Brittany Force became just the second woman in history to win an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world championship and the fourth woman to win a professional title by outlasting incoming points leader Steve Torrence on Sunday at the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.
Force, who became the first of 16-time Funny Car champion John Force’s daughters to follow in her father’s footsteps and earn a series championship, made it official in the second round of eliminations when she defeated Richie Crampton, 3.67 to a 3.75.
With the weight of the world on her shoulders after watching Torrence bow out of competition at the hands of Antron Brown, Brittany left first against Crampton and was never headed, allowing her to supplant Torrence atop the standings and slam the door on Doug Kalitta’s outside chance at the title, solidifying her place in the history books.
All of it, it’s still doesn’t seem real. The only reason it is real is because of all the support around me. – Brittany Force
“I’ve been carrying a gut-ache for two weeks because I’ve been wanting to get here to today,” Brittany said. “I thought, ‘Just get me to Sunday, get me in my race car, and let’s see what our team can do.’ I know my team, my crew chiefs, and I know they bring everything to the line. Then it’s my job to finish it, and we did that all day long.”
Brittany needed only to win the round to seal the championship, but she and tuners Alan Johnson and Brian Husen didn’t stop there, feeding her Monster Energy dragster 3.6-second tune-ups all the way to the winner’s circle, culminating in a defeat of Shawn Langdon in Sunday afternoon’s finale to cap a magical weekend for the 31-year old.
“That’s pretty incredible,” Brittany said. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around a Pomona win. I’ve always wanted to win here – it’s my home track, and we have the championship. All of it, it’s still doesn’t seem real. The only reason it is real is because of all the support around me.”
John Force, the sport’s most decorated star, dropped to his knees on the starting line before the NHRA on FOX cameras after Brittany sealed the title, overcome with emotion as his next-to-youngest daughter joined him as an NHRA champion.
“It was like a movie; you couldn’t have written it any better,” John said. “Sometimes luck’s a big part, but as a team owner, I’ve been really proud how the people have stayed together and fought together and worked together. We put the band back together, that’s what I told Jim Campbell from Chevrolet. Me and Robert work every day, and we said we’d turn it around.”
“It’s huge,” Brittany said. “I’ve watched my dad for years. I really have to give it up to him and thank him and my mom for all their support. They’ve always had my back every tough weekend. I’ve been beaten on holeshots countless times – and red lights, those are tough to come back from.
For Brittany, as a father, to watch her go through the gut aches, I was living it with her and so was her mom, and that red light at Las Vegas really hurt her, but I told her, you have to find yourself. – John Force
“But I really believed that that would make me a better driver in the end. Today is pretty great, seeing it all come back full circle.”
“For Brittany, as a father, to watch her go through the gut aches, I was living it with her and so was her mom, and that red light at Las Vegas really hurt her, but I told her, you have to find yourself. And I can’t take any credit. She had a great coach in Alan Johnson, who took a girl and did what (three-time Top Fuel champion) Shirley Muldowney did 35 years ago. He amazes me. They delivered for Monster a championship, and then went on and won the race,” John added.
Brittany’s championship was the first in Top Fuel by a female since 1982 — four years before she was born — when Shirley Muldowney won the last of her three series titles. She joins Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle; three titles) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock; two titles) on the short list of female NHRA Mello Yello champions.
For Alan Johnson, it was his 12th Top Fuel world championship as a crew chief and/or car owner, as he previously earned titles with Gary Scelzi, Tony Schumacher, Larry Dixon, Del Worsham, and Shawn Langdon. He also earned four titles in Top Alcohol Dragster with late brother, Blaine, bringing his total to 16.