Fresh off a record-breaking season and her second world championship in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Season, Top Fuel star Brittany Force has no plans of letting up – or slowing down.
The fastest female in sports, Force broke numerous track records and made the fastest run in Top Fuel history (338.94 mph) during the 2022 season en route to the world title. She hopes to kick off the 2023 campaign on a big note, too, including picking up her second career win at the legendary Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.
Force is also competing in the eight-car Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout on Saturday, which is a specialty race with big money on the line, putting a premium on a great start in her 11,000-horsepower Monster Energy dragster – especially as the reigning world champ.
“There’s going to be pressure going into day one,” Force said. “We go right into the season and it’s going to be exciting. I’m excited to get in there and take part in another Callout in Gainesville. The Callout is definitely unique and it brings out a little bit of drama. This puts a lot of focus on who you’re calling out and it really adds that element of excitement. Doing it at Gainesville, it’s going to be an exciting event.”
Tripp Tatum (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock), and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all picked up victories during a record-breaking weekend in Gainesville last year. This year’s event will be broadcast on both Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and the FOX broadcast network, including eliminations coverage beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday to open the season.
Force would certainly like to pick up where she left off a year ago, when she won five races, went to seven final rounds and obliterated track records across the country. One of those came in Gainesville, where she sent the track speed mark of 337.75, one of more than 15 records she set in 2023.
Force owns both ends of the Gainesville records, while the historic facility also has a special place in the two-time world champion’s heart. Her first career Top Fuel victory came at famed Gainesville Raceway in 2016 and Force is locked in on starting her 2023 on a high note.
To do so, she’ll have to get past the likes of teammate Austin Prock, four-time world champ Steve Torrence, Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican, Mike Salinas, Justin Ashley, Josh Hart and Leah Pruett. Force is also competing against Torrence, Ashley, Salinas, Kalitta, Hart, Prock and Millican in Saturday’s Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout, where she will make the first selection on Friday.
“That’s what every team wants to do, start your season with a win,” said Force, who has 16 career wins and was also the No. 1 qualifier 10 times last year. “You’ve been out of the seat way too long, so we’re all anxious to get out here. We’re jumping right into it. You want to start with a win and that really sets the groove for the season. A win would be great and that’s our goal, but it’s going to be tough.”
In Funny Car, Hagan is after back-to-back victories at the track after picking up the first win for Tony Stewart Racing a year ago. He’ll contend with the likes of defending world champ Ron Capps, Robert Hight, John Force, Bob Tasca III, J.R. Todd, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria.
Defending world champ Erica Enders will try to win in Gainesville for the first time, facing off against Pro Stock stars Greg Anderson, Aaron Stanfield, Troy Coughlin Jr. and Glenn. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Matt Smith, who has won three straight world titles has his sights on a third Gatornationals victory, but he’ll have to get past Eddie Krawiec, Angie Smith, Jerry Savoie, Steve Johnson and Joey Gladstone.
In addition, the Gatornationals will set the field for the first #2Fast2Tasty Mission NHRA Challenge. The semifinalists from Gainesville will rematch during qualifying on Saturday at the next event in Phoenix, with bonus money and points on the line as part of the special new program for 2023.
The Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, along with the season debuts for the NHRA Pro Mod Series and Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. Total Seal Tech Talk will take place on Friday and Saturday in Matt Hartford’s pits, while an autograph session will take place on Friday at the Dodge Display with Dodge-sponsored drivers. Fans can also look forward to the exciting cacklefests taking place at the Hot Rod Junction on both Friday and Saturday.
Leading into the race, a special Gatornationals Fan Fest will take place on Wednesday, March 8 from 6-9 p.m. at Josh Hart’s Burnyzz Speed Shop in nearby Ocala. The Top Fuel standout will host an event featuring a car show, live music and a driver autograph session from 7-8 p.m. A special championship press conference and season kick-off event follows the next day at the Hilton University of Florida in Gainesville, honoring 2022 NHRA world champs Force, Capps, Enders and M. Smith, and also featuring Hart, J. Force and legendary driver “Big Daddy” Don Garlits.
Garlits will be featured guest throughout weekend and six of his historic dragsters will be included in a special “Swamp Rat Alley” section inside the Hot Rod Junction, giving fans the unique chance to check out the cars that made history. Garlits will also be on hand for autographs with fans and he will be making an exhibition pass during the race.
More NHRA legends will be part of a special autograph and Q&A session in the Top Eliminator Club on Saturday, while all fans are invited to the first-ever Nitro Alley Stage, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into the nitro pits. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more.
Race fans at Gainesville Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk, which benefits the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in Gainesville. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners of the season-opener.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Gainesville. This opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 10, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 11 at 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 12. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 10:00 a.m. ET. on Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday, leading into live eliminations on FOX at 12 p.m. ET.
The opening round of the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout takes place on Saturday at 1:20 p.m. ET, with the semifinals to follow at 2:45 p.m. The finals are slated for 4:25 p.m., and the callout will be given a featured broadcast on FS1 at 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.
To purchase tickets to the 2023 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, fans can visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Children 12 and under are free in general admission areas with the purchase of an adult ticket. For more information on NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.