LAS VEGAS (Oct. 29) – Monster Energy driver Brittany Force nearly hit all sevens during the NHRA Nationals on Sunday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Instead, Force came up just short of her seventh career victory. And instead of being tied for the Top Fuel points lead, she’s only 20 points behind with one race remaining in the season.
Not perfect, but not bad either.
“Overall it was a great weekend,” Force said. “We moved closer to (points leader Steve) Torrence in points and made a final-round appearance, which is huge. It’s unfortunate I red-lit. I feel like I let my team down, and it’s tough to end a weekend like that, but these guys are so supportive and they have my back.
“We are going to Pomona with a fight. It’s not over for us, and we are going to do the best job that we can and we are going to catch up to Torrence and we’re going to get around him.”
The Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif., will award 30 points per round victory instead of the normal 20, so Force is less than a round out of the championship lead as she battles for her first title.
Force has had an outstanding Countdown to the Championship, coming up clutch in NHRA’s version of the playoffs. In five Countdown races, Force has two victories, one runner-up finish and one semifinal finish. She’s surged from sixth in the points standings to second.
Force and her team performed well again in Las Vegas. She opened race day with a run of 3.696 seconds at 322.04 mph to dispatch Shawn Reed.
Force needed some good fortune to get past Doug Kalitta in the second round. She had to pedal the Monster Energy dragster to a pass of 4.343 seconds at 231.83 mph, but Kalitta’s car had mechanical trouble and limped off the starting line before coasting down the track.
Force then knocked out Leah Pritchett, leaving first with a .077-second reaction time and then making a winning run of 3.714 seconds at 329.34 mph to Pritchett’s 3.754-second pass at 323.81 mph.
Force’s final-round race against Terry McMillen was over before it started, as she left early and drew a red light.
Still, Force knew how good a day she had.
“We went to finals, and that was huge,” Force said. “It moved us that much closer to Torrence, and he went out early on. The whole setup of it, the overall picture, it was a good day for us. It’s really tough when you red-light, especially in a final round when your car is making a killer run. It’s really tough to swallow that. But my guys have already patted me on the back, and I’ve talked to (tuning consultant) Alan (Johnson), I’ve talked to (crew chief) Brian (Husen), and I’m lucky to have a team like them because they said, ‘It’s fine. We’re a round out from the No. 1 spot, so we’ll go kill it in Pomona.’
“To have a team like that is huge. It lightens the pressure on the driver and it gives me that positive energy going into Pomona that we can do it – it’s not out of our reach.”
- Best Qualifying Effort: 3.722 seconds/317.49 mph (Round 4, Qualified No. 4)
- Elimination Round 1 (Right Lane): 3.696 seconds/322.04 mph (RT – .090 seconds), def. No. 13 Shawn Reed, 3.870 seconds/317.19 mph (RT – .077 seconds); fell behind at the light but was ahead at 60 feet to run quickest ET of session and one of quickest passes of the weekend; vs. Reed – now 1-0 all-time; 1-0 this season; 1-0 at Las Vegas
- Elimination Round 2 (Quarterfinals, Right Lane): 4.343 seconds/231.83 mph (RT – .084 seconds), def. No. 5 Doug Kalitta, 22.684 seconds/56.97 mph (RT – .657 seconds); took advantage of problems for Kalitta at the line and, despite hazing the tires and weaving back and forth, holds on to score an easy win … had problems with the timing box during run; vs. Kalitta – now 12-9 all-time; 2-1 this season; 3-0 at Las Vegas
- Elimination Round 3 (Semifinals, Left Lane): 3.714 seconds/329.34 mph (RT – .077 seconds), def. No. 8 Leah Pritchett, 3.754 seconds/323.81 mph (RT – .092 seconds); got the starting line advantage and pulled away, leading the entire race; vs. Pritchett – now 3-8 all-time; 1-2 this season; 1-3 at Las Vegas
- Elimination Round 4 (Finals, Left Lane): Disqualified-Red Light; 3.934 seconds/239.27 mph (RT – -.063 seconds), lost to No. 6 Terry McMillen, 3.870 seconds/253.99 mph (RT – .089 seconds); red lit by .063 seconds in only second finals loss in five tries this season; vs. McMillen – now 15-2 all-time; 5-1 this season; 1-1 at Las Vegas; 1-1 in finals
- Now 124-109 (233 rounds) all-time in elimination rounds (.532)
- Now 21-13 (34 rounds) all-time in elimination rounds after qualifying No. 4 (.618)
- Now 9-10 (19 rounds) all-time in elimination rounds at Las Vegas (.474)
- Now 37-20 (57 rounds) this season in elimination rounds (.649); season-best for elimination-round wins
- Top Fuel Points Standings: 1. Steve Torrence 2,527; 2. Brittany Force 2,507; 3. Doug Kalitta 2,443; 4. Antron Brown 2,392; 5. Leah Pritchett 2,361.