but to make me any better, put me with what I know. And that is what we did,” said John Force. “It’s early in the season, but just mentally this is great to deliver for Monster Energy, to deliver for Chevrolet, to deliver for Auto Club that’s been so loyal to us, to Mac Tools, to Peak and everybody. The only one that didn’t deliver today was me, but what I think I am looking at is that I made the right calls. A lot of it is money, and I have had to take money out of my pocket to make this program work. I invested in this Top Fuel team and in Alan Johnson and he made this team work.”
The Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car driven by Courtney Force made the second quickest run of the opening session taking out Dave Richards, 3.958 seconds to 4.680 seconds. It was a huge win for the No. 2 qualifier as she secured her 100th round win in the Funny Car class joining sister Ashley Force Hood as the only female with at least 100 round wins in the class. Force Hood has the all-time record with 105 round wins but Courtney is closing in on this record as well.
“Getting that first round win and being told at the top end that win was my 100th round win was so exciting. That is a big accomplishment that has been an entire team effort. We just want to continue to get more round wins starting in Las Vegas,” said Courtney Force.
The seven-time national event winner is looking for her first win of 2016 and she knows that the success she had in qualifying and in the first two rounds will pay dividends later this season.
“It was a great weekend for all the John Force Racing teams. This Traxxas Chevy Camaro was consistent all weekend long. We had a really strong race car. The only problem we had was we were dropping a cylinder on every single pass. We were still running in the threes so we can’t complain too much,” said Force who was the No. 2 qualifier. “We solved the problem on the second pass today and we pulled it back a little and Chad Head was able to get around me for the win even though we made another three second run. I feel like we have a really competitive race car and it feels great to drive it. I am proud of my guys and this entire Traxxas Funny Car team. I am really excited to see where this season is going to take us.”