In NHRA Top Fuel, Brittany only has one female competitor. “Honestly, being a woman in this sport has worked to my advantage. Bringing in sponsors is one of the toughest parts of the job. This sport is expensive and winning doesn’t come easy. I compete against one other female in my category, the rest are all men. Sponsors have always liked me being singled out in such a male-dominated sport. And they liked it even more when we would win! So, for me, it worked out.”
NHRA Top Fuel is dangerous beyond comparison, they’re the fastest accelerating cars in the world. The slightest incorrect movement can cause a wreck, but that doesn’t scare Brittany. “I've been driving in the Top Fuel division since 2013. Wrecking comes with the territory. I mean, you're going 330 miles per hour in less than four seconds. That’s 11,000 horsepower. The idea that everything is going to play out perfectly, every single run, is impossible. Eventually, you’re going to get bit!”
Brittany has demolished countless speed records throughout her years of racing. In her eight years of Top Fuel, she had one intense crash in 2018. Although she doesn’t have any memory of the incident, she studied the crash with her crew chief to make sure she learned everything she could.
In a way, Top Fuel is a mind game. If a racer's mindset or focus is off, the whole race can change. The intense focus needed in the brief seconds of racing is incredible. “I’m focused on cutting a good light, keeping my car in the groove, getting down to that finish line, and turning on a win light. Your head can’t be anywhere else, but in the car, listening to it, feeling it, and being ready for anything. The biggest key is staying focused. The second you lose your focus, it’s game over. You’ve lost the run and you’ve lost the win. If my mind is somewhere else, you'll definitely see it on the starting line and on our time slips.” Practicing mindfulness and utilizing workouts such as Bikram yoga, help Brittany keep her focus in those brief moments. “It's 103 degrees in a room and you're pouring sweat. For me, the only way to get through the class is to focus on my breathing and on my movement. So, I feel like I carry that over into the seat, and helps me on the racetrack. It’s taught me how to steady my focus and not let distractions creep in.” How does she practice the minuscule reactions that keep her in the lead? “There's nothing that can simulate when you climb in that car and you're going over 330 miles per hour.” Although nothing can prepare for that moment, Brittany utilizes explosive lower body exercises and a home simulator set up like her cockpit to keep her reaction times as sharp as possible. “Those lower body explosive workouts like burpees, frog squat jumps, box jumps, jump roping all train you to be quick off your feet. Those quick movements fall in line with improving reaction time and slamming on that pedal. It’s building those muscles so when the tree comes down and you step on the throttle, it’s muscle memory.” For her simulator, “I practice in a driver’s cockpit with a Christmas Tree at home. For me, it's getting that practice in when I’m away from the track. It’s seeing the amber, not thinking, just reacting, and stepping on that throttle pedal. I'm always in that practice cockpit training especially during our season when we're chasing down wins.”
Brittany is always preparing to win. When asked about her goals for the ’22 season, it’s pretty cut and dry: “Coming in every season, my team and I have the same goal in mind, winning! It’s the reason we're out there, the reason we put in those long hours and hard work. Our season spans from February to November. We live on the road, out of a suitcase. We’re in a different city every weekend. Your team becomes your family. I have an incredible crew around me, and it takes every single one of those guys to win. Drag racing is such a team effort and together we want that #1 on our car. There’s no better feeling than celebrating your victories in a winner circuit with the entire team. We won a championship in 2017 and our goal is to get a second championship.” You’ll find Brittany drinking Mango Loco or Pacific Punch before a race and her dad is right there with her, supporting her on the sidelines. “I have the best support system around me with my dad, my family, and my team. My dad is a 16-time Funny Car champion. He taught me how to drive one of these cars and everything that comes with the sport. I’ve learned from the best. I’m lucky to have him out there with me teaching me something new every weekend.”
In 2017, Brittany Force was the first female to win the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 35 years and she’s not stopping at just one. “I know it's not going to be another 35 years until another female does it. The sport is growing for women in all categories. The best part is, the next female champion is not far away.” Brittany finished second in the 2021 Top Fuel season, only 236 points behind champion Steve Torrence. “We were definitely chasing that team all season long. We were even leading for a few races but moved back down to 2. Just to be in the hunt for a championship, to have a shot at it, to be right there where you could taste it, is pretty incredible.”
This season is especially noteworthy for Brittany after only racing twice in the 2020 season due to the COVID pandemic. She came into and left the 2021 season strong and is gearing up for taking the championship in the 2022 season. She’s focused, she’s determined, and she’s ready for more. Brittany Force’s determination and motivation is something that everyone should strive for. Win or lose, she’s doing what she loves, and she’s inspiring women to do the same.
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