A look at this weekend's NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

WHAT’S HAPPENED IN 2018: It has been a bumpy and bruising start to the season for defending world champion Brittany Force.

In the opening event, Force had a frightening crash in the first round of eliminations at the Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.

Going down the track, her dragster got sideways, then slammed into the wall, ending up on its side. She was taken to a local hospital for observation and released.

A month later she’s still doing some rehab and dealing with some soreness, but the accident has not kept her off the track.

Two weeks after her crash, she was back in the race at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, where she was eliminated in the first round by Billy Torrence.

While it’s been a shaky start in 2018 for Force, it’s been a sizzling one for Steve Torrence, who is now officially the hottest driver in this deep and talented class.

Torrence has followed up his eight-win performance last season with another victory at Phoenix three weeks ago. Torrence took down Scott Palmer in the final with an elapsed time of 3.729 seconds and a top speed of 330.72 miles per hour.

The win was Torrence’s ninth in his last 21 events.

His winning effort included a win over his dad, Billy Torrence, in the semifinals.

“There is no easy round in this Top Fuel class anymore, you can’t take anybody lightly,” Torrence said. “The round against my dad is one that ranks up there that you remember as a high note of your career.”

There was quite a memorable round in the first event of the season also — the final at Pomona between two of the most successful drivers in the history of Top Fuel, Scott Kalitta and Tony Schumacher.

Kalitta came out on top in this one, thundering down the track in 3.779 seconds at 324.28 mph to edge out Schumacher. It was Kalitta’s 44th career win.

PREVIEWING THE GATOR: Force comes to Gainesville hoping to recapture some of the magic she had late last season to become a world champion for the first time.

“I love Gatornationals,” she said. “It’s the track where I brought home my first win. So, it’s a special place for me and I’m excited to get back in the car and get back with my team. Ready to go after my first win this season.”

There still are some lingering effects from her accident at Pomona.

“I’m still a little sore,” she said. “Definitely not 100 percent back. It’s still a work in progress. I feel good. Good to get back in the race car in Phoenix. I need some physical therapy before I’m 100 percent back.”

The competition this weekend will be fast and furious, just like it always is in this deep and highly competitive class.

Torrence is on a roll and looking for his first Gatornationals victory.

Antron Brown, a past Gator winner, has 49 career wins in Top Fuel and always seems to be a major factor in Gainesville.

Kalitta, a three-time winner in Gainesville, is off to a good start and will bring momentum to the track.

“We feel like we have the team in place to have a successful season,” Kalitta said.

And then there’s Schumacher, who won Gatornationals for the fifth time a year ago and has 83 career wins, the most in Top Fuel history. He’s off to a strong start this season and is always tough to deal with in Gainesville.