“And I told her, ‘You have to find your happy place and ask yourself, “Do I even have a right to be here? Do I even have a right to be this good?” Because the pressure is what will take you down. What I’m saying is that you’ve got to find yourself because it’s you all by yourself out there. They give you that car and you and that car have to become one like Obi-Wan Kenobi! I’m full of shit and you know it!”
Just like the 35,000-plus fans that showed up on Sunday in Pomona, California to see just was going to shake out in the epic battle that was the Top Fuel World Championship, Brittany Force really had no idea of what the day would hold for her, her father and the race team that backed her.
“I was confident, but I was SO nervous,” she said later back in the pit area after she knew the title was hers. “Man, I mean I thought I was going to lose it. I felt like I was losing my mind since Vegas. I was just carrying this gut ache around where you’re thinking every single scenario: where are Steve Torrence and I match up? Who is going to have him in the first round? What if we have him the first round? What if it’s the final round? What if you red light in the first round? A million different things were going through my head and you can’t come in here with that mindset."
“The first round was tough because the red light kept popping in to my head because I thought, If something like that happens, it’s game over for my whole team. I knew it all falls on me as a driver. I thought, Just get past that first round. And we got past it. Going into the second round, I had a different confidence. I went in with a different attitude. At that point it was, ‘We want this championship. That’s what we are fighting for. We are already off to a great day.’ We got past that first round and I went in with a different attitude. I was like, ‘Let’s get in this car and let’s frickin’ kill out there and let’s have some fun.’ We needed that. Especially in that run against Richie Crampton. They ran pretty great.”
Brittany then reflected on the two rounds of racing that created NHRA drag racing history.
“I mean, I was in my car and I knew Steve Torrence was in the lane in front of me and it came down to that round. I didn’t know he lost. I didn’t want that pressure of, ‘Okay, he won. Now we have to do it.’ That would just put this whole new gut ache in. I just kept my focus. I didn’t care. I didn’t focus on it. It was all about me in that seat as a driver and keeping my focus."
Next up came her elimination round with Richie Compton and, less than four seconds later, the most beautiful light she had ever seen.
“I saw the win light and I just kept thinking, This can’t be real. I probably said it a million times to myself, ‘There is no way. There is no way. This can’t be real. This can’t be real.’ Not that I ever doubted this team, but just the fact that we are here… I mean 2013 was my rookie season and I made my first run a race track in a Top Fuel car and now five years later to be the champion is just huge.”
A few hours later, way back in the darkened staging lanes of Pomona and surround by countless, deliriously happy team members, friends and fans who all congregated around her race car, Force, who had also managed to ace the last round of the day and win the Auto Club NHRA Nationals to really put a sheen on things, just sort of shook her head.
“This whole day seems unreal,” she smiled, looking around. “I mean everything went picture perfect. Number one qualifier; got past that scary first round; won the championship; won the race. It all seems unreal. And you know, it’s pretty incredible to be the second female in Top Fuel to bring home a championship, so that’s huge. I’m very proud of that and it’s pretty cool to do that for the ladies. Again, I still can’t wrap my head around it.”