Drag racing’s single largest and most prestigious annual event exceeded expectations last weekend at Indianapolis!….
The Chevrolet Performance presented U.S. Nationals was an inspiring and record setting version on many fronts.
Tony Schumacher had an enormous weekend when his team sprinted to victory (X2) in Top Fuel and Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners in their respective categories at the 18th event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule. The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals was the final race of the regular season.
Schumacher claimed his 82nd career win when he powered his U.S. Army dragster to a 3.806-second pass at 317.64 mph to beat Steve Torrence’s 3.803 at 325.06 in his Capco Contractors / Torrence Racing dragster during the final round on Monday. The winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA Top Fuel history also became the winningest driver in Lucas Oil Raceway history by tallying his 10th career victory at the venerable track. Schumacher outran Tripp Tatum, reigning world champ Antron Brown and Sonoma, Calif., event winner J.R. Todd in the earlier rounds before facing Torrence.
“I didn’t see (Steve Torrence) for one second but I heard him,” said Schumacher. “It was a great final round, live on FOX and I had my chance to win my 10th at Indy. The fans got a close race. It’s been such a great career and it’s been so much fun. I’ve had great teams, one after another, and it’s a blessing to be a part of this and have a chance. I love my job and I love drag racing cars.”
Schumacher, who also won the Top Fuel portion of the lucrative NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout this weekend, will enter the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship six-race playoff as the No. 4 seed.
Torrence, competing in his sixth final round of the season, beat Bruce Litton, Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta in the earlier rounds. He is a three-time runner-up at Indianapolis and has two wins so far this season, which came at Pomona, Calif., and Englishtown, N.J. Torrence will enter the Countdown as the third seed.
Leah Pritchett, driver of the Papa John’s dragster, clinched the 10th and final spot in the Countdown to the Championship after Terry McMillen redlighted in the first round in his Amalie Motor Oil dragster. Pritchett, who also lost in the first round, had a one-point lead over McMillen entering eliminations.
Hagan pushed his Mopar / Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to a 3.964 at 327.43 to better reigning world champion Del Worsham’s 3.958 at 324.20 in his DHL / Mello Yello Toyota Camry. This is Hagan’s 21st career win and first at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. The two-time world champ has three wins so far this season and enters the playoffs as the third seed. Hagan sprinted past John Bojec, Robert Hight and Tommy Johnson Jr. en route to making his fifth final round appearance of the season.
“It’s incredible,” said Hagan. “This is something for the last nine years that I’ve been driving for Don Schumacher Racing we have been trying to accomplish and it’s not an easy task. I have the parts and pieces and people around me, especially (crew chief) Dickie Venables. I’m just proud to be a part of it. The fans got what they paid for today. I’m tickled to death to be up here right now. This is something that I’ve wanted to check off for a long time.”
Worsham, who won four of the six Countdown races last year en route to his first Funny Car world championship, beat Alexis DeJoria, Dave Richards and points leader Ron Capps in the earlier rounds. Worsham has one win this season and enters the Countdown in the No. 2 slot.
Alexis DeJoria, driver of the Tequila Patron Toyota Camry, clinched the final Funny Car spot when Chad Head lost to Capps in the second round.
In Pro Stock, McGaha tallied his first win in 2016 by racing his Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevy Camaro to a 6.688 at 207.15 to defeat Allen Johnson’s 6.715 at 207.09 in his Marathon Petroleum Dodge Dart. McGaha, who was the runner-up at Phoenix earlier this year, has four wins in his career. This was his first final round appearance at Indianapolis. The Texan will enter the Countdown as the No. 7 seed. He outlasted Matt Hartford, Curt Steinbach and two-time 2016 runner-up Vincent Nobile en route to the final round.
“We got to keep doing what we were doing today,” said McGaha about his chances of winning the championship. “If we keep doing what we were doing today, we’ll definitely have a shot. I botched a lot of runs along the way. We shouldn’t even be in seventh. Between tire shaking and making bad calls and flat getting our butt kicked, we should be a lot higher. It’s not impossible at this point. Just got to keep winning.”
Johnson, making his third final round appearance of the season, raced past Brainerd winner Drew Skillman, seven-time 2016 event winner Greg Anderson and Shane Gray in the earlier rounds.
Gray, McGaha, back-to-back world champ Erica Enders and five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin penciled their names into the final four Countdown to the Championship spots in Pro Stock.
