For the second time in three years, NHRA Top Fuel driver Brittany Force finishes runner up at Maple Grove during the Dodge NHRA Nationals. She faced two-time world champion Antron Brown in a rematch of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in what has been one of the closest final rounds so far in the Countdown as both dragsters ran identical elapsed times of 3.721 seconds. Force came up .003 of a second short to Brown after both drivers had nearly equal reaction times with Brown slightly edging Force, a three-time winner this season at the stripe.
“It was definitely a crazy challenging weekend. Everyone only got one qualifying pass, we blew up in the second round and that just makes it tough on everyone. I have a strong team behind me. They pulled through today and we made it to the finals. I have the greatest group of guys on this Monster Energy team. When I saw the time slip I couldn’t believe how close that race was,” said Force.
After qualifying in the No. 12 position, Brittany Force and the Monster Energy team would pick up her first career win over three-time world champion Larry Dixon in a very pivotal first round. It was a close race, with Force’s 3.728 second run prevailing over Dixon’s 3.760. Force got the win by a wing at the finish line. This was Force’s first win over Dixon in five previous races. Force ran the same elapsed time as her second round opponent Doug Kalitta, but he was awarded lane choice into round two based on the higher speed posted.
When Force pulled up beside Mac Tools teammate Doug Kalitta in the second round for her third consecutive semifinal appearance at the Dodge NHRA Nationals, Kalitta was already in motion when the tree dropped, earning a redlight disqualification and handing Force’s Monster Energy Top Fuel dragster the win. Force was so focused on her run that when her dragster shook she pedaled her race car leading to a massive motor explosion. It was a costly win for Force, but it moved her up to the No. 4 position in the Mello Yello point standings.
“When you are further down the track and you blow the tires off it is easier to handle. You know where you are at on the race track and you know what is happening. When it happens instantly it just rattles your head and it is just hard to focus on what is going on,” explained Force. “I didn’t notice that he red-lit beside me because I am trying to get this Monster Energy dragster to hook back up and get down the track. When I felt it blow up and there was nothing happening I saw him out the window and I thought he was going to get the win. At the same time I saw our win light and all that was happening in two seconds. There was a lot going on and that was a lot to wrap your head around. I wish I would have seen my win light sooner and maybe I wouldn’t have blown it up but hey it was a show for the fans watching on Fox.”
In the semifinals, Force was paired up with fellow Countdown competitor and No. 1 qualifier Leah Pritchett. Both drivers launched simultaneously, but Pritchett went up in smoke while Force made the strongest Top Fuel run of the semifinals. Force’s winning time of 3.731 seconds at 325.06 mph was the quickest and fastest of all four Top Fuel dragsters. The win set up a replay of the Brainerd Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals against Antron Brown where Force got her third win of the season.
“I was trying to do what I did first round and second round which was stay positive. I went up there thinking we are going to get this win. I said it with Dixon. I said it with Kalitta and I said it before the semifinal race. I used that positive energy to really drive myself. That is what I using to make sure I did my job every round today,” concluded Force.
This set the stage for one of the most exciting final rounds of the Countdown. Both Force and Brown left with nearly identical reaction times, running nearly identical E.T.’s at the finish line. But it was Brown who would take the win, by a mere 19 inches.
“This was still a great weekend for us. We would have obviously have liked to be in the winner’s circle but we still have a lot of positives. We moved from 5th to 3rd in the points. The tough part is we have to keep this momentum and keep moving up. The No. 4 and No. 5 drivers are right on our tail. We are going to have to stay on our game. Hopefully at the next race we will get all four of our qualifying passes and do exactly what we did this weekend to get the win,” added Force.