With only five races remaining in her rookie season at the wheel of the first Top Fuel dragster ever fielded by John Force Racing, Inc., Brittany Force talks about the highs and the lows of her first 19 races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and about her expectations moving forward.
Give yourself a grade for your rookie season so far…
“I’d give myself a B looking back on my rookie season. As a rookie driver I’ve set myself challenging goals and am still working at those till the season comes to an end. Starting at the beginning of the year in Pomona up until now I feel like I’ve definitely made major improvements and have come a long way. I feel much more comfortable as a driver in the seat and that to me is accomplishment in itself. I’ve learned so much this year and feel like I’ve gained so much more experience competing week after week. I am proud of the little improvements and changes I’ve made throughout the season. I’ve worked on better reaction times, always keeping the car straight down the track, pedaling the car when it goes up in smoke, shutting it off right at the finish line along with so many others. Although I don’t have a trophy to make up for how I’d view my year I think time, effort and hard work all mean just as much.”
“More than anything I want to make my dad and my team proud in my rookie season. I hope they know I have put my heart into my car and I do everything I can to improve week after week. It helps me talking to my crew chiefs after runs, watching video of each pass I make down the track, continuously working on my practice tree and even sitting in my car and going over my routine when it’s parked in the pits. I’ve had many ups and downs and have made mistakes, which I use to learn from. I’ve never let mistakes or losing keep me down and have always tried to have a positive attitude. I’ve done the best job that I can and can’t wait for the last few races of the season to go after a win!”
“Looking at my team I would give them an A in terms of grading. They have worked harder than anyone I know and I can’t ask for anything better. They have stayed positive and always keep me encouraged by letting me know they believe in me as a driver. The fact we haven’t won a race, is not from lack of effort. This is one of the toughest classes to break into and my guys have put all their dedication and hard work on the line. My team has put their hearts into this Castrol EDGE dragster and I’m proud to call them my team.”
What have been some of your personal season highlights or round win memories?
“The best memory of my season so far would be my first round win in Las Vegas against Doug Kalitta. I remember pulling up to the starting line next to one of the toughest competitors and feeling that spark of how bad I wanted to win. The grandstands were filled with fans and I knew my team was standing behind me anxious to see if their hard work would pay off. After seeing my win light turn on I was screaming in my car for I saw that first round win as the start to my career. I jumped out of my car cheered on my crew guys and hugged my dad. That moment may sound like such a small victory, but it felt like winning the entire national event for me. That was a moment I will never forget and was so glad to have my dad who gave me this opportunity next to me to celebrate.”
You just missed the Countdown in your rookie year but in the history of the Countdown only one rookie ever made the Top Ten (Spencer Massey in 2009) in Top Fuel. Does that lessen the disappointment?
“Obviously the Castrol EDGE team and I wanted to get into the top ten, but that is not an easy thing to achieve and it wasn’t meant to happen in my rookie season. My team and I worked extremely hard, but will not let missing the countdown keep us down or hold us back from going after what we want. We have our goals for the rest of the season and still plan to keep the same fight we’ve had all year. Missing the Countdown does not change our attitude; it only fuels it and will push this Castrol EDGE team into the winner’s circle in our rookie season.”
How hard of a challenge do you think this season has been for the whole JFR team building one Top Fuel team from the ground up?
“I definitely think it has been a challenge for John Force Racing having the first Top Fuel dragster in our pits, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. We are a Funny Car team and have been for almost three decades, so learning about something new is exciting for all of us. I have always been a hard worker and know the feeling of accomplishing something truly earned. Struggling week after week has taught me how to stay motivated and stay in the fight. My guys have worked harder than anyone I know and when it’s our moment all our hard work will have paid off. This year in itself will be an accomplishment of its own and I’m proud of my team and myself looking back on our year. We came into the competition without any record to build off of and have still managed to keep up with the rest of the pack. My team has qualified in the No. 3 and No. 4 positions, have made it to five second rounds and can say we compete next to some competitors that I see as legends in the sport. I am proud of what the Castrol EDGE team has accomplished but more than anything I am proud of our drive to never give and how we put our hearts into this dragster. To achieve something after true dedication, motivation and hard work is a powerful feeling and one that this Castrol EDGE team will hopefully celebrate together this year.”
How did you handle the various crew chief changes throughout the season?
“It is difficult when your team changes and you lose someone or add someone to the mix. You tend to build a routine with your team, your crew chiefs and when you have to change your routine it’s a bit of a challenge. John Medlen has come on board and teamed up next to Dean Antonelli and Eric Lane. The three of them have had such success in the past and I know together they will make this dragster fly. John Medlen has always felt like family to me and I feel very blessed to be working with him. With a solid team that all want the same outcome, we plan to take this dragster to the winner circle before our season comes to an end.”
Down the stretch your team’s performance has improved. How much satisfaction does that give you?
“My team has definitely come a long way since the beginning of the year and I’m so proud to call every one of them my teammate. We’ve had our ups and downs, but all we can do is learn from those mistakes, move forward and stay positive. Coming out No. 4 qualifier in Indy was a very big move for my team. We were the provisional No. 1 qualifier on Friday and Saturday but moved to No. 4 going into eliminations. Being able to make changes and improve one step at a time gives me as a driver and my team the motivation we need to keep us focused and moving in the right direction. Achieving any goal, big or small has given me the spirit to keep doing what I love and keep my team in the fight to be competitive.”
How proud were you to win the Traxxas Shootout Fan Vote? What do you think that says about how the fans feel your season was going?
“Winning that Traxxas Shootout fan vote was such an amazing feeling! It made me realize how lucky I am to have such dedicated fans that want to see me do well in my rookie season. My fans were the reason the Castrol EDGE team was able to compete in our first ever Traxxas Shootout and made a dream of mine come true. Having their support means so much to me and makes my job as a driver that much easier. Standing out at the ropes I have the chance to connect with my fans and in Indy I had countless people tell me they put their vote in for my team! I was lucky enough to look a few of my fans in the eyes and truly thank them because they could have been the one vote that gave my team the chance to compete.”
“The NHRA drag racing seri
es has the greatest fans and I know they love the sport as much as we do. The fans can turn a driver’s day around or even get them in the right spirit any day of the week. Whether you win or lose, they are there to cheer you on and encourage you. I have had fans bring my spirits up after a bad run and I’ve had fans pump me up before heading into first round. We wouldn’t be out here racing if it weren’t for our fans and that’s something I plan to make sure they know!”