Brittany Force becomes first woman in 35 years to win top-fuel season title

Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Auto Racing

Krawiec had clinched his fourth title during qualifying.

But top fuel, where 10,000-horsepower machines run at speeds of more than 330 mph, is drag racing's marquee division. And Brittany Force, 31, a former schoolteacher from Cal State Fullerton in her fifth season driving a dragster, has dominated it over the last two months, winning three of the season's final five events to make up a big deficit to Steve Torrence in the points race.

Neither had won a championship before and, with their crews working just 40 feet apart in the pits, Force and Torrence entered the final day of competition Sunday as the only drivers with a realistic shot at the title.

Quick qualifying runs by Force on Friday and Saturday left Torrence with no room for error, though, so when his fastest run of the weekend -- 3.695 seconds at 328.46 mph -- was four-hundredths of a second slower than defending Antron Brown in the quarterfinals, it opened the door even wider for Force.

And she wasted little time getting through it, beating Richie Crampton handily in the next heat to become the second woman to win NHRA's most prestigious title after Shirley Muldowney, who won three titles between 1977-82.

Brittany Force celebrated her victory -- worth $500,000 -- by racing through to the final, where she hit 330.07 mph to beat Shawn Langdon in the gloaming for her fourth event win of the year.

Meanwhile, Torrence -- a cancer survivor who couldn't find a satisfactory ride with a major team -- saw his quixotic bid to become the first independent driver to win the top fuel championship since Kenny Bernstein in 2001 come up just short.


"Some of these different team owners told me that I couldn't do (it). So now it's kind of 'well, look at us,' " said Torrence, 34, who won a division-best eight races this year, the sixth in which the Texan has been financed by his family's oil and gas pipeline business. "It is the David against the Goliath."

This time Goliath won. Because while Brittany Force may be the only top-fuel driver in her father's stable, John Force Racing is among the largest and most successful teams in NHRA -- one that added two more titles Sunday.

"We've had an incredible day," Brittany Force said, clutching the top-fuel trophy. "This is something that I'll never forget. And something that I'm so proud of."

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