NHRA Top Fuel racer Brittany Force was named the winner of the $20,000 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award Monday night at the champions banquet following the season finale at Pomona. This award recognizing the top NHRA rookie of the year, and is voted on by national media.
During the course of the season, she won 10 rounds of competition, including a season-best semifinal performance at the season ending event in Pomona, and she also led qualifying on Friday and Saturday at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. She is the fifth member of John Force Racing to win the award, joining Robert Hight, Ashley Force Hood, Mike Neff, and Courtney Force, her sister.
Q: What are your thoughts, Brittany, on winning this award?
BRITTANY FORCE: I was so excited to take home the rookie of the year award. It just proves that my entire team and everybody involved in John Force Racing, that all our work really paid off at the end. I mean, bringing a Top Fuel car into the John Force Racing pits, it was not easy, and it was a challenge. But I really enjoyed it. We had our ups and downs and we went out and struggled some weekends. But we also had weekends where we did really well. To be able to end in Pomona where we finally made it to the semis for the first time, and the Castrol Edge team made it to the semis, and we had our career best ET. We ran a 3.78. I was so excited about that. That just put me up for next year. Now after seeing that our car could run that way and making it to the semis, I don’t want time off. I want to jump right back into Pomona, because I know our car and team are capable of going rounds. Really just to be able to go to the banquet and bring that award home just meant everything to my team, myself, and I was so proud of that. Bringing that home and so proud of my entire team.
Q: Your father has obviously been very instrumental in your successes this year. How proud was he, and what did he say to you after winning this award?
BRITTANY FORCE: He was really proud. He pulled me aside right after the banquet and after I saw him. He actually called me last night and left me a long voice mail and I called him back and we talked. He just said he was so proud that we won that award and then he was also so proud of my speech. I was so nervous even just having to get up there. I like to be prepared for things, and to get up there and not know if you’re going to have to give a speech. I was just nervous about the whole thing, just getting up there in front of all those people because it’s something I’ve never done before. He said he was proud of my speech, proud of our year and our team, and he’s looking forward to next year.
Q: What’s the plan for 2014? Obviously, the sponsorship situation at John Force Racing has been well documented. Is there any more pressure? You’ve obviously got things going forward in 2014. Is there any more pressure on you to try to right the ship so much to get the Top Fuel Dragster and keep it in the fold so you can improve your career and do bigger and better things? Or do you worry about anything like that?
BRITTANY FORCE: Obviously, there is that added pressure just because I only have Castrol and Ford through next year. I have all of next year with them. I’m going to do the best job that I can, and I know my team’s going to put everything into it. We just want to do everything we can. We want to qualify at every national event. We want to make it into the top 10, and we want to go after and win our first race. That is our plan much that was our plan this year, but it was a little more difficult than we thought it would be. We’re going to go after it next year. There is obviously that pressure just because right now I just have all of next year. I’m just doing the best job that I can do, and hopefully we can pick up sponsors. The way we’re already talking to people, looking into it. But I love it out here so much. I couldn’t imagine not being in the car and competing.
Q: Popularity counts. Talk about your efforts and the time spent with fans, team members, sponsors, your dad, the work you do and did to get to this point?
BRITTANY FORCE: Yeah, there is a lot more that goes into that Rookie of the Year award than just your performance on the track. I’m still very proud of the performance that the Castrol EDGE team had on the track. I’m proud of my crew chief, Dean Antonelli and Eric Lane and my entire team. But there is so much more, like I said, that goes into that award, everything from doing NHRA press conferences, doing media events, all of that stuff I actually learned from my dad. My dad taught me how to drive a racecar, but he taught me everything about drag racing, how to work with the fans. Every chance I get, I’m out there hanging out with my fans, which is so exciting. It’s a joy for me to be out there because most of my fans are little kids, and that’s so awesome. I love being able to work with kids and have little girls and little boys come up to me and tell me they want to be a racecar driver, that makes my day that much better.
Being able to work with the fans and being able to have your mood turned around if it’s been a bad day, you went out in the first round. They could put my mood right around and get me right back on track or they could do the opposite. They could pump me up for a run and get me in my car for the first round. So working with the fans is so easy for me.
