Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 23, 2013

Brittany Force tries to improve at Houston

Hopes to feed on JFR tradition

— Now that she’s won her first racing round as a professional driver, Brittany Force turns her attention to the 26th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway where she hopes to drive her Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster into contention for a spot in the NHRA’s Countdown to 1 playoffs.

History is on the side of the 26-year-old graduate of Cal State-Fullerton as five John Force Racing drivers have won the Spring Nationals and the team has placed at least one of its race cars in the final round in 15 of the last 23 seasons.

The fact that all the previous success came in the Funny Car division is of little concern to either Brittany or her father, seven-time Houston champion John Force, who rightfully has pointed out that the parts and pieces in his daughter’s dragster are the same ones that power his team’s three potent Ford Mustangs.

They include the Ford BOSS 500 nitro motor developed at JFR’s Brownsburg shop, the same engine that propelled the elder Force to the 2010 NHRA championship and that made Brittany the first Top Fuel driver to win a round with Ford power since 1970.

Moreover, those responsible for the performance of Brittany’s Castrol-backed hybrid all came from Funny Car success.

Crew chief Dean “Guido” Antonelli put a Funny Car in the winners’ circle in each of the last five seasons and, with Brittany’s father, won last year’s inaugural Traxxas Nitro Shootout. Assistant crew chief Eric Lane worked for eight years on Robert Hight’s Auto Club Ford, winning 33 races and an NHRA championship (2009).

Now they’re applying all that Funny Car knowledge to a race car with a completely different configuration. The dragster is twice as long as the Funny Car, the motor sits behind the driver instead of in front, and an enormous rear stabilizer helps to keep the vehicle characterized as “the long car” glued to the racetrack.

While Brittany has become increasingly comfortable in the cockpit, which features a canopy like that on the car of reigning world champion Antron Brown, she is anxious to return to a more traditional drag racing format after experiencing four-wide racing for the first time last week at Charlotte, N.C.

“Now we’ll go back to normal with only two cars at a time and I can work on my normal routine,” she said in a press release. “The four-wide is definitely fun and exciting, but I wish I would have had a little more time to get used to it.”

Like most drivers, she is also glad to be back at another race track this week with another (Atlanta Dragway) on the schedule the week after that.

“I think back-to-back racing is helpful for the driver and the team,” said the future school teacher. “I get more comfortable in the car and with the staging process. When you have time between races, a lot of times, when you come back, you feel like you’re starting over.

“I’m still learning on each run. I’m working on improving my lights (reaction times) and just getting more comfortable with the process. Hopefully, we can go some rounds this week and continue to move up in the Mello Yello points.”