2018 NHRA preview: Brittany Force ready to repeat in Top Fuel

TV oil baron J.R. Ewing wasn’t the only one in Dallas who could make blockbuster deals. So could the NHRA Pro Stock team owners and drivers.

Before the Dallas race last October, the NHRA had threatened to limit the fields from 16 to eight and to erase the class from a handful of events. But the teams showed solidarity, met there with the sanctioning body and forced change.

NHRA senior vice president Graham Light confirmed within a week that “as a result of the input, we’ve decided we will run 16 car fields at all 24 national events next year.” Besides a policy reversal, Light revealed that teams proposed a new engine platform.

The recent executive restructuring at Ford produced drag-racing-friendly decisions. Now Ford will have that muscle in the Chevy-heavy class. As the (so-far) only new sponsor in the 2018 Funny Car class, Ford will fund Tasca’s Mustang in his first full-time schedule since 2014. Tasca qualified for eliminations at all eight events he attended in 2017. He has four career wins in the class.

Top Fuel World Champion Antron Brown shares family King Cake recipe

Brittany Force, cradling her 2017 NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy, still overwhelmed that she won the Nov. 12 season finale from the top starting spot, too, was finished with her winner's circle …

By early December, the NHRA had broken completely with tradition and announced it will allow racers to mix or match engine combinations with any (approved) manufacturer body. That means one could compete with a Ford engine in a Chevy body or vice versa or Chevy power in a Dodge. The Pro Stock smorgasbord is open. And the NHRA is hoping fans feast at the trough. 

In his “Win on Sunday” effort, Tasca has forged a curious technical alliance with Don Schumacher Racing (keen rival of John Force Racing, his one-time seemingly unshakeable partner). He also has named experienced tuner Eric Lane as his crew chief. Lane has won championships with Robert Hight and Ron Capps.

The new rule is an attempt to reignite automaker wars, to attract more Dodges and Fords and perhaps foreign manufacturers that might draw a younger audience. The hope is that fans will stop whining that Pro Stock is an all-Camaro — or worse yet, all-boring –- class. It could be a cost-saving measure for smaller-budgeted teams, who have spoken passionately about their desire not to be marginalized.

Pericak, talking championships, said Ford Performance will help Tasca through the company’s investments in aerodynamics engineering, including racing and production-vehicle wind tunnels. “We believe we have the technology tools to help the team be competitive on the track long term,” he said.

Rising Funny Car star Bob Tasca III took a wicked gut punch near the end of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season with Ford’s announcement it was yanking its sponsorship from John …

The cooperation is a testament to the teams’ commitment, especially after a costly mandate to scrap trademark hood scoops and carburetors and employ electronic fuel injection and a new fuel compound — not to mention a perturbing push from the NHRA to pump up the crowd with a possibly run-damaging burnout contest at a pivotal race.

You know him as a three-time NHRA Top Fuel World Champion and driver of the Matco Tools/U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster. Antron Brown takes the reins in our kitchen today, sharing the recipe for his family’s signature dessert, a New Orleans-style King Cake!

“We have a lot of fans,” privateer Alan Prusiensky said, “and I think (the NHRA is) making a mistake by thinking that the fans are only here for Top Fuel and Funny Car because they’re not. There’s a lot of fans here for Pro Stock. I see them in front of my pit, and I’m nobody.” I don’t have 10 years of experience and won a championship or anything like that. And there’s still a lot of fans here that come and say, ‘Hey, we need Pro Stock’. So NHRA needs to listen to them, too.”

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Brittany Force, cradling her 2017 NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy, still overwhelmed that she won the Nov. 12 season finale from the top starting spot, too, was finished with her winner's circle photo shoot. She was at the pinnacle of her five-year career, but she was maybe the most vulnerable she ever had been. “Dad, do I have to go to Funny Car now?” she asked her sage of speed, 16-time champion John Force. His immediate response was “Well, honey, it’s all financial. It’s what we do.” That’s why the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Rookie of the Year had made test passes last fall in a Funny Car. She was dispassionately catering to her father’s business preferences and boardroom prospects.  John Force said in a WFO Radio interview, “I built a car, spent about $300,000-$400,000 to put Brittany in a Funny Car. I did it because I’d come to a fork in the road: ‘I don’t need to be in dragster. I’m going to go to what I know, in Funny Car.’ I was going that way, because a dragster costs me money. In the middle of this, something changed. She won the championship.”

Leah Pritchett will be working a little overtime in 2018.In addition to her duties in the Mopar Dodge/SRT Top Fuel Dragster for Don Schumacher Racing, the 29-year-old Pritchett will be competing in …

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