Brittany Force locked up her sixth No. 1 qualifying effort of the season and became the first female Top Fuel driver to qualify in the top spot at the sport’s biggest event. Force’s Dave Grubnic- and Mac Savage-tuned Advance Auto Parts fueler stood firm on its dazzling 3.645 track-record pass from Saturday as teams took shot after shot at her and at getting their mounts ready for Monday’s final eliminations. The car didn’t make a full run down the track on either Sunday pass as they team explored the performance envelope for raceday, and Force remains confident of their chances.
“If you look back at the beginning and middle of our season, we could make maybe one good run in qualifying and not get down on the rest of them, and that didn’t help us,” she said. “We knew the track wasn’t there today, but it gave us the chance to push to see what we could do. We know our limits now.”
Force will have the opportunity to join her father, John, and older sister Ashley as U.S. Nationals champions.
“To be able to [be the first woman to qualify No. 1 at Indy] is pretty awesome,” she added. “That’s a big accomplishment, but we want more. We want to win this thing. When you win Indy, you join a list of legends. My dad and so many drivers I’ve looked up to are on it. Everyone wants to win Indy; it’s the one everyone talks about. I’ve been coming here since I was a baby; I have pictures of me in the winner’s circle with my dad and sisters with binkies in our mouths. This is the big one.”
Father and son Billy and Steve Torrence finished in the second and third spots behind her. Both looked good in the day’s first session, with Steve clocking a 3.685 and Billy a 3.710 but, like Force, neither made it down the track in the final session. Steve lost traction and Billy experienced an apparent throttle malfunction.
Past Indy champ Richie Crampton had a stellar day, clocking runs of 3.704 and 3.730, neither quicker than his earlier 3.696 but impressive nonetheless. Crampton’s teammate, Doug Kalitta, who is still looking for his first career Indy win, impressed as well with consistent passes of 3.733 and 3.747.
Leah Pritchett (3.713), Mike Salinas (3.724), and Austin Prock (3.726) also made strong runs on the day. T.J. Zizzo remained on the bump spot of the record field, but he lowered that from a 3.782 to a 3.775 on his final pass.
Turning towards the battle for the remaining spots in the Countdown, Austin Prock clinched No. 8 today and Crampton seems pretty secure in ninth, but defending event champ Terry McMillen is in a precarious spot in 10th, just seven points ahead of Scott Palmer and 27 ahead of Billy Torrence. McMillen also has the bad luck of drawing Steve Torrence in round one while Palmer will take on Mike Salinas.
First-round matchups (lane choice first): Brittany Force vs. T.J. Zizzo; Billy Torrence vs. Wayne Newby; Steve Torrence vs. Terry McMillen; Mike Salinas vs. Scott Palmer; Richie Crampton vs. Austin Prock; Antron Brown vs. Jordan Vandergriff; Leah Pritchett vs. Shawn Reed; Doug Kalitta vs Clay Millican