The Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster team and driver Brittany Force were a juggernaut at Bruton Smith’s Bellagio of drag strips today. Over the course of three rounds of Four-Wide racing Force had the quickest Top Fuel dragster in all three quads she raced and when it mattered the most the four year pro used her rapidly improving driving skills to post the best reaction time to secure her second win in three races. The format for the Four-Wide Nationals presented by Lowes Foods confuses the most veteran of drivers and even as drivers are crossing the finish line at nearly 320 mph they don’t know if they will be celebrating or licking their wounds.
“I didn’t see (the win light) and didn’t even know we won until they pulled me in to where all the FS1 cameras were. I asked them to make sure. I said, ‘Did we win?’ So I didn’t even know until I got out of the car and that was very exciting. No one could probably see, but we thrashed to get up here and I didn’t think we were going to make it up to the lanes in time to run here,” said Force, who has raced to three final rounds in the last four races. “Our belts got pulled back when they put the car back together and we had to unbolt the car and then re-buckle me in and I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. But we did and I guess it’s good because under pressure we all figured it out and got the car down the track.”
The Monster Energy team is hitting its stride to start the season thanks in part to the technical alliance with Torrence Racing and the oversight of Top Fuel tuner Alan Johnson and crew chief Brian Husen.
“I just want to say thank you to Alan Johnson and Brian Husen and the entire team because I am just so proud of everyone,” added Force. “That is just incredible to know that Alan Johnson and Brian Husen can put a car together that is that consistent every single run and run like that. It’s insane and I am so proud to be teamed up with them. It really shows and it really builds my confidence up for the season. The season is still getting started but we are definitely off to a really good start.”
Force has raced to three final rounds in the past four races and won twelve rounds. In the previous two seasons it took Force twelve races to win twelve rounds of racing and her career best final round total in one season is four.
The win was Force’s first at zMAX Dragway and it was the first win by a female in the Four-Wide format. Force also extended her points lead for the third race in a row. It took the Monster Energy team 75 races to get their first win but only two races to pick up win No. 2.
“People say that the first win is the toughest and it was because it took me till my fourth season. My second one came easier but I wouldn’t say easiest because it is still tough. These guys on my team are the hardest workers that I have seen and they have dedicated everything into this car. Now I get to celebrate with them in the winner’s circle,” added Force.
“I am still just trying to get over that Four-Wide deal where I got so screwed up in qualifying and just not coming in with a clear head. I was just trying to find my focus and it’s tough and to be able to win four wide is amazing. To be the first female, that is pretty awesome.”
Force had to run against two-time Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown in every quad today. In the first session Force was the first to the finish line with an event quickest elapsed time of 3.734 seconds. In the second quad she was able to pick her lane again and had to face off with Brown, Richie Crampton and JR Todd. Again Force got to the finish line first with Brown on her heels.
In the final quad Force had her best reaction time of the day, .042, to leave first on Doug Kalitta, Brown and Clay Millican. The winning elapsed time of 3.764 seconds at 319.98 mph was enough to edge out Brown’s runner-up time of 3.779 seconds. Before that run Force’s team had to thrash in the staging lanes and the 2013 NHRA Rookie of the Year was afraid they might not make the call.
“You know, sometimes drivers just do better under pressure and I always wondered what type I was. It wasn’t just me, it was the entire team. I don’t know if everyone could see but I was coming up here there was a problem with the belts. But they unbolted the car and we got it figured out and we got the win,” explained Force in the pressroom.
While Force was focusing on beating some of the toughest competition in recent Top Fuel history the crew chiefs were battling twice as many lanes as normal and tricky track conditions.
“The thing is that it’s the most challenging about this place is that there are four lanes. And you have to have lane choice and there are four to pick from and this place is so challenging because there are four to pick from and the starting line is tough. Our goal of the day was maintaining lane choice every round and we did a good job of that,” said Alan Johnson outside the winner’s circle celebration.
John Force raced to the second round today but narrowly missed advancing to the final quad. Force’s PEAK Antifreeze Chevrolet Camaro handily won the first round quad over Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman, and Bob Tasca III with a 4.053 second run. Heading into the second round quad Force had the second quickest Funny Car and was lined up in lane two. In the closest nitro race of the second round Force was outrun by Capps 4.045 to 4.063 at the stripe with Matt Hagan getting to the finish line first.
“Yeah, I thought I had that one won. I was waiting for them to call me and a lot of times here they get the scoreboards confused as to who won cause I never saw him. The other guys never came by so I just figured I did. But Hagan ran good and Capps got us just by a hair. But the Chevrolets are coming around like we wanted and we have a lot to learn,” said Force. “We were off this weekend and Schaffer said we couldn’t put the car in the 3s but we know what we need to do to do that. We tried here just didn’t get it done. Our dragster is in the final for Chevrolet but a good weekend for us and as far as the points go we are still up there at that top.”
Courtney Force qualified No. 4 in her 100th Funny Car race this weekend at zMAX Dragway and drove her Traxxas Chevrolet Camaro SS to the second round of eliminations. She was the highest qualified car in her quad coming into race day. She lined up beside No. 5 qualifier Del Worsham, No. 12 qualifier Cruz Pedregon and No. 13 qualifier John Hale and advanced to the second round/semis.
“Our Traxxas Chevy Camaro team qualified in the No. 4 spot this weekend in Charlotte. We only had three qualifying runs so that left everyone with no data for one of the lanes,” said Force. “Going into first round we were quickest of our quad and had lane choice. In the second round/semis we went out and smoked the tires, but I definitely feel like our Traxxas team learned a lot and has a better handle on this track than we have had in the past. We’re making huge improvements here each year and that’s exciting. It makes me feel good and excited to get back here in the fall. Hopefully we can take some of the data we learned this weekend and use it to our advantage in the Countdown to the Championship.”
“This was a big weekend for our team being that it was our 100th race and my 100th race with Traxxas. I’m very thankful Traxxas and Mike Jenkins have been by my side since the very beginning of my Funny Car career. I’m honored to have their support. I wouldn’t be out here if it weren’t for them and I’m really glad that we were able to at least show them a great race car at my 100th race. We were definitely hoping to take home the Wally, but we’re just going to have to wait until next weekend,” said Force.
Force has qualified in the top half of the field at every event so far this season, landing in the No. 2 position for the last three races in-a-row.
“I’m glad we get to be part of such a great company, The Fastest Name in Radio Control. I think together we have done a fantastic job of showing girls of all ages another side of racing, whether it be out here with the Nitro Funny Cars or with the radio controlled cars. It’s a great program to be a part of, showing girls that anything is possible whether you’re racing RC cars against the boys or racing on the track against the boys,” said Force.
Funny Car points leader Robert Hight wasn’t able to advance out of the first quad at the Four-Wide for just the second time in his career. As the No. 9 qualifier Hight was relegated to the third choice of lanes in the first round of eliminations. After seeing tire smoke in the run before his pass the team decided to switch from lane two to lane three. Immediately after that switch Alexis DeJoria switched from lane four to lane one bumping Tim Wilkerson who moved to lane two and shifting Diehl to lane four. As the tree came down Hight launched and drove into tire smoke as he lost traction almost instantly. No. 1 qualifier DeJoria followed Hight losing traction as well as Wilkerson drove to the win and Diehl pedaled his way across the finish line second advancing to the next round.
“We just need to qualify better. I am not making any excuses. We lost a session to weather and then lost the last session due to a mechanical issue. We have won here twice and we will start focusing on Houston in a couple days. There were big crowds here and I would have liked to have raced longer on Sunday in this Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro,” explained a disappointed Hight in the Auto Club pit area.