TAMPA — The concept of going 265 mph in a car is more than most people can handle. The thought of doing so within a few seconds from a standing start is certainly mind-blowing to nearly everyone.
For Brittany Force, as things turned out, that speed felt like a Sunday drive.
The daughter of NHRA legend John Force cranked it up a notch in 2013 by graduating from the Top Alcohol class to Top Fuel drag racers, and that path led her to her first victory at last year's Gatornationals in Gainesville.
"Everyone said the first win was always the toughest," said Force, 30, who is in her fifth full season of Top Fuel. "It was a big win for not just me but for all of John Force Racing because it was the first Top Fuel win for John Force Racing. Everything about it was just so special."
That breakthrough at Gatornationals led to her best season, with three victories on her way to a career-best sixth in points. This year Force is third in points, trailing leader Leah Pritchett and Tony Schumacher.
Force's family history in the sport is undeniable. John Force, 67, is a 16-time Funny Car champion; younger sister Courtney has nine career Funny Car victories (and is married to IndyCar star Graham Rahal); and older sister Ashley raced before quitting to marry and start a family.
Brittany Force seemed such a natural in the sport's glamour category that it's hard to imagine her resisting the idea. Yet she did so for years, thinking that she was content in Top Alcohol.
"(I thought) 265 mph was fast enough. I don't need to go any faster. Those people are nuts, my dad's nuts," she said of those who run at 300 mph.
The Cal State Fullerton graduate thought she was going to go into teaching (she has a bachelor of arts degree in English) and race as a hobby. Then five or six years ago, her father's team asked her to do some testing runs in a Top Fuel car as a favor.
"My plan was just to get the info they needed and I'd go back to (Top Alcohol)," Force said. "You could definitely feel the power in the (Top Fuel car). I made my first full pass, I got out at the other end and I said, 'Dad, we just opened a whole new box of worms.' I know I planned to go to school to be a teacher, but that's out the window. This is what I want to do. If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I'd have said no way."
Force likened the sensation of Top Fuel racing to "like being kicked in the chest, like having the wind kicked out of you. You're thrown into the back of your seat so hard, until you hit the (parachutes) and it's like getting the wind knocked out of you again."
But that's life at 330 mph — just Brittany Force's speed.