Updated April 4, 2019 - 11:05 pm
What once was a magnum Force on the national drag racing circuit is now a finely tuned carafe.
With Courtney Force having recently joined sister Ashley in retirement, Brittany Force is the lone daughter of 16-time Funny Car champion and NHRA legend John Force still lighting up the strip in 3.6-second bursts of speed. As developments go, this one seems more stunning than her still active father turning away from an open microphone.
“I know — I’m the last one,” Brittany Force, 32, said Thursday before a news conference for the Denso Spark Plugs Four-Wide Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as if she couldn’t believe it herself.
Ashley Force Hood, Brittany’s older sister, was 29 when she retired as a Funny Car driver in 2011.
She had made history at LVMS four years earlier by becoming the first female to compete in a Funny Car final. Ashley Force would earn two victories, including one over her famous father. She was just starting to find her groove when she retired to start a family with husband Daniel Hood, who would become her sister Courtney’s crew chief.
Courtney Force, Brittany’s younger sister, stepped out of her Funny Car in January.
Her decision to quit was even more surprising than her older sister’s. Having raced to 12 victories by age 30, Courtney was entering her driving prime. But she had married IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, and the word around the paddock was they, too, would soon start a family.
Life in the fast lane
“We’re at 24 different events, we’re in and out of airports, we’re somewhere different every weekend. So you miss a lot at home,” said 2017 Top Fuel champion Brittany Force, the only one of John’s daughters to have earned a championship ring, which she was proudly wearing Thursday.
“It’s a little more challenging for a female in our sport. If you make that decision where you want to start trying to have kids, you’re going to have to step out of the seat. You can’t be trying (to have children) when you’re driving one of these things. I’m not there yet. I’m not married. I’m not planning on having kids anytime soon. But I’ll address that down the road, if it ever comes to that.”
When it came to that for her sisters, motherhood and personal relationships got the holeshot over drag racing.
As much as she misses her sisters on the weekends, Brittany said there have been silver linings to Courtney putting her helmet in mothballs: She inherited her sister’s sponsor (Advance Auto Parts), and now she gets undivided attention from her old man at the track.
Or at least a lot of attention from a father who at age 69 is still going 300 mph in a million directions at once.
Fast times with dad
“I’ve never been out here with just him and I,” said Brittany Force, who is off to a slow start and sits 12th in points. “We have our teammates, but it’s kind of a special year for us. Courtney had that in 2012 with him before I started competing, so I’m looking forward to it. I definitely think I have the best teacher out here.”
As did her sisters.
When Ashley retired, she called it a hiatus at first. She left the door open for a return. The idea was to start a family, and when the kids were older, perhaps get back in the car. Given her dad remains competitive as a racing grandfather, there would be plenty of time for a comeback.
But this is a sport that does not stand still. Not even for a Force.
Drag racing is constantly evolving, and the longer you’re out of the seat, the more foreign it seems when you buckle back into it. It isn’t long before a hiatus becomes permanent, especially when being a mother makes it difficult to balance a racing career.
But instead of a wedding ring, Brittany Force wears a championship ring for now. Every girl should be so lucky, she said.
“This is what I love, and my team is my family,” she said with a 10,000 horsepower smile. “We make it home out here. We go find fun. Right now, this is where it’s at. This is where I want to be.”
Four-Wide NHRA Nationals
What: Denso Sparks Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, round 4 of the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Series.
When: Qualifying, 12:30 and 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Final eliminations, noon Sunday.
Where: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Defending champions: Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock).
Information: NHRA.com, lvms.com.