844 racers entered – but only the strongest survived during a rousing 64th version of the world’s largest annual drag racing event…

It was game on last weekend as the very best competitors in drag racing coagulated for the 2018 Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals, held at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

The event which showcased both the elite in Professional and Sportsman class drag racing, also included a great mix of special features which added to the event’s historic reputation.

J.R. Todd, an Indianapolis native, powered his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car to victory for the second time in a row at Indy, and that talented driver was joined by co-winners Terry McMillen (Top Fuel), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock), and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) during the final “regular season” 18th event of 24 on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

JR Todd raced the Kalitta Racing DHL Toyota to a 2nd consecutive US Nationals FC crown.

Todd raced to a 4.062-second pass at 311.70 mph to defeat Matt Hagan’s pass of 4.141 at 300.60 in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Hellcat SRT in the final round. He was the No. 1 qualifier for the event and was successful in securing his second consecutive victory at the prestigious Indianapolis race. He is the first Funny Car driver to win back-to-back Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals since Mike Neff in 2011 and 2012.

“This is by far a dream come true,” Todd stated. “You don’t know if you’re ever going to win Indy let alone go back-to-back. For whatever reason this year just felt different. It felt like we had a car that could come in here and win. Last year the confidence wasn’t there like it is this year.”

With the win Todd moves to fifth in points heading into the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

Hagan’s final round appearance was the second of his career at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. He defeated Jonnie Lindberg, points leader Courtney Force and Shawn Langdon before entering his sixth final round of the season.

McMillen powered past Doug Kalitta with a 4.037 pass at 300.66 in his AMALIE Motor Oil Xtermigator dragster to better Kalitta’s 4.067 at 303.57 in his Mac Tools dragster. It is McMillen’s first career win at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and second of his career.

“You know, it’s so surreal because it’s one of the most prestigious races out there,” McMillen said. “To have your name that you won Indy is one of the highest accomplishments you can have. I’ve always known that this year was going to be a good year, but I couldn’t have scripted that it was going to be this good.”

Terry McMillen had by far his finest moment so far in drag racing – winning the sport’s ultimate crown in Top Fuel for the first time!

McMillen picked up wins against Scott Palmer, points leader Steve Torrence and Blake Alexander before taking home the Wally. He’s secured the No. 7 spots heading into the Countdown to the Championship. Kalitta took out Leah Pritchett, three-time world champion Antron Brown and Billy Torrence en route to his third final round appearance at Indianapolis.

In Pro Stock, Tanner Gray ran a 6.641 pass at 208.42 in his Gray Motorsports / Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro to defeat Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s 6.639 at 206.80 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro on a holeshot for his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory, fifth win of the season and tenth of his career. He secured the No. 1 seed leading into the Countdown to the Championship during the semifinals when veteran Greg Anderson lost in the quarterfinals.

Tanner Gray sped to the 10th win of his young career in Pro Stock with his Chevy Camaro.

“I guess the main thing is that I want to strive to be the best driver that I can be,” Gray stated. “I continue to work and don’t really settle for what I am right now. I think every drivers dream is to win Indy at least once and it’s pretty cool for me to be able to do that.”

On the way to victory, Gray defeated John Gaydosh Jr., Jason Line, and Drew Skillman prior to entering the finals. Coughlin, a five-time world champion and three-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. National winner, raced Alex Laughlin, Greg Anderson and reigning world champion Bo Butner before reaching the finals.

Tonglet rode to the Pro Stock Motorcycle win with his 6.864 pass at 197.10 on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki to defeat four-time world champion Eddie Krawiec and his Mello Yello Vance & Hines Harley Davidson’s 6.884 pass at 197.02. This is Tonglet’s second career victory at Lucas Oil Raceway, his third win on the season and 19th of his career.

LE Tonglet won the US Nationals Pro Stock Motorcycle title for a second time.

“I try not to think about anything,” Tonglet said. “We just go up there and try our best and whatever happens, happens. I don’t lose sleep over this since this is still a hobby for us. We just come out here to have fun.”

Tonglet took down Ryan Oehler, Chip Ellis and Steve Johnson before seeing Krawiec who beat Jerry Savoie, teammate Andrew Hines and Hector Arana Jr., in the finals.

“Fast for Sure”

In the event’s spectacularly attended E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series event portion it was Stevie ‘Fast’’ Jackson who raced to victory. The weekend’s Pro Mod racing was presented by Al-Anabi Performance and it was the eighth of 12 events for those cars this season.

Jackson ran a 6.167-second pass at 168.51 mph to the trailing run of Jose Gonzalez at 6.682 at 189.26. This is the third career win for Smith and first of the season. Earlier he had defeated (the defending event champion) Sidnei Frigo, Bob Rahaim, and Mike Castellana to advance to the finals.

Steve “Fast” Jackson won his biggest race yet in NHRA Pro Mod class racing.

For more detail on the Pro Mod class event at Indy – visit our VP Racing Fuels Pro Mod Portal subsection report!

Title “Tii-ed Down”!

North Carolina’s Tii Tharpe had an enormous event weekend within the M/T Tires & Wheels Top Fuel Harley division.

When he beat his final round opponent Doug Vancil to the finish line stripe on Monday afternoon (6.442 secs 224.02 mph to 7.054 secs 155.46 mph) not only did that give him the prestigious US Nationals event title – it also clinched the 2018 points championship.

Tii Tharpe clinched the 2018 NHRA M/T Top Fuel Harley title after an enormous event victory.

Tharpe, who qualified #2 with a 6.258 secs had defeated Chris Smith and Jason Pridemore in earlier competition.

This was Tii’s 5th win of the 2018 season campaign and the 7th of his Top Fuel Harley career.

