As scary as Brittany Force’s crash was in the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, the reigning Top Fuel champion says she doesn’t even remember what happened. In fact, it took the 31-year-old several moments to realize the wrecked Monster Energy dragster in front of her was her own.
“You know, I don’t remember any of the crash,” she admitted to RACER. “The last thing I remember is staging the car. The next piece I remember is that I was standing up in my car. I heard they pulled me out. I remember them holding me under my elbows and helping me stand. I remember looking at the front of my car and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, somebody wrecked their car!’
“Then I saw the black and green and realized it was my car. I was so confused. I didn’t know I was in a wreck. I was just looking down at this mangled car in front of me. It was really a roller coaster starting there when I started to figure out everything. The next thing I remembered was being in the hospital and my whole family was there.”
In the first round of final eliminations at Auto Club Raceway, Force’s Monster Energy dragster smoked the tires, made a sharp turn sideways over the center line in front of Terry Haddock and pancaked the left wall before careening across the track again and making another impact along the right wall, finally coming to rest past the finish line. She was responsive and talking to medical staff after the incident, but was taken to an area hospital as a precaution.
Force said she still doesn’t totally comprehend what made the 12,000-horsepower car act as it did.
“From what I heard, the car started to get out of the groove as it was spinning the tires and it went towards the right,” she explained. “I started to bring it back in towards the left, but as I did that, one of the tires was out of the groove, so one was spinning and one was charging forward. That’s what made the left turn and sent me across the racetrack. From there it was not fixable.
After an overnight stay for observation, Force was released from the hospital with some bruising of the lungs, but she escaped major internal injuries.
“I’m doing good,” Force offered. “I’ve just been at home resting and sleeping a lot and taking it really easy. I’m super-sore from everything, but I did MRI scans and CAT scans and everything came out good. Bruising was the biggest thing.
“You know, looking back on it, the fact that I came out with just bruises and being stiff and sore and all that stuff, that seems incredible to me that it wasn’t something more serious than that. For how horrific that crash was, the fact that I didn’t break anything or that it wasn’t more serious is pretty incredible. That just shows the safety that we put in these cars.”
She has watched just one replay of the accident, and doesn’t plan to look at another replay until she gets back in the car.
“I just don’t want those images of how terrible it was,” she said. “My biggest fear has always been to be trapped in that canopy. I didn’t realize that when I crashed, the car was tipped over and up against the wall. That really freaked me out. And then it caught on fire. A lot of those big fears I’ve always had about driving, I saw it there in that video, so I told myself, ‘I’m not going to watch it anymore.’
“Right now, I want to watch the whole thing through and figure out each step and wherever everything went wrong. I can’t bring myself to that right now until I get back into the car and make some runs down the track.
“Obviously, that first run back is going to be a little tough; that one is definitely going to be tough. I think once I do it once, I’ll be fine. I’ve always known that this sport can be extremely dangerous and things can be wrong. I’ve been out here six years and nothing terrible has happened, and I’ve always kind of wondered, ‘When is the day? When is it going to happen?’ In this sport we go 330 miles per hours in less than four seconds and something is bound to happen. It can’t go perfect every single run, so I’ve always been kind of wondering, ‘When is that day going to come?’ I mean, six years out here and I’ve never had an issue. That first round back is definitely going to be a little nerve-wracking, but once I do it I’ll be good, and then I’d like to go back and watch the footage of the crash again and see everything slowed down and in slow motion.”
The second round of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is this weekend at Wild Horse Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona. Force is hoping to race, but is taking it day by day.
“Honestly, it’s going to be how I feel,” she said. “For the first few days after the crash it started getting worse and worse, and now I’m starting to feel better each day, which I think is a good thing. I don’t want to get into that car unless I’m 110 percent back to normal. I just need to give it time.
“I still have some days to recover, but I’m feeling hopeful for it. My plan is to be back by Phoenix.”