Hines took over the Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead by riding his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.682 at 194.63 in the final round to beat Hector Arana Jr., who redlighted on his Lucas Oil Buell. He earned his 47th career win, fifth of the 2016 season and second at Lucas Oil Raceway with the effort. The winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle racer in NHRA history beat rookie Melissa Surber, alligator farmer Jerry Savoie and Sonoma winner LE Tonglet in the earlier rounds.
“I’ve had a good motorcycle as of late, but it hasn’t been qualifying well,” said Hines, a five-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. “I knew the potential of my Harley. I knew I had a bike that could go rounds and we just had to pick on it here and there. We’re getting closer to something that will work for us in the heat. We got to the final round and figured out the tune-up that needed to be in there. I’m happy I made my best run of the weekend in the final round.”
Arana Jr. made his first final round appearance of the season by riding past Michael Ray, Chip Ellis and rookie Cory Reed in the first three rounds. The 2011 Indianapolis winner will head into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed.
LE Tonglet, Chip Ellis, Hector Arana Sr., Matt Smith and Reed all clinched spots into the Countdown to the Championship.
Record Smashing Pro Mod Program
Von Smith raced to in the record setting NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis is presented by JEGS. This is the seventh of 10 Pro Mod events on the 2016 season.
Smith raced his supercharged Al-Anabi Racing Chevy Corvette to an 11.726-second pass at 73.67 mph to defeat Troy Coughlin, who red-lighted in his turbocharged model JEGS.com Chevy Corvette. Smith tallied his first victory of 2016 and seventh of his career. He outlasted Danny Rowe, 2011 champ Khalid alBalooshi and Doug Winters in the earlier rounds.
“My hat’s off to the whole crew because this car has been up and down for us all season,” said Smith, won the Pro Mod championship in 2010. “The best thing about everything is I didn’t know that I had won. I’m coasting down through there and not liking it, going ‘We almost did it, we’ll get another shot in a couple weeks.’ I come around the corner and the guy’s pointing me to the left and I’m like ‘What? Are you kidding me?’ I threw my hands up like ‘Did I win?’ He threw up the number one and I was like, ‘How about that. Praise the Lord.’”
Smith’s win came over the most ferocious field of Pro Mod cars ever assembled. No less then 33 cars made qualifying attempts for the 16-car field and they produced a record quick bump spot of 5.894 secs.
Runner-up Coughlin was the quickest of all the cars entered – pacing the field with a 5.773 secs to take the pole. Coughlin beat Steven Whiteley, Bob Rahaim and Billy Glidden in the earlier rounds before leaving the starting line early in the final. Coughlin, the reigning and two-time world champion, won earlier this year in Englishtown, N.J.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Multiple winners were crowned in the action packed Chevrolet Performance US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind. Champions were recognized in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car, as well as Comp Eliminator, Stock, Super Comp and the rest of the classes that encompass the nationwide series.
Fans in attendance were forced to the edge of their seats when the Top Alcohol Dragsters hit the starting line in the final round. Dan Page, Hampstead, N.H., and Shawn Cowie, Surrey, B.C., raced down to the wire. Page posted a victory run of 5.352 seconds, 270.32 mph edging out Cowie by a small margin, who made a runner up pass of 5.369 seconds, 270.27 mph.
However in the Top Alcohol Funny Car finale there was little discrepancy as to who the victor was. Jonnie Lindberg, Upplands Vasby, SWE ran to a resounding victory of 5.673, 263.00 defeating Annie Whiteley, Grand Junction, Colo., who suffered problems and could only watch Lindberg disappear down track.
In the Comp Eliminator final round Kevin Self, Caddo, Okla., ran 7.796, 168.58 defeating Jason Coan, Kokomo, Ind., 8.224, 158.52.
In the SAM Factory Stock Showdown there was another competitive match up. Chris Holbrook, Livonia Mich., and Stephen Bell, Shreveport, La., both battled through two grueling rounds to reach the finale. Holbrook ran 8.314, 163.00 defeating Bell, 8.442, 161.67 to grab the win in the final.
The other drivers visiting the winner’s circle were Ryan Haag in Super Stock; Jeff Lopez in Stock Eliminator, Gary Stinnett in Super Comp; and Tommy Phillips in Super Gas.
Posted with files by NHRA Communications & Bruce Biegler
All photos by Bruce Biegler & Brennan Shortall