The road to a second world championship in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series included a little bit of everything for Top Fuel star Brittany Force. From a hot start to memorable victories, record-breaking runs at nearly every stop on the tour and a clutch performance in Las Vegas, Force was spectacular from start to finish during her memorable 2022 campaign.
Her championship resumé was finished off with a first-round victory at last weekend’s NHRA Finals in Pomona, a culmination of the most complete year in her career. The record-breaking standout won five races in her 11,000-horsepower Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac dragster, enjoyed 10 No. 1 qualifiers and the fastest run in Top Fuel history, rising above a loaded Top Fuel field to taste championship glory once again.
“This season has been outstanding for us,” Force said. “Coming into the season, I said this was going to be one of the toughest seasons yet with the competition that’s out there. We did really well all season and carried that No. 1 pretty much all year, and then in the Countdown, we started to lose our footing. It was like this championship we were so close to, we were starting to lose it, but we recovered the last two races. I’m still in the excitement of it all. It’s a very surreal moment.”
Force picked up early-season victories at Las Vegas, Houston and Virginia, adding another two months later in Sonoma where she made the quickest run in track history and then set the track speed record on three consecutive runs to pick up one of her most memorable victories. Against one of the best Top Fuel fields in recent memory, a track record was a consistent theme for Force throughout 2022, as she decimated marks at nearly every event.
In all, Force set 16 track records this season, including making the fastest run in track history at 12 different facilities, including a monster run at the prestigious U.S. Nationals and the fastest run in Top Fuel history at the finale in Pomona. Force broke her own national speed record in St. Louis but then topped it in Pomona with an incredible pass of 338.94 mph to set a championship tone at the NHRA Finals, giving her the top 10 fastest runs in NHRA history.
The records were certainly a thrill, but to have it lead to a championship, the first for most of her team, including standout crew chief David Grubnic, was the ultimate reward.
“It was such a strong season from start to finish. The records we set, track records, wins, it was just incredible,” said Force, who now owns 25 track records, and both ends of the national record. “This was the first championship for them, and it was so cool to share it with them. It was such a surreal moment.”
Beyond the records, Force faced incredible competition, so much so that her championship dream nearly fell apart during the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Nine different drivers won in 2022 in Top Fuel, including first-timer Tripp Tatum in Gainesville, while Mike Salinas, who won four races this year, and Justin Ashley, a three-time race winner in 2022, both led the points at different points of the season.
Steve Torrence saw his reign of four straight titles come to an end, but the Texan won a pair of races, as well as the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout in Indy, while first-year team owner Antron Brown, who finished second in points, won three times late in the year, including at the U.S. Nationals. Perhaps nobody was hotter in the Countdown to the Championship than Force’s teammate, Austin Prock, as the young standout picked up wins in Reading and Pomona to catapult him all the way to third.
Leah Pruett and Tony Schumacher also registered wins during a thrilling year in Top Fuel, but the season ultimately belonged to Force, who also had to ward off challenges from the likes of Josh Hart, Clay Millican, Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon. Facing an 82-point deficit heading into Las Vegas after falling in the second round at the first four playoff races, Force and her team delivered big when it counted, winning Vegas and vaulting into the points lead.
She kept rolling in Pomona, qualifying No. 1 and winning in the first round, while all the other championship contenders fell by the wayside in the opening stanza. It was a wild string of events, but Force’s calm demeanor and clutch performance – including a holeshot win in the finals in Vegas – proved key in a championship journey she won’t soon forget.
“Vegas until Pomona was the longest time in my life. This weekend couldn’t have gotten here quick enough. When we got here and warmed up the car, it was just this calm feeling,” Force said after clinching.
“(But) first round is always the toughest. Once you get in the mix and get going, you’re ready and motivated, but something about first round is so tough. But we turned a win light on and then we watched it all go down. I can’t believe how it all unfolded, but it worked in our favor.”
The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season begins March 9-12 with the 54th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at historic Gainesville Raceway. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.