Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – BRISTOL, TN – It’s Father’s Day Weekend and there’s no place Brittany Force would rather be than Bristol Dragway for this weekend’s 19th annual NHRA Thunder Nationals. The former Top Fuel world champion has always held the picturesque track in high regard and with her legendary father, 16-time Funny Car world champ John Force, joining her in Thunder Valley, B. Force is planning something special during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race.
That includes her second victory of the 2019 season in her 11,000-horsepower Advance Auto Parts dragster, but B. Force also has something else up her sleeve for her father over the course of the weekend at the fan-favorite track. Her first career win at Bristol Dragway would certainly be meaningful as well, especially if she can share the winner’s circle with her father for the first time.
“It’s my favorite racetrack on the circuit,” said B. Force, who has nine career Top Fuel wins. “Thunder Valley, there’s nothing like it and it’s always special because it falls on Father’s Day. My dad doesn’t know, but I have something special for him, just a gift I want to give him to let him know how much I appreciate him and everything he’s done for me and everything he’s taught me. I think he’s going to be blown away by it. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car) were last year’s winners of an event televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the 11th of 24 events in 2019, and with a Friday night Primetime qualifying session starting at 7:30 p.m., B. Force will have a chance to start the weekend in impressive fashion.
She has already recorded three No. 1 qualifiers in 2019, picking up a win in Houston, advancing to three final rounds and running a race-best 3.690 at 332.67 mph last weekend in Topeka. With Bristol coming in the midst of a rigorous four-race stretch, B. Force wants her team to get back on the winning track, and Thunder Valley would be the ideal location. B. Force and J. Force both recorded No. 1 qualifiers in Houston to become the first father-daughter combo to do so in NHRA history, and with J. Force a win away from 150 in his career, they hope to pull it off the double-win in Bristol.
“I’m excited to get there,” said Brittany Force, who is currently third in Top Fuel points. “I’ve never won the race, but our team is turning the corner. We’ve been struggling the last couple of races, but first round last weekend in Topeka we put a 3.69 on the board. I definitely feel like we’re finding our footing moving to the next few races. I have all the faith in this team and I know we’ll get it figured out and get things turned around.”
Led by crew chief David Grubnic, the team has displayed its potential all season. But to win in Bristol, B. Force will likely have to get past points leader and defending world champion Steve Torrence, who has won five straight races in 2019. Stopping his torrid pace won’t be easy, especially as B. Force also has to deal with the likes of Doug Kalitta, Leah Pritchett, Antron Brown and Clay Millican, but recent changes paid off last weekend in Topeka and B. Force is confident her team can continue moving forward in Thunder Valley.
“David Grubnic has made changes because we’ll be coming into the hot races and need to get this car figured out,” Force said. “I’m very hopeful. We want to go rounds and get this Advance Auto Parts team in the winner’s circle. Really, it’s working on that tune-up, finding our car in the heat, getting our car down, making consistent runs and going out on race day and winning the thing. We’ve made some big moves, big changes and it’s finally starting to show.”
Robert Hight will try to stay red-hot in Funny Car after picking up his fourth win of 2019 on Sunday. The points leader will go up against the likes of Capps, defending Funny Car world champion J.R. Todd, J. Force, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Tim Wilkerson.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the seventh of 12 stops during its 2019 season in Bristol. Stevie “Fast” Jackson is the points leader in the popular class that also features standouts like Todd Tutterow and defending world champion Mike Janis. The Mountain Motor Pro Stock class will race in Bristol, bringing their popular and powerful 800-plus cubic-inch engines with them to Thunder Valley. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Bristol Dragway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals victories.
As always, fans can 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 gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, 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.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 14 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 15, at 1 and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 16.