Drag racing’s single most prestigious world wide annual event went into the history books at Indianapolis last weekend….
DSR team racer Jack Beckman continued his torrid season pace by completing a sweep of the weekend’s very lucrative Funny Car programs during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the world’s most prestigious drag race and the final NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event of the regular season.
Jack Beckman capped off a dream weekend by bringing home a victory in the event every drag racer wants to win, racing his Mopar-powered 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to a Labor Day triumph at the 61st annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Beckman set both ends of the track record at Lucas Oil Raceway on Saturday, banked $100,000 in the Traxxas Funny Car Shootout bonus event on Sunday and doubled up with a win on Monday at the historic race nicknamed the “Big Go.”
The victory was the first for Beckman at Indy in three final appearances, his sixth of the season and 21st of his career in 42 final rounds. It also marks the first NHRA U.S. Nationals win for a Mopar-powered machine in the NHRA Funny Car class since Mike Ashley scored the 2007 victory in a Dodge.
The new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car body ends the regular season with 14 wins in 18 events, and final round appearances in all but one race. Beckman heads into the six-race NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” playoffs, which begin in two weeks near Charlotte, holding a 30-point edge over the No. 2 spot, held by Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Matt Hagan, and 40-point spread over yet another Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar Dodge driver, Tommy Johnson Jr.
Driving his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T, Beckman started from the U.S. Nationals pole after setting both ends of the track record with a 3.936-second elapsed time at 323.74 mph, earning his fourth consecutive No. 1 of the year and first-ever at the “Big Go.” He had the quickest car in the first round, using a 4.047-second elapsed time at 302.55 mph under hot, humid track conditions to eliminate No. 16 qualifier Bob Bode.
It was an all-Mopar Dodge matchup in the quarterfinals, with Beckman pitted against his DSR teammate, Ron Capps. The two Mopar drivers had nearly identical reaction times (Beckman’s .060 to Capps’ .062), but Beckman pulled away with a 4.057/311.41 (once again quickest of the round), and soon after Capps slowed to a 4.516/219.54.
In the semis, Beckman (4.058/307.72) took out Del Worsham (4.189/299.20), setting up a classic DSR vs. JFR fight against Robert Hight. Entering the final round, Beckman was 12-0 against JFR cars in 2015, but his previous two final round appearances at the U.S. Nationals had ended in runner-up finishes to Robert Hight.
Given a third opportunity, Beckman wasn’t about to let his chance at a first U.S. Nationals victory slip away. The DSR veteran proved it takes both driver and machine to win races, notching a holeshot win with a faster .034 reaction time to Hight’s slower .063 mark, which provided his 4.058/310.77 effort enough advantage to hold off Hight’s quicker 4.045/309.77 by about eight feet at the finish line.
“I guess it’s about like getting to the top of Everest” said Beckman of his first U.S. Nationals event win “You really don’t get to celebrate until you get down, get back home and into a cozy area. I don’t know when it will sink in. A lot of times the problem is it’s hard to enjoy what just happened because you’re just worn out.
“Yesterday after Traxxas (the bonus event), I was trashed. It was a miserably hot day that ended up wonderful. Getting through today was the key. I think surviving this is an effort onto itself. I’m going to let that trophy sit on the shelf for a while so I can realize that we actually did it.
“When Jimmy (Prock) was let go last year (from his previous team) and Don (Schumacher) brought him on and put him on our car for the last two races, maybe in a greedy sort of way I started looking ahead,” said Beckman of his crew chief. “I knew what Jimmy was capable of doing and I felt like if we could just stay together on this, maybe we would be able to go win some races and do something like this.”
Lucas picked up his first U.S. Nationals victory with a final round performance of 3.864 at 319.90 in his Lucas Oil dragster to defeat Dave Connolly. The win was Lucas’ first of the season and 12th of his career. He defeated Leah Pritchett, teammate Richie Crampton and Brittany Force to reach the final. It is the second straight U.S. Nationals victory for Morgan Lucas Racing after Crampton’s win last season.
