'Worse than a Crash': Brittany Force Fails to Qualify for NHRA Route 66 Event

brittany force nhra
Brittany Force Fails to Qualify at Chicago NHRANHRA/National Dragster
  • Brittany Force will be a spectator for the first time since the final race of 2014.

  • T.J. Zizzo is not buying into the Tony Stewart mania.

  • John Force says seeing his daughter fail to qualify hurts ‘worse than a crash’.

Two-time Top Fuel champion Brittany Force ended her 187-race qualifying streak Saturday at Route 66 Raceway, missing the 16-car field at Joliet, Ill., at the NHRA Gerber Glass and Collision Nationals.

Qualifying last after sweating out Doug Foley’s potentially bumping pass, Tony Stewart squeaked into Sunday’s eliminations and will face Chicago’s self-described “super part-timer” T.J. Zizzo. He expressed empathy for Force, while Zizzo neutralized the buzz about multi-series champion Stewart’s presence in drag racing.


Force, carrying the livery of first-time sponsor PEAK in its corporate hometown, was stoic following her first failure to qualify since the November 2014 event at Pomona, Calif.

a race car on a track
Friday’s quickest qualifier in Top Fuel, T.J. Zizzo, held onto the top spot and will be seeded No. 1 in Sunday’s elimination rounds.NHRA/National Dragster

“This is a tough position to be in right now. We were under this tight, high-pressure situation. There’s so much on the line. We’re out here with PEAK. We want to represent them well,” she said. “And this whole team, we’ve pulled together. We were up there for that run. We had no doubt that we were going to get our car down there, even if it came to the last run. We had every belief that we would get down there [to the finish line and qualify]. And we didn’t.

“So we have to pack up. And you know, the great thing about this team is that we will come together. I believe in these tough times, it’s preparing us for something bigger.”

Her father and team owner John Force, who took the No. 4 starting slot in Funny Car Saturday while teammate Austin Prock was quickest in the category, said, “Everybody’s got the same racetrack in the heat. We’ve just got to adapt to that. The pain for me – worse than a crash – is to see my daughter not qualify. That hurts. But she’s a fighter. I’m a fighter. It’s still tough. But that’s what life’s all about. The tough get up after being punched, and we sure as hell will get up. We’ll go test and get that thing back together.”

Stewart sweated out the final Top Fuel qualifying passes and said, “Legitimately, all day I was just worried, ‘Are we racing tomorrow?’ It’s not what this Dodge Direct Connection Top Fuel team is used to, by any means. It’s kind of a weird weekend. You feel bad for Britany and their team. You know they’re a top-caliber team.”

Meanwhile, Zizzo initially said after learning he would remain the No. 1 qualifier, “Normally, I’m very chatty, but I’m speechless.” However, he had some intriguing things to say when he got in front of the media on hand.

After calling the result “fantastic” and saying, “This has been a great weekend so far,” Zizzo said, “I’m not fully surprised” that he recorded the best starting position in his NHRA career. He said he told his crew last weekend, “We have the equipment, the knowledge, and the personnel to be the No. 1 qualifier.”

Facing Stewart in Sunday’s opening round of eliminations didn’t seem to faze Zizzo. He slightly scolded the media for trumpeting that news of Stewart’s arrival in drag racing was going to be “the biggest story in NHRA history.”

Zizzo said, “Happy to be in the show. Happy to race Tony Stewart. Tony Stewart is a great guy. He’s great for the sport. But it wasn’t that big a deal.”

He said he feels like he’s in a strong spot for runoffs: “Much better than Brittany Force. I’ve been there, too.”

Other No. 1 qualifiers Saturday were Austin Prock (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Greg Anderson pocketed the $40,000 winners share of the GETTRX Pro Stock All-Star Call-Out among the class’ elite eight qualifiers, defeating KB Titan Racing associate Matt Hartford.

Winners of the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenger were Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle).