Making her second trip to New England Dragway, Top Fuel driver Brittany Force will have an entirely different look and mindset heading into the 2014 Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals, which takes place this weekend at the historic track located just north of the Boston metro area.
Gone are any rookie jitters and any tentativeness, replaced with confidence, aggressiveness, and a growing amount of success. Force already has made her first final-round appearance of her NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series career this season, and she has been the No. 1 qualifier at two of the past three events, including the most recent race in Bristol. Next up is earning her first victory, and that could happen this weekend in Epping for Force, the 2013 Automobile Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner.
“I’m definitely getting used to this Castrol Edge dragster,” Force said. “I know if the car hasn’t done anything to act up on the run, I’ll stay in it. I learn something new on every pass, and each run is always different. This team is so much stronger than it was last year. Todd Smith [crew chief], Dean Antonelli [assistant crew chief], and the rest of my guys have been doing awesome this season. We’ve been qualifying great, going rounds, and looking strong.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock), and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were inaugural winners of an event that exceeded all expectations and will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2.
The second trip to New England Dragway marks the 11th of 24 events during the 2014 NHRA season, and Brittany Force will look to build on her eighth position in the points standings. Finishing in the top 10 and qualifying for the Countdown to the Championship for the first time is a definite goal, but Force also wants more consistency and, ultimately, her first career victory.
She has qualified fifth or better at four races this season in her 10,000-horsepower Castrol Edge dragster, including No. 1 in Topeka, joining sister and Funny Car standout Courtney to become the first pair of sisters to qualify No. 1 at the same event, and Bristol. Force advanced to the semifinals in Topeka but lost in a disappointing first-round affair over the weekend in Bristol. With the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals marking the second of four straight race weekends, Force is eager to make amends as soon as possible.
“It’s definitely disappointing to come out as the No. 1 qualifier and go out in the first round,” Force said. “It almost seems like a curse. It seems like the No. 1 qualifier just doesn’t make it to the final round. Courtney broke that curse a few weekends back, but it’s tough to go rounds and make it all the way to the winner’s circle when you’re the No.1 qualifier, and I don’t know why that is.”
Force has her sights set on getting that figured out in a hurry, and she will have to do so against a loaded Top Fuel field that includes points leader Doug Kalitta, who advanced to his sixth final of the year in Bristol. Massey is after a repeat victory at New England Dragway and his third victory overall in 2014, and other contenders include 2012 world champion Antron Brown, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, Steve Torrence, defending world champion and Bristol winner Shawn Langdon, and new Kalitta Motorsports driver J.R. Todd.
Force lost in the first round to Schumacher a year ago in Epping, but she is a far different driver than she was last June. That should be important as Force heads back to New England Dragway, as will a motivated mindset to put Bristol’s first-round loss behind her.
“The one thing I will tell my guys is that we’re going to jump right back into it, so don’t beat yourselves up over our first-round loss,” Force said. “We’ll use the momentum and really go after it next weekend [in Epping]. I know our day [in Bristol] ended short for us, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be in the winner’s circle next weekend.”
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Families who are planning to attend the event will want to take advantage of the free tickets for kids ages 12 and under. Fans will also want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, June 20, with sessions at 4:15 and 6:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 21, at 12:15 and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 22.
To experience the roaring excitement of the NHRA New England Nationals get your tickets by calling 603-679-8001 or visiting www.newenglanddragway.com.