Optimism was the flavor of the day for Antron Brown, Courtney Force and J.R. Todd at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals media lunch at Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Crab on Thursday.

Brown, a three-time and reigning Top Fuel world champion, joined Force and Todd at the intimate press conference to talk about this year's Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday. Brown, who has clinched world championships at The Strip each of the last two years, won LVMS' spring event in 2016 and is excited about being back at the iconic drag strip.

"Hopefully, we can start off like we did last year hear in Vegas and get a win here this week," said Brown, who won his first world title in 2012. "There's a lot of teams out there this year that can get the job done, and we know what we need to do. We need to keep our heads down and go to work."

Force, who lost to her father, John, in the Funny Car finals of last fall's Strip event, is looking to reverse an early season slump with a strong showing in Las Vegas this weekend.

"We've just kind of been stumbling over our own feet the last two races, so I'm really excited to be here in Vegas and am ready to turn things around," she said. "We're looking forward to a good weekend. Obviously, we don't want to run into dad, because looking at the stats, he's the one who's been in our way recently."

Todd finished fourth in the final NHRA Top Fuel points standings a year ago and has one runner-up finish at The Strip at LVMS, back in 2009. He has switched to the Funny Car division this year and would love to turn heads in Las Vegas as he continues to learn about his new hot rod.

"I'm getting there," Todd said. "The more races we have, the more comfortable I get. We went back to the shop after Gainesville to adjust my seat and some other things in the car to get me a little more comfortable, and the car has shown progress. The last few races, we've just had dumb mechanical things happen that have plagued us, and once we get all that sorted out, I think we'll be a threat come Sunday."

Racing begins Friday with qualifying sessions for Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and a number of sportsman classes, and top qualifiers in each of the three pro events will be determined beginning at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time. More qualifying sessions and elimination rounds follow on Saturday, with final eliminations and divisional championships being determined on Sunday.

Thursday night's NHRA FanFest at New York-New York Hotel and Casino from 6-8 p.m. has been moved from the Brooklyn Bridge inside the casino in front of the Zumanity Theatre due to high winds in Las Vegas today. An autograph session with a number of NHRA drivers will begin approximately at 6:45 p.m.

All children 12 and under get a free General Admission ticket when accompanied by a ticketed adult, and every ticket is a pit pass at the NHRA event. For tickets or more information, log on to www.LVMS.com or call the LVMS Ticket Office at 800-644-4444.