But, like I said, there is so much more that goes into it. I tried to keep myself as busy as I could this year. I wanted to be involved in every single direction. Every time it worked to my schedule and I could do a press conference or a media tour, I did a bunch of them. I did Houston. I did Sonoma, Pomona, Indy. I tried to stay involved as much as I could. We even ended in Las Vegas doing the downtown Vegas signing which was so much fun. I’d never been to anything like that. So that was pretty exciting. The Las Vegas Fan Fest is what it’s called. That was awesome. It was just a ton of drivers there, and it was pretty cool. I hope I get to do that at the end of next year. But like I said, I tried to stay involved as much as I could. Put myself out there, get noticed and stay involved with all aspects of drag racing.
Q: What do you like best about carrying on with the Force name in drag racing?
BRITTANY FORCE: For me, I have the best teachers around me. I can go to my sisters Ashley and Courtney celebrating with John, LEFT, and with her Funny Car, BELOW)). I can go to my dad. He knows everything about drag racing. He’s been out here the longest. He sometimes gets a little crazy and overwhelming at moments, but I really do have the best teachers around me, my brother in law Robert Hight and Mike Neff. So I’m very lucky I have all of them, their support, and anytime I need their help, I can always go to them.
Q: You obviously had a lot of teaching and coaching going into the season, but what was the one thing that surprised you the most that maybe came out of left field?
BRITTANY FORCE: For me I spent a whole year testing, an entire year testing in the Top Fuel car. But I learned that there is nothing you can learn more from gaining experience and jumping right into competition. This year, jumping out in Pomona and going to race after race, that’s where I gained the most experience. No matter how many times you talk to people or sit down and ask questions, yes, it’s helpful, but there is nothing more helpful than when you experience it in the car and you know what it felt like, know what it did. So the next time it happens, you either fix that problem if you screwed up, or you know you’re on the right track and doing the right thing.
So, for me, it’s just being able to be out there as much as I was, I just picked up and felt like I’ve come a long way as a driver. Starting out with what I did in Pomona. I feel more comfortable in the seat. I feel like on certain runs when it goes up in tire smoke or shakes I know how to react correctly. I’m proud of how far I’ve come since the beginning of the year, and I can’t wait until next year to keep improving and learning. Every time I jump in that car I learn something new.
Q: When the season began, did your sisters kind of goad you or reminded you constantly that they won Rookie of the Year and it’s up to you to complete the circle?
BRITTANY FORCE: No, they actually never brought that up once, not the entire year. It was just towards the end of it they were rooting me on. Obviously, they wanted me to win. They supported me. I was backstage before they pulled us out on stage at the banquet and Courtney was talking to me and I said I’m so nervous going out there, and she was giving me a pep talk. She said it’s so much fun. I did it last year. They called my name and I was excited and I got there up and didn’t know what to say. I just started talking. So she’s always there to support me. So that’s awesome that I have both of them. But it was pretty cool to say that all three sisters brought home the Rookie of the Year awards.
Q: Shawn Langdon said when you’re a rookie, there are a lot of eyes on you. The fact that you’re John Force’s daughter there were probably twice as many eyes on you. Did you feel all year that you were being doubly scrutinized?
BRITTANY FORCE: I try not to pay attention to that. I know there are always going to be eyes and people that say great things about you and people that say terrible things about you. So I try not to worry about that. As long as I know that I’m doing the best job that I can for my team, for myself, for my dad just the best job I can do driving and everything. Like I said, working with media, working with fans, that’s all I need to know. I just need to do my job like I do it. Do the best job I can, and I know that’s fine.
I think we had a good year. Yeah, I made some mistakes in the car and maybe stayed on the throttle too long and ended up hurting the car, but I learned from every single run, and I feel like I’ve come such a long way since the beginning of the year. That’s all I really need to know. It doesn’t matter what people say. Obviously, that is important, but you can’t let the negative things get you down. I just stay focused on everything my dad teaches me and try to do the best job that I can for myself and my team.