Brittany Force becomes second woman to win NHRA Top Fuel championship

For the first time since 1982, a woamn has captured a NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world championship. Brittany Force clinched the category crown in the quarterfinals of eliminations Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships in their respective categories.

Event winners at the season ending Auto Club NHRA Finals were Force (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Butner (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Force, daughter of 16-time Funny Car world champion John Force, became just the second female to win a Top Fuel world championship by piloting her dragster to a 3.679-second pass at 328.22 mph, defeating Richie Crampton in the quarterfinals. The other female to win a championship in the category was legendary racer Shirley Muldowney. Steve Torrence, who entered the race as the Top Fuel points leader, fell to 2016 world champion Antron Brown to guarantee the title crown to Force.

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“I can’t believe we are here, it seems like a dream,” Force said. “The reason we are here is because of that Monster team and all the support I have and all the sponsors. Everyone at John Force Racing, and that is the reason we are here. We struggled, we had our ups and downs, but we pulled it together when it mattered most.

“I give all of it up to my crew chiefs, Alan Johnson and Brian Husen, they are the ones that made this possible. They always had my back and they kept pushing me — that is what my Monster team did, they never gave up on me, pushing and fighting and never gave up.

“I can’t believe we are here. I have to thank my dad, my family, they always had my back no matter what. This is a very proud moment. I can’t believe we are here. It is the support system you have around you and that is why we are here.”

Force, who was also the No. 1 qualifier, raced to victory at the season ending event by defeating Shawn Langdon with a 3.668 pass at 330.07 when he smoked the tires in the final round. She finishes the season with four race wins, the first coming at the New England Nationals. Force went on to win three events in the Countdown to the Championship — the Dodge NHRA Nationals, the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals and Sunday’s season finale.

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Robert Hight secured his second Funny Car  championship in the first round of eliminations Sunday.

Hight powered his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to a 3.839-second pass at 332.51 mph to defeat Tim Wilkerson who smoked the tires at the starting line. Ron Capps, who was Hight’s nearest championship contender, smoked the tires and lost to Del Worsham ensuring Hight the world title.

“Everybody worked their tail off and was quiet and knew they had a job to do,” Hight said. “This is just huge for John Force Racing. For a couple of years, we have struggled but it is such a great group. Jimmy Prock, Chris Cunningham (co-crew chief) they got us back in the game. It’s been a long time and you want it so bad.”

Hight’s championship season had four race victories including two wins in the famed Western Swing and two victories during the Countdown to the Championship. At the event in Brainerd, Minn., Hight set the Funny Car national elapsed-time record with a 3.793 pass and in Sonoma, Calif., Hight went on to set the national speed record with a pass at 339.87. Hight closed out his 2017 season with a runner-up finish falling to Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round.

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Butner drove his Chevrolet Camaro to a 6.594 at 210.70 to beat Tanner Gray in the final. Bunter finished the season with five event victories.

“Just never give up. I have a great crew. It’s amazing,” Butner said. “They don’t give up on me. But the KB team, what does that say about them? Honestly, I rent a car and a motor and they put me in a championship. It’s just unbelievable.”

Hines beat teammate and season champion Eddie Krawiec with a 6.856 at 196.02 on a Harley Davidson.

The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season will kick off with a return to Auto Club Raceway for the Feb. 8-11 Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.

 

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Olivier Blanchard