When David Grubnic speaks, Brittany Force listens.
Grubnic, crew chief for Force, told his driver that her final qualifying pass was going to be a good one.
Boy, was it good. Force made a Gainesville Raceway record run of 3.680 seconds at 326.32 mph to earn her first No. 1 qualifier of the season.
She’ll face No. 16 qualifier Chris Karamesines in the first round of the 50th-annual Amelie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
Grubnic joined Force’s team this season after a successful stint with Clay Millican.
“You saw what he did last season,” Force said. “He was incredible. He really figures things out in these cooler conditions. Yesterday, it was a little bit warmer, and today he said we should be looking good. It was obviously the best setup we had coming in today. He delivered exactly what he said we’d do. Very proud to be teamed up with him.”
Grubnic has driven a Top Fuel car, so he and Force have connected on a different level.
“Being able to talk to him is key,” Force said. “He’s been in these things, he knows what the pressure’s like, he knows what it’s like when you go up there and stare down that bulb. He’s been there, he’s done it all. Being able to have conversations with him, getting advice from him, I’m lucky to have him.”
The first two races of the season haven’t gone as the two expected, as Force lost in the first round at Pomona and Phoenix. So Grubnic de-tuned Force coming into Gainesville, trying to build on each run.
“We’ve been struggling the last two races,” Force said. “The plan coming in here was to play it safe. Once we picked up that run (in Q3), we could build on that. That’s exactly what we did. We’ve improved a little bit every single run, so I’m very proud of the entire team. On that last run, Grubnic pulled me aside and told me it was going to be a fast one, so I better hang on.”
Force knocked Mike Salinas out of the No. 1 spot after Salinas made a great run of 3.694 seconds. Steve Torrence (3.709) was third.
Force became the first female to qualify No. 1 for the Gatornationals since legendary Shirley Muldowney did it in 1979.
“Í was shocked,” Force said. “That’s insane that it’s been that many years that a female’s qualified No. 1. That just seems impossible because the ladies have been killing it lately. I’m very proud to hold that record.
“To be able to put a number on the board like that, I’m very proud. But we’re not done yet. We want to go out there and win this race Sunday.”
Force scored her first career Top Fuel victory in Gainesville in 2016 and would love to do it again. Making her best pass of the weekend in the final qualifying session clearly gives her some momentum.
“That makes a world of difference,” Force said. “It puts us in the best position possible, and we’ve had four solid runs down the race track. We learn from every single one of those runs, so we really have the best shot out here. I have to give it up to my entire team.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019