Brittany Force holds 12 speed records and 10 ET (elapsed time) records at race tracks currently on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule.
Force, who turns 36 on July 8, says the track records are nice, but she's quick to deflect the credit for her success.
The 2017 Top Fuel champion finished second in the championship in 2021, while posting 12 No. 1 qualifiers.
Brittany Force is anything but a one-hit wonder when it comes to success in the Top Fuel ranks of the the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
In fact, the 2017 champion is stacking records these days.
Last time out, Force went 3.666 seconds at 338.08 mph in qualifying at Summit Motorsports Park at Norwalk to set track records for both quickest and fastest runs ever at the Ohio track.
In May, Force set track records in her Monster Energy dragster for quickest and fastest runs in qualifying at Virginia Motorsports Park, near Richmond. Force now holds 12 speed records and 10 ET (elapsed time) records at dragstrips currently on the NHRA schedule. Most of those marks have come over the past two seasons.
Ask Force, who has three No. 1 qualifiers in 10 races this year about her records or about posting a series-best 12 No. 1s last year, and she'll tell you that she'd gladly trade a track record in qualifying for an event win any day. Let's just say she gets that race-weekend attitude from her dad and team boss, 16-time Funny Car champion John Force.
"We’re going to come out each weekend and do the best job we can, get as many points as we can in qualifying, try to go low every single round," Brittany Force told Autoweek after her record run at Norwalk. "But really, we have to learn from last year. We had a lot of No. 1 qualifiers but couldn’t match that on race day. This year, more than the No. 1 qualifiers, our focus is race day and getting our points that way."
Force, who turns 36 years old on July 8, is quick to deflect the credit for her success and run of record-shattering runs. She'd rather point to crew chief David Grubnic.
"Those records," she said. "That's David Grubnic. That has David Grubnic written all over it. He always wants to push, push, push to see what he can do, what this car can do and what this team can do. He always puts a number on the board. But this year, our focus is not so much on that. It’s more about getting the car down there—yes, trying to gain those bonus points—but our focus is making sure we run well in qualifying to get us ready for race day."
That's not to say that qualifying doesn't count for something. The top three finishers from each qualifying session on an NHRA weekend are awarded bonus championship points on a 3-2-1 formula, and those points can can go a long way toward helping Force snap Steve Torrence's current run of four consecutive Top Fuel championships.
Force is currently second place in the 2022 Top Fuel standings, just 12 points back of leader Mike Salinas. Torrence is lurking in third place.
"We have a great team," said Force, who has 14 career event victories. "I’ve been with this same group of guys since 2019. In 2020, we took a step back because of COVID. But every single one of those guys stayed with John Force Racing and returned with us in 2021. We are a tight group. We’re just in a great place."
John Force Racing shut down its operation for most of the 2020 season due to the COVID pandemic before coming back last year. The time off has made Brittany appreciate her latest run of success even more.
She won once and finished second in the championship in 2021 and set an NHRA record with eight consecutive No. 1's along the way.
"We were home a lot, but we didn’t do much," she said about the down time in 2020. "I was happy to get back out here racing, doing what we love, being back with my team, being at a different race track every week.
"Being back last year made me realize even more how much I missed my job, how much I truly love my job—being out here with the fans, being out here with my team, setting track records, winning races. I even missed the lows when you have those terrible weekends and then your team pulls together as one and you turn it around the next weekend.
"The excitement of it all, the team atmosphere, and being at these race tracks that I grew up at. Everyone around here is family. It made me really appreciate that, really pointed out how much I love this."
Grubnic will second that. A former Top Fuel racer for Kalitta Motorsports, native Australian Grubnic won four times as a driver before moving into his role as tuner and crew chief. He shares Force's mindset of records on Friday are nice, but race day is where you earn your stripes.
"By how far you beat your opponent is irrelevant, whether it be two thousandths of a second or a half second," Grubnic said. "And so when we go into race day, it's a different mindset versus qualifying. In qualifying, we want to go out there and obviously we have an objective of qualifying in the top four or five. But you know, if an opportunity (to qualify No. 1 or set a track record) presents itself, we look at the risks. And if we can sort of hit our marks, we'll push for it.
"Hence the qualifying performance. There's times we go out there and we look at the track record numbers and it warrants us pushing. You know, it's a higher risk, but most of the time those records come on Friday nights when the track is cool. That lowers the risk and gives us a chance to hit our numbers.
"But going into race day, you know, it's a different scenario because then you're risking smoking the tires and losing the race. So that's why you see the separation between performance on qualifying and on race day. And, on race day, the tracks are obviously a little bit hotter and we just can't do the same times."
Grubnic, who came to JFR in 2019 after a stint as a tuner for Top Fueler Clay Millican, and Force are a true mutual admiration society on race weekends. Success, they've found, takes a village.
"With regards to Brittany, she does a fabulous job for us," Grubnic said. "I used to drive these things, and and I know what it's like. I used to drive for (Connie Kalitta) and when he would get aggressive, that car could be a handful at times, trying to drive around itself and so forth.
"Brittany just naturally does what has to be done. Sometimes, as a driver, you're not cognizant of what you're doing in the car, and she does good to keep it in the groove and everything you have to do to give us those numbers. It's a collective effort—it's her, it's us, and it's all of our guys. It not just any one thing or one person."
One thing that setting a track record on Friday does, for better or worse, is it sets the bar to the top rung on race day. The team knows it came to the track with the fastest car along pit row. Anything less than a win on Sunday can make the heartbreak of coming up short that much greater.
"It's tough to lose," Grubnic said. "None of us are good losers. But we're respectful, humble losers. It's never like, 'we had a good weekend, we made it to the finals.' No, we always feel we should have won it, and that's what we talk about at the debrief at the end of the weekend with all the guys—why we didn't win the event, why we didn't succeed."
Grubnic knows that that the buck often stops with the crew chief.
"Sometimes, it's poor decision making and that's on my end," he said. "I didn't push the car hard enough, maybe we got outrun, maybe we smoked the tires or we pushed the car too hard. We have to learn from that and apply it to the next event.
"Regardless of how we qualify, when we don't win, it hurts."
Granted, qualifying is only so much of a championship season formula. But, there's a reason that not everyone is setting records at same clip as Brittany Force and the John Force Racing Monster Energy team. Something special is happening at JFR.
"The facts speak for themselves, that's true," Grubnic said. "And we'll take the records, obviously. We work hard getting those, but ultimately what it boils down to is that we've got a bunch of yellow hats for being the No, 1 qualifier. What we all want are the winners' circle hats, and that's been what we've been striving for all year.
"We're not going to discount what we've achieved with track records or anything like that. It is pretty cool. When we set these track records, it's not as though it's without risk. There's the risk of smoking the tires, the risk of damage to reliability to the engine, and that's what we have to factor in. You can set track records, but you can also level an engine on every run and soon you'll put yourself out of business. The harder you see the car being pushed, the sharper the needle is when it comes to making tuning decisions. You end up basically tuning through the eye of a needle.
"You better have your numbers right because if you don't, it will humble you very quickly."