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NHRA Communications

 

TOP FUEL DRIVER BRITTANY FORCE SEEKING COUNTDOWN PLAYOFF REDEMPTION AT AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS

 

MADISON, Ill. — The start of Brittany Force’s first experience with the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship did not go as planned. But with four more opportunities for playoff redemption, the sophomore Top Fuel driver knows she can still put together a thrilling end to her 2014 season.

 

Force, at the controls of her 10,000-horsepower Castrol Edge dragster, fell in the first round of the first race in the Countdown to the Championship and those struggles continued throughout the weekend at the Texas Motorplex in Dallas when she failed to qualify for playoff stop No. 2 – the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals.

 

That put an immediate damper on Force’s title hopes in her first Countdown appearance, but a turnaround could come this weekend at the third annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis. A strong showing would erase the struggles of the past two races and go a long way in setting up a banner finish to Force’s second Top Fuel season.

 

“My team’s focus is to put our best effort into these final four races so we can stand a chance next to all our tough competitors,” said Force, who is 10th in points. “The entire team feels this pressure but we are ready to dive right into it. I will admit there is definitely an added pressure going into the Countdown. I think it’s the combination of competing in my first Countdown ever but also knowing that every move you make can cost you. At this point in the game you can’t afford too many mistakes. Every pass we make has to count.”

 

Antron Brown (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2. The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals also marks the halfway point of the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship and is the third of four consecutive race weekends.

 

Getting right back behind the wheel might be the best thing for Force, who could never find any rhythm in Dallas, qualifying 17th and missing the field.

 

“We are bummed,” Force said. “This was not the plan. Every run counts and we need to go rounds. We are going to hold our heads up. We will get ready for the next race and keep trying hard.”

 

That attitude has carried Force a long way in her brief but prospering Top Fuel career, as a constant willingness to learn and work hard has paid major dividends. She has made significant strides coming off her rookie season when she won the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, and has meshed well with a team led by crew chiefs Todd Smith and Dean Antonelli.

 

But Force also isn’t about to accept results like the one in Dallas, especially during the most crucial point of the year. By advancing to three final rounds this season Force has shown she is capable of winning at the sport’s highest level, but it’s a matter of getting everything to come together against a loaded Top Fuel field.

 

“Taking home a win at any point in this 2014 season would be unreal,” Force said. “With the Countdown in full swing, going after our first win is at the top of our list. Our team has a lot to do but it is nothing we aren’t capable of handling. Our plan with the final races is to no longer make minor mistakes and to make every run count. We need to qualify in the top half of the field to have a chance to battle it out. I need to make sure my driving routine stays consistent next to my team and our car’s performance.”

 

Qualifying better is of utmost importance heading to St. Louis where Force will face off against the likes of Brown, the 2012 world champ who is the two-time defending winner of the St. Louis event in Top Fuel and Doug Kalitta, who was the points leader during the majority of the regular season.

 

But after winning the first two events of the Countdown, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher has taken command of the points lead in Top Fuel. Other championship contenders in the Countdown are defending world champion Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, Khalid alBalooshi, Steve Torrence, J.R. Todd and rookie Richie Crampton.

 

“To earn a win before our season ends would be an incredible feeling and truly a huge accomplishment,” Force said. “It’s something I want so bad and this year the Castrol Edge team has walked that line barely missing it in three final rounds. I’m very confident in the entire team and believe with the right attitude our hard work will pay off and we will take home a win before our season comes to an end.”

 

In Funny Car, 16-time and reigning world champ Force used St. Louis as a springboard to his 2013 world championship and has three wins at the facility. Ron Capps also has three St. Louis wins and is among a list of challengers trying to unseat Force. Featured in that group is Robert Hight, Courtney Force, who won the most recent event in Dallas, Matt Hagan, who won the first race in the Countdown, Alexis DeJoria, Tommy Johnson Jr., Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Del Worsham.

 

In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens returns to Gateway Motorsports Park as one of the top contenders for the world championship. Enders-Stevens, the two-time defending race winner, has four wins on the season but is chasing points leader Jason Line. Reigning champ Jeg Coughlin leads a list of championship hopefuls in Pro Stock and also features Allen Johnson, Dallas winner Dave Connolly, Vincent Nobile, Chris McGaha, Shane Gray, Carolina Nationals winner Jonathan Gray, and V Gaines.

 

Smith was victorious in Pro Stock Motorcycle last season en route to his second world championship. Smith is after his first win in 2014 while chasing the two-bike team of points leader and Dallas winner Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec, who is in second in points after winning the Countdown opener. Hector Arana Jr., Hector Arana, Steve Johnson, who posted runner-up finishes in the first two Countdown races, Michael Ray, John Hall, Angie Smith and Scotty Pollacheck are all also in the title hunt in the two-wheel category.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to 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 enjoy some cherished face time 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.

The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. In addition, eliminations for the Carolina Nationals Pro Mod race will be completed at this event.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, Sept. 26, with sessions at 2:15 and 4:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Sept. 27, at 1:15 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28.

 

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Gateway Motorsports Park at (855) RACE-TIK (722-3845) or visitwww.gatewaymsp.com.  For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.