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Brittany Force hopes to continue NHRA winning ways in Joliet

Brittany Force participates in a press conference on Thursday previewing this weekend's NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet. (Jeff Arnold)

Given all the time she spent around drag racing growing up, Brittany Force never figured she’d find her way behind the wheel.

Force, the daughter of 16-time National Hot Rod Association world champion John Force, was content to sit in the grandstand, cheering for her father. But now, four years into her own racing career and the third of the Force women to join the driving ranks, Force can’t imagine living life any other way than at 330 miles per hour.

Force, who claimed her first two NHRA Top Fuel victories earlier this year, currently sits fourth in the Top Fuel points standings heading into this weekend’s Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Speedway in Joliet.

She won at Gainesville in April before becoming the first female driver to claim a win at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Concord, N.C., in a season when Force has started to make a name for herself.

Older sister Courtney currently sits second in the point standings in the NHRA’s Funny Car standings while oldest sister Ashley Force – a former NRHA Rookie of the Year – laid the groundwork.

No one is more proud than their drag racing legend father.

“It still amazes me – we want to be the rough and tough and men that get it done,” John Force said Thursday. “But to watch a young girl like Courtney or Brittany finesse a 330-mph car late at night in the dark, header fire, nitro methane, 10,000 horsepower – it’s unbelievable that they can do it, but we trained them right.”

Even with all the time Force has spent in racing venues, the feeling that overcomes her with each pass still surprises her. After starting in a car that topped out at 265 mph., Force jumped up to Top Fuel level where cars go from zero to 330 mph in under four seconds.

Route 66 Speedway president Scott Paddock likens the environment to having a front-row seat for a Cape Canaveral space shuttle launching.

“It will shake you to the core,” Paddock said.

Force, who won the NHRA’s Rookie of the Year award in 2013, can attest to that feeling.

“Every time I go down the race track, it’s like getting punched in the stomach,” she said. “It’s almost like getting the wind knocked out of you.”

Although she hasn’t fully adjusted to the feeling that accompanies her sport, Force has become accustomed to being one of the sport’s top performers. After growing up watching her father in an era when most drivers were men, Force is part of a new generation of drivers.

Again, Force would have it no other way.

“I have little girls come up to me and say, ‘I want to be a race car driver,’” Force said. “Any way I can be a role model to them whether it’s girls in drag racing or girls in anything in work or career, that would be flattering to me to know that I might steer a girl in a certain direction or give her that idea that girls can do anything.”

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