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Wed, 20 Sep 2017, 15:48 PM

Top Fuel Star Brittany Force Ready to Improve on Last Year's Runner-Up Finish at Dodge NHRA Nationals
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2017 Auto Imagery, Inc.





MOHNTON, Pa. -

Brittany Force
Brittany Force isn't about to let up after a solid start to open the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. The Top Fuel standout put together a semifinal showing Sunday in Charlotte, jumping to fourth in the loaded class, but Force has hopes for much more to end her 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Force has a world championship on her mind and to keep in contention she'll need even bigger results in the NHRA's playoffs in her 10,000-horsepower Monster Energy dragster. The next chance to show that is this weekend's 33rd annual Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, which is the second of six playoff races.

"Not only is it important to start off strong, but also to continue being a strong team all the way to the end because there's only six races in the Countdown, and you have to bring it every single time you go out there - every qualifying pass, every pass on race day," Force said. "There's no place for mistakes, and you have to bring it all the way through until the end, and that's how you win the championship. I'm pumped to get to Reading. We've always had a good race car there. Now, this year, we just need to take it a little bit further."

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year's winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 24. It is the second of three straight races to open the Countdown to the Championship and Force is banking on improvement at a track where she was the runner-up a year ago.

Force won the first three races of her Top Fuel career a year ago, finishing sixth in points. She has one regular-season victory in 2017, and enters the Countdown to the Championship with more confidence than ever. She was pleased with how her dragster performed on a hot track in Charlotte, but Force remains far from satisfied because of the expectations from her entire team.

"What gives me confidence this team can go after a championship is the team itself," Force said. "They are the hardest-working guys I know, and I'm so proud to be teamed up with them. They never give up, they never quit, they keep pushing. Even on tough weekends when we're down, they pull together and pick me up when I've screwed up. They're a great team, and I'm grateful for all of them. Every team wants the championship, every team wants to win. The Monster team, we're going to hang in there, never give up, keep pushing - and we're going for the championship."


Brittany Force
Force has confidence, but there is plenty of work to do over the next five races. Doug Kalitta won in Charlotte to jump into the points lead and currently holds a 56-points advantage over Force. There's plenty more competition as well, including seven-time 2017 winner Steve Torrence, who is 14 points behind Kalitta, and back-to-back world champion Antron Brown, who sits 18 points ahead of Force. That means the next five events will be filled with pressure-packed situations, but Force believes a strong team backing and previous experience will bode well for her finish this year.

"Pressure plays a big role in it, and you can't let that get to you," Force said. "You climb in that car, and it has to be like any other run. At the end the day, you've got your team behind you, you've got your sponsors behind you. I have the best group of guys around me. They always have my back, no matter where we end up."

Force's JFR teammate Robert Hight took the Funny Car points lead with a win in Charlotte, and will look to hold off reigning world champ Ron Capps and defending event winner Johnson.

Nobile is after his first Pro Stock win of 2017, while everyone is chasing red-hot rookie Tanner Gray, who took the points lead with his Charlotte win to open the Countdown to the Championship.

Reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Krawiec has all the momentum after back-to-back wins, including the playoff opener to take the points lead from LE Tonglet, who has five wins in 2017.

The event features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. After Nitro qualifying, fans can watch the spectacular Hanna Motorsports First Strike and Top Secret Eastern Raider Jet Funny Cars. They are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with pre-run flame shows.


As always, fans can 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 get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans also will 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.

Kicking off a busy race weekend is the Mopar Mega Block Party that will jump start the Dodge NHRA Nationals for the second consecutive year, with a full slate of fan-friendly activities set for Thursday, September 21, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, Pa. The free-to-the-public event is scheduled from 4-10 p.m. ET. It will include a home run derby with Mopar drivers and NHRA personalities, the unveiling of Top Fuel driver Leah Pritchett's dragster featuring a wrap celebrating the Mopar brand's 80th anniversary, and special recognition for retiring Mopar Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson. Dodge Challenger SRT Demon simulators, an NHRA driver autograph session, live bands, an all-Mopar car show, fireworks, and much more will also be part of the festivities. For more information on the Mopar Mega Block Party, visit www.moparblockparty.com.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 610-856-9200. Tickets also are available online at www.maplegroveraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.





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