“Winning this race is absolutely massive, the biggest race win I’ve probably ever had in my life,” said Lucas, who won NHRA’s biggest race for the first time as a professional driver. “Obviously I want to live in this moment for a long time to come because you don’t know — you never know — when the next one is going to be. I’m so excited about my team, and to have my wife and my son here is just amazing, it really is.”
With parents Forrest and Charlotte Lucas, wife Katie, and son Hunter on hand, Lucas dispatched a tire-smoking Dave Connolly in the final round to secure his 12th career pro victory and his first of 2015.
“This is a special win,” Lucas said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t know how special this is. I’ve raced in Top Fuel, this is my 11th year of trying to do this, and I’m still not really good at it. To win this weekend, it’s amazing. I’m very blessed, very happy to be in this situation.”
Lucas endured a wild day, winning one round with the quickest elapsed time of the day, another on a holeshot, and another on a pedalfest.
He opened the day by beating Leah Pritchett with a pass of 3.787 seconds at 323.89 mph that ended up being low e.t. for race day. Pritchett made a good run, too, 3.816 at 320.05 mph, but was no match for Lucas.
That put him against Richie Crampton, who had already secured third place in the Top Fuel points standings. The Morgan Lucas Racing teammates battled heads-up, with Lucas winning with a reaction time of .063-second and a pass of 3.902 seconds at 297.42 mph. Crampton’s quicker 3.899-second pass at 302.62 mph wasn’t enough.
Then in the semifinals against Brittany Force, both drivers lost traction almost immediately, but Lucas was somehow able to recover and guide a sideways race car down the track to win with a run of 6.181 at 169.08 mph, beating Force’s 7.770-second pass at 110.74 mph.
“I honestly don’t know what was going on but that definitely was channeling my inner drifting,” Lucas said of the race against Force. “I’m going to have to try to get Toyota to get that on video.”
Against Connolly, Lucas made a terrific pass of 3.864 seconds at 319.60 mph while Connolly slowed to 6.235 seconds at 83.47 mph.
“Every time you win a race something special happens,” Lucas said. “You have a memory from it that’s crazy and different. This one, what was so crazy different was the fact that I feel like no matter when one of us screwed up — in a sense of something didn’t happen the way it should — the other side of the team was there to help each other out.
“It was a really big team effort this weekend. I hate that we had to race Richie second round but last year he won it, so I guess it was my turn. He’s been a great teammate. He’s so supportive. I am so blessed to be up here and I’m just excited.”
In Pro Stock, Enders claimed her first career Indianapolis victory and sixth win of the season in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro, defeating teammate Drew Skillman in the final on a holeshot with a 6.611 at 209.75 to Skillman’s quicker, but losing 6.606 at 209.98. Enders now has 18 career victories, which ties her for second on the all-time wins list by women in Mello Yello Series competition with the legendary Shirley Muldowney.
Enders used holeshot starts to win three of her four rounds during the day and she sped past V Gaines, Larry Morgan and Greg Anderson in the first three rounds.
“This is something I’ve dreamt about and worked for my entire life,” said Enders, who will enter the Countdown as the No. 1 seed for the first time. “I made my first pass at this track in a junior dragster when I was nine in 1994. I’ve had lots of really great memories here. It makes it worth it to be able to do it with the right people.”
Rookie driver Skillman was seeking his first win in Pro Stock after two previous runner-up finishes. Despite the loss, Skillman and his Ray Skillman Racing Chevy Camaro will be ready for the Countdown, where they are the No. 8 seed.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Savoie took home his second victory of the season with a 7.011 at 193.02 on his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki, beating No. 1 qualifier Chip Ellis who fouled out at the start on his PiranaZ/Pippin Motorsports Buell. The win was Savoie’s third career victory and his first at Indianapolis. He was the runner-up here in 2011 and 2014. He defeated Chaz Kennedy, Steve Johnson and Hector Arana Jr. to advance to the final.
“It’s a great day,” said Savoie, who will enter the Countdown as the No. 4 seed. “The last round was not the way we wanted to win but we held our composure. We had a good day and we’ve been blessed.”
