Moves back into the top 10 in points.
BRISTOL, Tenn. — The season may not have started like she wanted but Brittany Force is making up ground in rapid fashion. The Top Fuel racer has advanced to the semifinals or further in each of the past three races, looking as impressive as ever in her young career.
The move back into the top 10 in the points standings happened just as Force announced her new sponsorship deal with Monster Energy. Force, who advanced to her fifth career final round two weeks ago in Englishtown, said that is not a coincidence.
“We have made huge strides since Monster Energy has come on board,” Force said. “Now that we have a comfortable backing we have been able to push the car and really see what this team is capable of. The first six races of the season the entire team had to play things safe on the racetrack to save costs.
“I had to hold back from keeping my foot on the throttle or pedaling the car in fear of hurting the motor and pushing our budget. Now that we are playing with a whole new scenario we are really able to make the moves we want to and it's definitely showing.”
The obvious next step for Force, the 2013 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner, is getting her first career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series victory. With the way she has been performing in her Monster Energy dragster it could be as soon as this weekend’s 15th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Langdon defending champ
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2. The race is the 11th of 24 events during the 2015 season and the event will take place on Father’s Day Weekend for the sixth straight year.
That fact adds an extra element for Force, whose father and 16-time Funny Car world champion, John Force, is a five-time winner in Thunder Valley. It makes for a special weekend at the popular track and Brittany Force knows what her first victory on that weekend would mean for the entire family.
“Being able to head to the track with my dad on race day makes Father’s Day so special,” Force said. “My dad has been racing since before I was a baby and there's no place he would rather be than out at his real home, the racetrack. Father’s Day at the race track always makes the day exciting! I just hope my sister (Funny Car standout Courtney Force) and I can give him the ultimate gift, bringing home a Wally.”
Her first semifinal of the 2015 season came in Topeka and was followed by a final round appearance in Englishtown. Last weekend, Force advanced to the semifinals in the loaded Top Fuel class in Epping, showing some impressive skills pedaling to a first-round win against Doug Kalitta.
That has furthered Force’s momentum and confidence, two things that are necessary in a class filled with stars. Langdon is the defending winner of the event, defeating eight-time and defending world champ Tony Schumacher in the final. Schumacher has five wins at Bristol Dragway and won last weekend in Epping, while other class standouts include Kalitta, who has three wins in Bristol, two-time Bristol winner Larry Dixon, points leader Antron Brown, Richie Crampton, 2013 Bristol winner Steve Torrence, Clay Millican, J.R. Todd and Atlanta runner-up Leah Pritchett.
“The last month has been very exciting,” Force said. “I am beyond impressed and very proud of the entire Monster Energy team. I'm very lucky to have some great crew chiefs, Todd Smith and Ronnie Thompson, who have been patient all season long waiting for their opportunity to get aggressive with this dragster. The improvements we've made since the beginning of the season has motivated us all to keep pushing forward until we end up in a winner’s circle. We have big plans for this season and we can't wait to make all our sponsors proud.”
Ready to win
Included in those plans is breaking through in the win column for the first time. It is not a given and no easy task in Top Fuel but Force, now in her third season, believes she is closer than she has ever been to collecting her Wally heading to Bristol to close out three consecutive race weekends.
“I absolutely believe the Monster Energy team is right on the cusp of breaking through that final round and taking home our first win,” Force said. “We know our first win is right around the corner and it feels great to hear our fans telling us that our first win is coming.”
Funny Car has always been a competitive category at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals with a different winner every year since 2011. Last season, Tommy Johnson Jr. drove to the win and John Force, who won last weekend in Epping, is the winningest Funny Car driver in Bristol Dragway history with five wins. Ron Capps has three wins at Bristol and other major contenders in the Funny Car category include two-time race winner Del Worsham, defending world champion and points leader Matt Hagan, Courtney Force, Robert Hight, Charlotte and Topeka winner Jack Beckman and Atlanta winner Tim Wilkerson.
In Pro Stock, defending event winner and world champion Erica Enders will try to add another Bristol victory to her resume, but she is locked in a tight points battle with the Summit Racing Equipment duo of current points leader Greg Anderson, who has four Bristol wins and has posted victories at the last two events, and two-time world champ Jason Line. Phoenix winner Rodger Brogdon, rookie sensation Drew Skillman, Houston runner-up Chris McGaha, Shane Gray and Vincent Nobile are all expected to be major contenders in the popular factory hot rod category.
The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will make its fifth stop of the 2015 season at Bristol Dragway. The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will also feature thrilling side-by-side competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, June 19, with sessions at 5 and 7:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 20, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 21.