John Force Racing Inc., NHRA Drag Racing's most successful Funny Car team, has announced an expansion that for the first time will give it a presence in a professional racing category other than the one in which it has been dominant for almost a quarter century.
While the team again will campaign four fuel cars, one will be noticeably different from the others. After winning a record 217 NHRA Funny Car races and 17 championships, JFR this year for the first time in its 35-year NHRA history will field a Top Fuel dragster.
Powered by the Ford BOSS 500 nitro engine developed by JFR in collaboration with Ford Racing, the Castrol Edge Top Fuel dragster will be driven by rookie Brittany Force and maintained by crew chief Dean “Guido” Antonelli and assistant crew chief Eric Lane.
“It really is a big honor to be the first to drive a Top Fuel dragster at John Force Racing,” said 26-year-old Brittany, who will be the third of John Force's daughters to turn pro. “This team has done so much over the years to evolve, and adding a Top Fuel car into the mix I believe will help us continue to grow as a team.
“Being able to drive the first JFR Top Fuel dragster with my dad's support and with Castrol Edge as my sponsor is still very surreal to me, but I think it's something we're all excited about, and I'm going to do the best job that I can.”
A graduate of California State University, Fullerton, the second-youngest of John's four daughters, has put a potential teaching career on hold while she learns the "family business." Although she earned her teaching credential and completed her student teaching assignment, Brittany never planned to immediately seek a job in education.
“My plan from the very beginning was to go to college and earn a bachelor's degree before really pursuing racing,” Brittany said. “I earned my B.A. in English and then did an extra year to earn my teaching credential. I never had intentions to go right into teaching; I just wanted to get school finished because I knew that if I took a break from it, I would never go back to finish.
“I will always have teaching to fall back on if things change down the road,” added the former star of the A&E reality series Driving Force, “but I am very happy with where I am and where things are heading. I have many goals for next year and can't wait to get started in Pomona. One of my goals is to really get to know my guys so that we can become a strong team together. My other goal is to get my first win in my Top Fuel car as a rookie driver.”
Interestingly, Brittany has more dragster experience than anyone else assigned to the Castrol Edge Team. While it is the first dragster assignment for both crew chief Antonelli and assistant crew chief Lane, Brittany has never driven anything else.
After earning her Super Comp license under the tutelage of current NHRA Funny Car champion Jack Beckman, Brittany drove A/Fuel Dragsters for Jerry Darien and spent all last year testing in a Top Fuel dragster.
When the season begins Feb. 14-17 with the 53rd O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Pomona, Brittany will become the 15th different professional drag racer to compete for Team Castrol, the third to do so in the Top Fuel category, in which the late Gary Ormsby won the championship for Castrol GTX in 1989.
“I'm so happy to be working with Dean Antonelli and Eric Lane,” Brittany enthused. “ ‘Guido' was the crew chief for my dad the last two years, and before that he taught Ashley [Force Hood] to drive a Funny Car. They were so successful together, and I'm really excited to have him on board with me.
“I spent the majority of my testing season working with Eric and Jimmy Prock from Robert Hight's team. I get along with Eric very well. He has always been so patient with me. We always talk about the runs before and after, which helps prepare me for future passes. I think we are a good match, and we will teach each other so much next year. I think we are all going to make a very strong team.”
Antonelli, who guided Ashley to the Auto Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award in 2007 and tuned John to victory in last year's inaugural Traxxas NHRA Nitro Shootout, gets his first assignment in Top Fuel as mentor to another of John's racing daughters.
Lane, 39, moves to Top Fuel after 12 seasons with the Auto Club Ford Mustang Funny Car, the last four as assistant crew chief to Prock.
“I'm excited because I've only ever worked on Funny Cars,” Antonelli said. “Just in the testing we've done so far, it appears you can be quite a bit more aggressive with a dragster.
“It's an exciting opportunity, and I'm honored that Brittany would want me to be her crew chief and that John trusts me with her,” said the man who celebrated 10 series championships as the team leader on John Force's crew from 1995 through 2006.