Brittany Force enters the last two events of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship fourth in points and is looking for an impressive finish to her season.
A year after winning just one round over the final three events, Force has had a banner 2016, winning three events and advancing to five final rounds. She trails 2013 Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon by 19 points for third in points and wants to move up the standings in the remaining events. That includes a stop at The Strip as Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 27-30 for the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals.
"I think doing well in Las Vegas will be a big factor for the championship," Force said. "Our goal is to have a chance to win the championship when we get to the Auto Club Finals in Pomona. We are going to do everything we can to be in a position where we can win. We go into every race thinking we can win and it starts with the first round of qualifying. This has been an amazing season and these last couple of races will be even more exciting with the championship on the line."
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year's winners of the event that will for the first time be aired on FOX Sports 1 this October. On Sunday, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m. (ET).
It is the fifth of sixth races in the Countdown to the Championship, putting it at a critical point. If Force hopes to advance past the likes of Brown and Doug Kalitta, she knows a clutch performance in Las Vegas will be necessary. Led by a team that includes crew chief Brian Husen and consultant Alan Johnson, Force recorded her first career Top Fuel wins in 2016, shrugging off any pressure that comes with that kind of success.
"I just try and not think about the pressure," Force said. "My job is to just do what my crew chiefs tell me to do and not try and do anything different. This whole season has been a new experience for me and I am still learning. I still get butterflies but I think everyone does when you get into situations like this. This season I have learned to just relax and focus on doing the little things. My Monster Energy teammates have been very supportive all season and we are really working well together."
Brown hit the jackpot at Las Vegas last year, winning the race and clinching the championship in the process. Force fell in the final round to Brown at the race at Maple Grove Raceway, but it did not diminish her hopes of competing for a championship, especially if she can produce a win at Las Vegas.
"I am confident in this Monster Energy team looking at these last couple of races," Force said. "This is a new experience but I am surrounded by teammates and crew chiefs that have won championships, and that gives me a lot of confidence. We've had a great season so far but I still have goals I want to achieve this season. If we keep having success on Sunday then this championship is not out of our reach."
Force's John Force Racing teammate Hight won in Funny Car last year, but Ron Capps currently holds a 64-point advantage over Tommy Johnson Jr. Capps also must hold off the likes of Jack Beckman, reigning world champ Del Worsham and Matt Hagan.
Enders clinched her second straight Pro Stock championship a year ago with a Vegas win, but this season has belonged to teammates Jason Line and Greg Anderson. Points leader Line has eight wins in 2016 and Anderson, who is 26 points back, has seven.
Hines' Vegas victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle in 2015 helped clinched a second straight title. Hines has five wins this year and is second in points behind teammate Eddie Krawiec who won the most recent event in Las Vegas.
The NHRA Toyota Nationals also features competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. As always, fans have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they're granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying feature two rounds at 11:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28, and two final rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 11:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-644-4444 or 702-644-4444. Tickets available online at www.lvms.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more info visit www.NHRA.com.
NHRA TOYOTA NATIONALS
WHAT?: 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals, the 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the fifth of six playoff races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE?: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas. Track is located approximately 15 miles north of Las Vegas off I-15.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 2,100 feet above sea level; Track direction is south to north.
WHEN?: Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 27-30
SCHEDULE: THURSDAY, Oct. 27 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Oct. 28 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, Oct. 29 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1:30 p.m. Round 1 of eliminations at 5:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Nov. 1 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10:15 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
TELEVISION: Friday, Oct. 28, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will televise one hour of live qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 30, FS1 will air one hour of qualifying coverage at 10 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Oct. 30, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Doug Kalitta, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Andrew Hines, PSM, 5; Greg Anderson, PS, 4; Ron Capps, FC, 4; Tony Schumacher, TF, 4; John Force, FC, 3.
TRACK RECORDS: Top Fuel - 3.722 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. '15 and 332.67 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. '15.
Funny Car - 3.931 sec. by Tommy Johnson Jr., Oct. '15 and 325.92 mph by Del Worsham, Oct. '15.
Pro Stock - 6.559 sec. and 210.28 mph by Erica Enders, Oct. '15.
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.852 sec. by Jerry Savoie, Oct. '15; 196.56 mph by Eddie Krawiec, Oct. '11
NATIONAL RECORDS: Top Fuel - 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July '16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. '15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car - 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. '16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May '16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock - 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March '15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May '14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. '12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March '15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 644-4444, or visit www.LVMS.com.
2016 NHRA points standings
1. Antron Brown, 2,504; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,354; 3. Shawn Langdon, 2,332; 4. Brittany Force, 2,313; 5. Steve Torrence, 2,307; 6. Tony Schumacher, 2,295; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,260; 8. Leah Pritchett, 2,250; 9. Richie Crampton, 2,195; 10. Clay Millican, 2,168.
1. Ron Capps, 2,465; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,401; 3. Matt Hagan, 2,377; 4. Jack Beckman, 2,334; 5. Del Worsham, 2,320; 6. Robert Hight, 2,278; 7. John Force, 2,267; 8. Courtney Force, 2,238; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,228; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 2,151.
1. Jason Line, 2,454; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,428; 3. Vincent Nobile, 2,340; 4. Shane Gray, 2,320; 5. Bo Butner, 2,314; 6. Drew Skillman, 2,269; 7. Chris McGaha, 2,222; 8. Allen Johnson, 2,213; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 2,146; 10. Erica Enders, 2,135.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Eddie Krawiec, 2,425; 2. Andrew Hines, 2,408; 3. Jerry Savoie, 2,376; 4. Angelle Sampey, 2,365; 5. Chip Ellis, 2,328; 6. L.E. Tonglet, 2,288; 7. Cory Reed, 2,229; 8. Hector Arana, 2,211; 9. Matt Smith, 2,202; 10. Hector Arana Jr., 2,183.