Brittany Force Finally Gets the Monkey Off Her Back

Her decisive Top Fuel win at the Gatornationals was a long time coming.

Gary Nastase

John Force Racing has 241 trophies from wins in the National Hot Rod Association, with the majority contributed by the Force family: Father John Force himself has 143 wins, and daughters Ashley Force Hood and Courtney Force Rahal have a combined 11 Funny Car victories of their own.

Lost in the trophy shuffle is the other Force daughter: Brittany, who is in her fourth season of Top Fuel racing, and has yet to take home a Wally, which is the name of the NHRA trophy, called that in honor of founder Wally Parks.

Until last weekend, that is – Brittany qualified her Monster Energy car on top, and systematically took out all comers until she beat first-time finalist Terry McMillen at the 47th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

Afterwards in the press room, Brittany was still clutching that Wally as if she was afraid of trophy shoplifters. This trophy, she said, isn’t going in the JFR trophy case: “This one is coming home with me.”

In an interview, she told The Drive that yes, during the last four seasons there were times she wondered if she’d ever get that first win. But this season she came out of the box fast, and earlier this season, she made the finals and lost to another female driver, Leah Pritchett.

But this time, she would not be denied. Part of that has to be attributed to her new crew chief, Alan Johnson, arguably the best in the business. Brittany is sixth different driver to get their first pro win with Alan Johnson after Blaine Johnson in 1995, Gary Scelzi in 1997, Bruce Sarver in 2000, Shawn Langdon in 2012 and Khalid al Balooshi, also in 2012.

Alan Johnson knows the highs and lows of drag racing: Blaine Johnson was his brother, and he was killed in 1996 when his engine exploded at the finish line in Indianapolis. Even with the crash, Blaine’s last run was so fast it stood as a record for two years.

Brittany said Johnson had some calming advice for her prior to the last run: “‘Girl, you’ve got us this far. Do it again. Do exactly what you’re doing again.’ And I really needed that. Sometimes, when you pull up there, it’s all mental. It’s all in your head. Having confidence and feeling that you can do it is a big part of it.”

Gary Nastase

Robert Hight took the Funny Car win for John Force Racing.

Her win was also part of a separate history-making race: Fellow JFR racer Robert Hight won in Funny Car, the first time the team had won twice in one weekend. Courtney and Hight also hold the points lead in Top Fuel and Funny Car, respectively.

Veteran Hight had another solid piece of advice for his younger teammate, Courtney: “The next win is going to come a lot easier.”