Teacher Turns Student in Castrol EDGE Top Fuel Dragster
After earning their undergraduate degrees, some aspiring schoolteachers spend several years traveling in Europe, Asia and elsewhere pursuing graduate studies.
Of course, few do so at speeds exceeding 330 miles per hour, which is what sets 26-year-old Brittany Force apart from her peers.
A graduate of Cal State-Fullerton who also studied at New York’s Hunter College, Brittany earned her teaching credentials before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in a less traditional field of endeavor: automotive high performance.
That decision this year has landed the second youngest of John Force’s four daughters in the cockpit of the 8,000 horsepower Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster for what promises to be an historic 2013 NHRA Mello Yello drag racing season.
She is the third pro driver to compete in a Castrol-backed Top Fuel dragster but the first to do so since Pat Austin in 1995. The late Gary Ormsby won the NHRA Top Fuel title for Castrol GTX in 1989,
At the controls of a race car capable of zero-to-100 mile per hour acceleration in less than one second, Brittany will be subjected to gravitational forces five times those she would encounter in a typical classroom environment.
And while she won’t collect a degree, per se, the California native knows that once she trades her high speed wheels for ones more suited to the school parking lot, she’ll have a wealth of non-traditional stories and anecdotes with which to illustrate her lesson plans.
“It really is a big honor to be the first to drive a John Force Racing Top Fuel dragster,” she said. “I think this is something we’re all excited about because it’s new and different. Being able to drive the first JFR Top Fuel dragster is still very surreal to me but, with my dad’s support, I’m going to do the best job I can. I can’t wait to get started.”
Always inclined to follow the road less traveled, Brittany is not what you expect. She is her own person, no matter the circumstances, and that makes her both a source of pride and one of frustration for her proud father.
She is simultaneously passionate about racing and conscious of the need to keep her options open.
One of the stars of the A&E Network series Driving Force, which documented sister Ashley’s development as a Funny Car driver during a two-year run ending in 2007, the talented blonde already has covered the standard course in 3.85 seconds at a finish line speed of more than 320 miles per hour.
Like her father and sisters, Brittany is intensely competitive once she gets to the track and climbs into the cockpit. Nevertheless, she also loves teaching and, right now, she’s content to keep all her options open while enhancing her reputation as “a student of speed.”
“My plan from the very beginning was to go to college and earn a Bachelor’s Degree before really pursuing racing,” Brittany said. “I earned my B.A. in English and then did an extra year to earn my teaching credential. I never had intentions to go right into teaching, I just wanted to get school finished because I knew that if I took a break from it, I would never go back.
“I will always have teaching to fall back on if things change down the road,” she said, “but right now I am very happy with where I am and where things are heading.”
Although she is just beginning her professional racing career, Brittany has more dragster experience than most of her crewmembers including crew chief Dean “Guido” Antonelli and assistant crew chief Eric Lane, both of whom, to this point, have worked exclusively on Funny Cars.
By contrast, Brittany never has driven anything but dragsters.
After earning her Super Comp dragster license under the watchful eye of reigning NHRA Funny Car Champion Jack Beckman, who was her teacher at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School, she raced in the entry-level class, along with sister Courtney, for three years before moving up to the Top Alcohol Dragster class.
Driving for Jerry Darien and BrandSource, she was the No. 1 qualifier at the 2009 SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J., and at the 2010 O’Reilly Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif., her home track.
She spent all of 2012 testing in a Top Fuel dragster, logging almost 80 runs on many of the same tracks on which she will be competing this season.
The three-rail dragster she is driving this year is powered by the Ford BOSS 500 engine developed at JFR in collaboration with Ford Racing and, in race trim, it will be outfitted with one of the cockpit canopies popularized by six-time series champion Tony Schumacher.
“I’m so excited to be working with (crew chiefs) ‘Guido’ and Eric,” she said. “It seems like ‘Guido’ has always been part of the winning at JFR. I remember him working on my dad’s car when I was little and he’s the one who taught Ashley how to drive a Funny Car before he was crew chief on dad’s car (2011 and 2012).
“A lot of the time I spent testing last year was with Eric Lane and Jimmy Prock from Robert Hight’s Auto Club team. I get along with Eric very well because he has always been so patient with me. We always talk about the runs, before and after, which helps prepare me for next one.”
Although she is eligible to compete for the Auto Club’s Road to the Future Award that goes to the NHRA Rookie of the Year, Brittany will focus this year on team development. She will consider anything else a bonus.
“One of my goals this year is to really get to know my guys so that we can move forward as a team,” she said. “That’s one thing my dad always has stressed and that is that it takes a team to succeed. Whatever we do, I want us to do it together.”