Brittany Force, one of the heiresses of the drag-racing empire built and operated by 15-time world champion John Force, decided to get the full Seattle treatment this week.
The third-oldest of four sisters, Brittany Force is in her rookie professional season as a National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel dragster driver. She rode up with her team from last weekend’s race in Sonoma, Calif., and arrived well in advance for the Northwest Nationals event in Kent.
Brittany Force immediately went to downtown Seattle to see the sights, eat the local cuisine and relax. And as part of a promotional stunt Thursday, she did what nobody in her family had ever done – catch fish at Pike Place Market.
“They pulled me up there behind the counter,” the 27-year-old Californian said, “and told me the only way to catch the fish was with my hands. I caught both of them – I don’t know how. But those (fish) were pretty big. I shocked myself.”
When it comes to matching her family legacy of fast racing times and a long list of NHRA national-
event victories – this Force has a ways to go. Consider:
• Earlier this season, her 64-year-old father captured his 135th NHRA national-event victory in Funny Car at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, Tenn. He is the sport’s all-time winningest driver.
• Older sister Ashley, 30, won three NHRA race titles in Funny Car. She became the first woman to win in that class at the 2008 NHRA Summit Southern Nationals. One of her wins was at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in 2009. She announced her retirement from driving before this season, and serves as the president of John Force Entertainment.
• Younger sister Courtney, 25, also has three NHRA professional wins in Funny Car. Her first win came at last year’s Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.
“I see all of that as inspiration. I don’t see it as competitive,” Brittany Force said. “People always ask me that, ‘Your sister did this, your sister did that – are you going to try and beat them, and do it quicker than them?’
“I don’t see it like that. They have accomplished so much, and I am so proud of them for all of that. For me … I’ve done it a little differently. They did it in Funny Car, and I am in Top Fuel.”
A tragic twist at Pacific Raceways has helped shape Brittany Force’s outlook – and career – in drag racing.
At the 2010 Northwest Nationals, she and Courtney raced in the same Alcohol dragster sportsman class as veteran Mark Niver, who was killed in a crash after his car’s parachutes failed to properly deploy.
Citing safety concerns, John Force suspended the rest of Brittany’s racing season. Eventually, she returned to Cal-State Fullerton to complete her requirements for a teaching degree.
In 2012, Brittany Force wanted to race again in the sportsman class. Her father countered with another offer – test the organization’s first Top Fuel dragster with its new Boss 500 engine.
“I really wanted to go back to (alcohol) fuel because that is what I really liked. I told him I didn’t want to do the pro thing,” Brittany Force said. “But we got to (Las) Vegas where I did my first full pass, and I got out of the car and told him, ‘I am hooked. I have changed my mind about the teaching (thing), and changed my mind about the A-fuel thing.’ ”
Never short on scrutiny, and always long-winded with advice, John Force has been seen at nearly every event giving Brittany pre-race instructions.
“Half the time, I have my earplugs in, and … I cannot hear anything because that is so loud,” Brittany said. “But he is there talking, talking, talking. And then he is finally like, ‘OK, bye.’ That is the one thing I hear.”
Brittany Force said he has received plenty of counsel from Top Fuel veterans, including Spencer Massey and Tony Schumacher.
“She is doing a good job driving the car,” Top Fuel points leader Shawn Langdon said. “Even though they are not in the ‘Countdown’ (playoffs), they have a Countdown-caliber car. They can win races. It is just a matter of time.”
Brittany Force has not yet come close to winning a race. She has reached the quarterfinals five times in her Castrol-sponsored Top Fuel dragster. She currently sits 13th in the points standings.
“More than wins, or going rounds or winning rookie of the year, I want to feel by the end of the year that I came out and did a good job – and made my sponsors proud, my dad proud, my team proud and myself proud,” she said.
26th NHRA NORTHWEST NATIONALS
Where: Pacific Raceways, Kent.
Schedule: Friday – Sportsman qualifying starts at 9:15 a.m., with professional qualifying sessions at 2:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday – Sportsman qualifying and eliminations start at 9:15 a.m., with professional qualifying sessions at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday – Eliminations start at 11 a.m.
2012 event champions: Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock).
2013 points leaders: Shawn Langdon with 1,210 points (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan with 1,034 (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards with 1,339 (Pro Stock).
Skinny: With three more races to go in the regular season, Seattle becomes a pivotal stop for drivers vying to make the “Countdown to the Championship” field in the top three professional classes. … Ten of the circuit’s 15 races so far this year in Top Fuel have been won by three drivers – Langdon (four), Spencer Massey (three) and Tony Schumacher (three). Langdon’s first national-event victory came in Kent in an alcohol dragster in 2002. … The only defending event champion with any momentum is Force, who notched her first professional victory last year at Pacific Raceways and was named NHRA rookie of the year. She has won twice this season. … Torrence has been a monster in qualifying, but a mouse in eliminations during the western swing. As the No. 1 qualifier in Denver two weeks ago, he was eliminated by Mike Strasburg in the first round. And last week in Sonoma, Calif., as the No. 2 qualifier, he was taken down by Tommy Johnson Jr. … Enders-Stevens isn’t expected to be in the Pro Stock field this weekend. After parting ways with GK Motorsports at the end of last season, she ran the first 12 races of this season under different sponsorship, but her last appearance was in Chicago in late June. … Fifteen-time Funny Car champion John Force holds the record for career professional victories at Pacific Raceways (seven). … Two-hundred feet of new concrete has been laid down in each lane just past the launch pad since last year’s event.
Tickets: Daily passes range from $41-$60 for adults and $15-$22 for juniors. Three-day passes range from $118-$144.
Website: nhra.comTodd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com @ManyHatsMilles firstname.lastname@example.org