David Grubnic joined John Force Racing to win his first championship. He left Clay Millican to tune Brittany Force, a former world champion in Top Fuel, to a second title. That was the goal. It remains the goal.
Grubnic and the Advance Auto Parts team enter the AAA Texas FallNationals 93 points behind Steve Torrence with 451 still on the table. A title is possible, if not overwhelmingly likely, because of how good the Capco Contractors team is and how the Advance team has performed over the balance of 2019. There is hope, though, because Grubnic appears to have a (mostly) cooperative Top Fuel dragster for the first time this season.
Force ended the Alan Johnson era with a 53.36 NHRA Power Ranking, behind the Grubnic-led Clay Millican team (62.67). Force's dragster was not getting down the track consistently (60.6-percent Success Rate) and that hurt the team's ability to win rounds. She did not factor in the championship chase and Johnson moved to Mike Salinas' dragster, where he has tuned the San Jose native to a 71.51 NHRA Power Ranking and two victories.
The three-team crew chief swap was among the most-discussed moves of the offseason. Grubnic, ever the pragmatist, preached patience as he grew accustomed to the John Force Racing parts and pieces alongside his familiar team. The team has moved from 12th to 7th in NHRA Power Rankings over the last four races and now average a 3.781-second average elapsed time (.005-second behind Torrence) and a Success Rate of 67.5 percent. That's behind the top teams in the category (Torrence boasts a staggering 80.5) but it's an improvement on where the team was in Norwalk (64.5) with a slower car (3.806), resulting in a 47.11 NHRA Power Ranking.
The performance of the team over the last six races has been markedly improved. She has the best NHRA Power Ranking over that span of any Top Fuel racer who has made at least 12 runs (though it's close between her and Torrence) thanks to a Success Rate of 81.1 percent. Grubnic has always been known for making spectacular runs during qualifying (a 3.738-second average elapsed time can attest to that), but improved consistency can turn Force into a championship contender again.
A lot must go right for Grubnic to bring home his first title, and Force's second, but he's 11 points closer to Torrence this season than he was at this time a year ago. The Advance Auto Parts Top Fuel dragster is on the right track, if nothing else, that's a reason for the Australian tuner to smile.