NHRA: There's a new Force looking to defend at BIR
Brittany Force has four career wins and Brainerd International Raceway happens to be the spot of one of those.
Force qualified third at last season's Lucas Oil Nationals at BIR and sped past Terry Haddock, Doug Kalittla and Shawn Langdon before besting Antron Brown with a 4.169- to 6.566-second victory.
Force clocked two of the three fastest times during the elimination rounds with her 3.711 against Kalitta and her 3.717 against Langdon.
She's looking for a repeat performance Aug. 18-20 when BIR hosts the second-to-last event in the NHRA regular season.
"Absolutely," Force said. "We did it last year, why can't we do it this year? That was a big win for us. It was our third win last season.
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- Division: Top Fuel
- Hometown: Yorba Linda, Calif.
- Crew Chief: Brian Husen
- Sponsor: Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster
- Career wins: 4
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"It's tough looking back on last season and knowing we were ahead of the game compared to where we are right now. It pushes us that much more. We would love to take home another win in Brainerd. Brainerd was an awesome weekend for us. To be able to celebrate in the winner's circle, that was huge for us. We want to do it again. We are hungry for more. Our last win was in Epping, and that's way too long ago.
"We're happy to be back there. The entire team is going into Brainerd and the vibe is there. We did it last year, let's do it again. That's the plan."
The NHRA is coming off it's three-event West Coast Swing and Force enjoyed moderate success during it.
At the Northwest Nationals in Seattle, Force qualified fifth, but fell to Clay Millican in the quarterfinals. At the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, she qualified second and knocked off Steve Chrisman and Shawn Langdon before falling to eventual champ Steve Torrence in the semifinals.
Force started the West Coast Swing with a sixth-place qualifying at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. She eliminated Terry McMillen and Torrence before falling to yet another eventual champion in Brown.
Brown won two of the three West Coast Swing events fueling Force's fire to catch him.
"I wouldn't say it's frustrating, I use it more as motivation," Force said. "In my perspective, I look at it and they've been in that winner's circle many times. We want to be in that winner's circle. We want to move up that ladder, which we have been. We just got off to a rough start. Really, in the middle of our season we struggled quite a bit, but now we've kind of figured things out. At Topeka we took a big turn. We had some problems with our race car and got them figured out at Topeka, and we went into Epping the next weekend and we won there. I know we have a great team and a great race car and I think we'll be ready. But really, we look at those teams ahead of us and use it as motivation. We want to be where they are. We want to pass them all. We want more wins and we want that championship."
Force and her Monster Energy Top Fuel Dragster is sitting fifth in the Top Fuel Standings—426 points behind Brown, but with a spot locked in the Countdown.
Last season, Force finished sixth in the Top Fuel final standings, 264 points behind Brown, who won his third Top Fuel title in five years.
While comfortable with where she's at, Force is tired of looking up and seeing the same people ahead of her.
"Things could still change," Force said. "We have Brainerd and then we have Indy, and that's the biggest race of the year, so we could move up and we can move down. Anything can happen, but we are locked into the countdown. That's the No. 1 most important thing.
"Five is a good place to be. All of the points are reset and once you go in, it's game on. There is no place for mistakes, and you have to take full advantage of every run you make and go after that championship."
The overarching goal is to head into the Countdown with everything taken care of. Everything double checked, figured out and in prime condition. Force said there is not time to be fixing, tweaking or trying to improve things during the stressful six-week Countdown to the Championship.
There's also little time to relax and enjoy life once teams hit BIR. So that's why Force and her famous racing family are doing it this weekend.
"Right after Seattle, my family flew over to Lake Tahoe," Force said. "My family has a place up here. We're kind of enjoying some time off. We're out on the lake, barbecuing and cooking out in the backyard. We're spending time together, but our conversations are still centered around racing. That's what we know. That's what we love. That's our passion and so that's what we're going to talk about. That's never going to be pulled away from our family.
"It's nice to have a weekend off—to be able to relax and just not have anything on the agenda. You feel normal again. You're not living out of a suitcase."
Force will hit the Brainerd area sooner than most as she's scheduled for media obligations. The hassles of winning, which she hopes deal with more.