Ellis was the No. 1 qualifier and was looking for his first win of the season. Despite the loss, Ellis was able to move around LE Tonglet and earn a Countdown spot.
Scotty Pollacheck secured the final Countdown spot when three-time world champ Angelle Sampey lost in the semifinals.
This is the second straight year that all four winners were first-time victors of the U.S. Nationals.
California’s Rick Snavely earned a major upset in Pro Mod. Competing in only his 2nd ever NHRA national event, he claimed his first career win during the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the seventh of 10 events on the Pro Mod schedule. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis was presented by JEGS.
Snavely sprinted to victory by powering his Turbos Direct ’69 Camaro to a 5.890-second pass at 257.53 mph to better Mike Janis’ 5.945 pass at 242.50 in his Jan-Cen Racing Engines Camaro.
“There are no words to explain it,” Snavely said. “Everybody just worked their butts off constantly. All the parts and pieces just came together. I’m still excited that I even came here. I’m sure it’ll set in but it’s unbelievable.”
Snavely, competing in only his second career NHRA Pro Mod race, sped past Bill Glidden, Steve Matusek and reigning and two-time world champion Rickie Smith in the earlier rounds. He entered eliminations as the No. 3 qualifier.
Janis, the current points leader, raced past Troy Coughlin, Michael Biehle II and No. 1 qualifier and 2011 Pro Mod world champion Khalid alBalooshi before meeting Snavely in the final.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Nearly 700 cars competed in the seven sportsman categories at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oils Raceway at Indianapolis. Joey Severance and Andy Bohl led the list of winners for the most prestigious race of the season with wins in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car respectively.
In the Top Alcohol Dragster final, Severance and Cameron Ferre paired up and have shown similar numbers with this round going to Severance. Severance ran 5.314 seconds at 271.90 mph in his final round victory over Ferre of Huntington Beach, Calif. Severance collected his ninth Wally trophy, and his first win at Indy. This is the third win this season for Severance.
Bohl faced off against Annie Whiteley, Grand Junction, Colo., and posted a winning run of 5.621 seconds, 258.17 mph in his ‘08 Mustang. Bohl had a big starting line advantage and held off Whiteley’s ‘15 Camaro as she started to run him down but she ran out of track. Bohl has one national event career win and one runner-up finish in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
Greg Kamplain from nearby Brownsburg, Ind., raced to a 6.845 second win in the Comp Eliminator class over Craig Bourgeois. Kamplain used a .002 second reaction time and made his best pass of the weekend to capture his second U.S. Nationals victory. Kamplain has four national event wins, with two in Comp Eliminator, including his win in Indy in 2012.
Jeff Roell, Danbury, Conn. joined the list of national event winners taking home his first trophy, in his first final round appearance. Roell took down Jimmy DeFrank, Thousand Oaks, Calif., in the Super Stock final with a .003 reaction time and maintained a perfect trip to the stripe.
Kyle Ratcliff put his’98 Firebird in the Stock Eliminator winner’s circle by knocking out Tom Rambo in his ’68 Camaro with a pass of 10.608 seconds at 120.55 mph. This was the second career win for Ratcliff in Stock Eliminator.
In one of the best final round match ups of the day, Luke Bogacki, Carterville, Ill., defeated Anthony Fetch, Colonia, N.J., in Super Comp. Bogacki got the starting line advantage and the easy win as Fetch slowed down the track. Bogacki has a career national event record of nine wins and four runner-ups. He has five Super Comp wins; his most recent at the 2015 Brainerd event.
Lee Klingensmith, Uniontown, Penn., capped off his day with his first national event win in a double breakout. Klingensmith had a 9.896 second lap at 158.33 mph for the win in Super Gas over Francis Chick, Milford, N.H. who went 9.882 seconds at 165.60 mph.
Posted with files from Pat Caporali, Rob Geiger, Mandi Ramirez, Bruce Biegler & NHRA Communications
Photos by: Bruce Biegler & Steve Embling
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