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Force finds a way to bounce back as the NHRA advances to the finals

Brittany Force enters the Auto Club NHRA Finals with a seven-point lead over Justin Ashley. (NHRA photo)

All full-time teams in the Top Fuel class of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series are chasing the same thing this year – a championship. But time has almost run out for drag racers to secure the title.

Mathematically, there are only five drivers who have a chance to enter this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals, but the two rivals most likely to triumph are Brittany Force and Justin Ashley. After struggling through the first half of the six-race countdown to the championship, Force returned to the top.

“Our countdown got off to a rough start. It was four races in a row that we weren’t doing like we were all season,” said Force.

The 36-year-old John Force Racing driver was in a hot spot in the regular season, picking up four victories while holding the points lead. It also continued its record-breaking trend and now boasts the 10 fastest speeds in Top Fuel history – seven of those races have taken place this season.

But when the tides turned and the points were reset for the countdown, the Force stumbled. Due to some costly mistakes and early elimination exits, she placed second in the standings and 82 points behind Ashley who entered the fifth round of the playoffs.

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Justin Ashley is eyeing his first career Top Fuel championship in Pomona. (NHRA photo)

However, when Team Flav-R-Pac arrived in Las Vegas for the NHRA Nevada Nationals on October 26, Force felt refreshed.

“We’ve always been lucky in Vegas,” Force said. “We all felt that energy going into him and we turned around and went back up there.”

Force made an impressive comeback as he struggled to reach the finals and turned on the light of victory against Mike Salinas.

With one race remaining on the countdown, Force has regained its long-lost lead and enters the final event of the season seven points ahead of Ashley.

But the points advantage also brings a target with it.

Not only will Ashley be targeting Force this weekend, but there are three other drivers eyeing the prize – Salinas, Antron Brown and Steve Torrence are all 87 points behind Force.

With a point structure and a half in the event, any of the five could take the title.

“The things you least expect happen and I’ve seen it happen before in Pomona,” Force said. “Our team did this in 2017, doing the unimaginable on race day when you need to. It’s still anyone’s game.”

In 2017, Force entered the NHRA Finals in second place in the standings, 20 points behind Torrence. On a fateful Sunday in Pomona, Force performed flawlessly, taking the #1 qualifier and winning the event. More importantly, she won her first Top Fuel title.

Five years later, Force is knocking on the door of its second Top Fuel championship.

Phillips Connect driver Ashley is Force’s main contender as he seeks his first career title in the NHRA.

“The easiest thing to do is get caught up in all the ‘what ifs’ and different scenarios,” Ashley said. “But we just have to focus on doing the best we can, controlling our own destiny. That means taking it one round at a time and running each lap as fast, fast and straight as we can.”

The same goes for the Force.

The plan is to keep your head down, move on from past mistakes, and trust the momentum your Flav-R-Pac team gained in Nevada.

“We want to do it again, we want to do it again,” Force said. “On the weekends where you have tough weekends, it’s about your recovery as a team. Not just as a driver, but as crew chiefs and crew guys. It’s how you recover from that and show up at the next event.”

Top Fuel qualifying sessions for the Auto Club NHRA finals begin on Friday, November 11th.

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