Jay Turner, who finished second in final season points qualified #1 for the TFH tournament – when he hit a low ET and top speed of the meet at 6.225 secs 233.88 mph. A total of 16 racers made qualifying runs for the 8 available elimination slots and they produced a very fast field (6.333 secs bump).

Successful Title Defence

Friday’s event schedule included the 18th running of the Dodge HEMI® Challenge event and it was Jimmy Daniels writing his name in the record books. When he defeating No. 1 qualifier Gary Wolkwitz in the final round he became the first driver to claim three consecutive victories in the event at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

Daniels, 22, bested his 72-year-old Ray Barton Racing Engines teammate Wolkwitz in the first-ever all-1968 Dodge Dart final round of the fan-favorite event. The win is the fourth overall for the Daniels family, including the 2010 victory by Jimmy Daniels Sr. in the same Mopar-powered Dart.

Jimmy Daniels (near lane) defeating No. 1 qualifier Gary Wolkwitz in the Dodge HEMI Challenge final round on Friday night,

Daniels qualified No. 2 in his 1968 Dodge Dart and promptly threw down the gauntlet in round one with an 8.522-second elapsed time (ET) to send home Mark Howes. He sped to a steady 8.542 in round two after his opponent Dan Zrust fouled out after leaving the starting line early, and after a bye run in round three, Daniels defeated the “Missouri Mule” 1968 Plymouth Barracuda of Russ Campbell with the quickest run of the weekend, a monster 8.511 pass.

In the final, held under the lights just prior to NHRA Nitro qualifying, the dental student from Pennsylvania launched first with an .033 reaction time paired with an 8.662/156.15 to claim victory over Wolkwitz, who spun the tires and slowed to a 10.110/97.63.

“It’s incredible. I just couldn’t imagine it,” said Daniels of his win, which came in his first race action in almost a year. “It’s unbelievable. There’s so much that goes into this, it’s insane. We put so much into this. The first qualifying run was my first pass (since the NHRA Dutch Classic last October). The car and I just get along. It’s cool, to be able to have us both (teammate Wolkwitz) here, and qualify one and two.”

An FS/XX First!

The Mopar brand also earned a very nice title within the now also marquee Sam-Tech Presented Factory Stock Showdown event.

In that race (which attracted 27 entries) it was (also Top Fuel racer) Leah Pritchett who headed to victory lane behind the wheel of her DSR-presented Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.

Star lady racer Leah Pritchett smoked the competition within the Sam-Tech Factory Stock Showdown event.

For Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) the win was the 16th at the famed Indianapolis venue, and 330th overall, and it came as DSR celebrated a milestone 20th anniversary at the team’s hometown event.

Complete domination best describes the performance by Pritchett and her Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak team while she won for the first time in her career in the FS/XX category.

Pritchett ran low E.T. of every single qualifying and elimination round during the race weekend, including resetting the FSXX E.T. and speed records with an 8.002 second at 172.56 mph run to claim her second career pole in the class.

Pritchett kept the hammer down, posting an 8.111 second at 170.04 mph pass in the opening round of eliminations to defeat Aaron Stanfield, a run of 8.077 at 170.73 to take out Kevin Skinner and an 8.119 at 169.74 mark in the semifinals to chase down Stephen Bell. In the all-DSR Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak final, Pritchett powered past teammate Mark Pawuk on an 8.108 at 170.26 mph pass to claim her first Factory Stock win in her first final-round appearance in the class.

“That’s what we call a picture-perfect weekend over here on the left side of the racetrack,” said Pritchett, a resident of nearby Avon, Indiana.

The Lucas Oil Lowdown 

Josh Hart and Sean Bellemeur scored highlight Lucas Oil Drag Racing series wins in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

Hart faced off against Dan Page with Page taking the early lead, but Hart had the power posting a 5.271 second, 274.89 mph lap for the Top Alcohol Dragster win. Page clocked in at 5.460 at 261.62 in his runner-up finish.

Bellemeur qualified number two and would match up with No. 1 qualifier Chris Marshall in the Funny Car final. Bellemeur grabbed a big lead with a stellar .018 second reaction time, then stopped the clocks at 5.821, 257.09 for the win as Marshall slowed in his efforts to chase Bellemeur down.

Josh Hart rode his injected nitro car to victory in the Lucas Oil TAD class category.

Driving for the Bartone Brothers — Sean Bellemeur raced the Hussey-sponsored Chevy Camaro to the TAFC title,

On the starting line for the Competition Eliminator championship was David Rampy versus Greg Kamplain. Rampy had a great pass of 7.386 seconds at 154.25 mph. Kamplain was quick on the light and made Rampy the first driver to win in Comp Eliminator at Indy four times.

Ohio’s Joe Hessling prevailed over a huge and uber competitive Super Comp (8.90) class field.

Dennis Steward earned a popular win in Super Stock racing this classic and high flying ’64 Savoy.

Dennis Steward claimed victory this weekend In Super Stock. Steward worked his way through the field racing his classic ’64 Savoy and ran 10.411 seconds at 100.76 mph in his final round victory over Dale Hultquist, who turned on the red at the starting line.

Also taking home the wins this weekend at the Big Go US Nationals were; T.C. Morris in Stock Eliminator; Joe Hessling in Super Comp and Devin Isenhower in Super Gas.

Defending world champion David Rampy scored yet again in Competition eliminator. It was his 5th win at Indy (4th in Comp) and the 98th national title of his NHRA career.

Devin Eisenhower prevailed over a huge field in Super Gas with his topless Camaro

Editor’s Note:  To view DragRaceCanada’s extensive event photo gallery from the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals – click: HERE

Posted with files by Bruce Biegler, NHRA Communications and Darren Jacobs.

All photos by Bruce Biegler, Dave DeAngelis & Brennan Shortall