Records were shattered and highlights were numerous during the world’s largest annual drag racing event…

Just one month after picking up his 150th career NHRA win, 16-time Funny Car world champion John Force raced to his fifth career victory at Indy, winning the prestigious 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals held at Lucas Oil Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won in their respective categories at the final regular-season race of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. It is the 18th of 24 events in 2019.

Force tied Ed “Ace” McCulloch for the most Funny Car wins in Indy history, powering his PEAK Chevrolet Performance Accessories Chevrolet Camaro SS to a run of 3.919-seconds at 324.44 mph to beat Jack Beckman’s 3.940 at 325.92 in the final round. It is Force’s second win in 2019, 151st in his career and first at Indy since 2002. The legendary driver beat Jonnie Lindberg, points leader Robert Hight and Matt Hagan to reach his first Indy final in five years, capping it off with the impressive victory.

Drag racing’s “living legend” – John Force – was a highly popular winner in fuel Funny Car.

“Someday I’ve got to go out that door, and I said two things: It would sure be nice to win a championship and it would sure be nice to win Indy one more time,” Force said. “This race really meant a lot. I didn’t think I would ever get the chance again and I didn’t think I could be that good with the right team that supported me. Racing is what I love to do and I love it so much. Winning Indy, it’s the biggest thing on my bucket list. I never thought I would get the chance again no matter how good I was. This was a big moment for me.”

Beckman, the No. 1 qualifier, beat Justin Schriefer, Bob Tasca III and defending world champ J.R. Todd to reach his fourth final round in 2019 and 60th in his career. He will start the Countdown to the Championship in fourth. Force will start from the second position thanks to his memorable win in Indy, trailing only John Force Racing teammate Hight.

Making his 500th raceday start, the veteran Kalitta won for the first time in Indy and 46th time in his career thanks to his 4.144 at 212.43 in the final in his Mac Tools dragster to slip past Billy Torrence’s 4.220 at 206.01. It is Kalitta’s second win this season. He knocked off Clay Millican, No. 1 qualifier Brittany Force and Austin Prock to reach the finals, something he has done three previous times at Indy. In fact, he had the second-most career wins in NHRA history for a driver who had never won at Indy, but this time Kalitta pulled through, becoming the 30th different Top Fuel winner at the Big Go and also joining team owner Connie Kalitta as a U.S. Nationals winner.

“It’s incredible and I just can’t say enough for everyone working on my car today,” Kalitta said. “Having Connie (Kalitta) in our corner was awesome and what a day. It was kind of ugly out there in the final and I thought it was over, but the win light came on. It’s great to be able to win a race that Connie won as well, so that’s cool.”

Doug Kalitta won in Top Fuel during what was his 500th career race-day start!

Torrence beat Wayne Newby, Shawn Reed and Antron Brown to reach his fourth final round this season. His strong day also gave him his first Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship berth, as he will start the playoffs in 10th. His son, Steve, will start from the No. 1 position as he looks to defend his championship, but Monday belonged to Kalitta, who will start the Countdown to the Championship in second as he seeks his first world title.

“I can’t say enough about everybody on my team and how hard we worked to win this thing,” Kalitta said. “The track conditions were incredible this weekend and the fans here are awesome. It hasn’t quite settled in that I won this thing yet, but it’s awesome. We’re looking forward to (the Countdown to the Championship) and we’re going to give it our best.”

In Pro Stock, Laughlin won for the first time in 2019 and at the U.S. Nationals, beating Elite Motorsports teammate Erica Enders in the final round with a 6.648 at 207.43 in his Havoline Camaro. Laughlin picked up wins against Steve Graham, Val Smeland and Deric Kramer to reach the final round, chasing down Enders to become the 25th different driver to win in Pro Stock at Indy. It’s also Laughlin’s first win in the class in more than two years.

Alex Laughlin raced his Havoline sponsored Chevy Camaro to victory in Pro Stock.

“I just about choked up there, to be honest, but at the end of the day we got it done,” said Laughlin, who has three career Pro Stock wins. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never even made the Countdown before and we’ve just made huge strides. It’s been a breakout season and I’m at a loss for words.”

Enders went to her second straight final round and 49th in her career by beating Richard Freeman, Greg Anderson and Jason Line, slowing to a 6.773 at 206.80 in the final round against Laughlin. Smeland clinched the final spot in the playoffs, earning his first career berth in the Countdown to the Championship. Laughlin, who is seeking his first world title, will start from second, behind only Bo Butner, who has been the points leader for all 12 Pro Stock races thus far in 2019.

Louisana’s Jerry Savoie rode his Suzuki to victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Savoie claimed his second career win at Indy, going 6.851 at 195.25 in the final round on his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki to beat points leader Andrew Hines. It is Savoie’s 10th career victory and first this year. The veteran and former world champ beat Ryan Oehler, Joey Gladstone and Eddie Krawiec to reach the final round, earning the victory after Hines went red. It led to an emotional celebration on the top end, as Savoie enjoyed the first win for a Suzuki in 2019.

Hines beat Kelly Clontz, Scotty Pollacheck and defending world champ Matt Smith to earn his eighth final round appearance in 2019 and 94th in his career. He’ll start the Countdown to the Championship as the points leader, while Savoie, who entered the weekend in 10th, jumped all the way to fifth with his winning weekend.

“The Suzukis have been struggling, but we’ve been working and it paid off,” Savoie said. “I held my composure and we were able to make some good runs. When Andrew throws up a red light, you better thank God for it because that doesn’t happen very often. I didn’t know if I would ever win another one. It’s not easy. But we’re going to go for it and see what happens. It’s an honor to get this second one (at Indy).”

M/T Chase Concludes

NHRA’s popular M/T Tires and Wheels Top Fuel Harley Series for 2019 came to a dramatic conclusion at Indy — when that circuit had its final race of the season.

Competition did produce a first time winner when Randal Andras picked a truly perfect time to win his first ever NHRA national event.

Andras, who is from Louisiana – carded a final round 6.323 secs at 219.51 mph to defeat Tii Tharpe’s 6.421 secs at 214.38 mph. Andras, who had qualified #1 (setting both ends of the track record at 6.158 secs 227.50 mph) had defeated Andy Beauchemin and Doug Vancil in earlier rounds.

Randal Andras picked up his first career NHRA tally for Top Fuel Harley!

Despite losing in the final — Tii Tharpe did claim his second overall championship in the class. The title chase came down to the final day for the second straight year, and Tharpe again edged out Doug Vancil. Tharpe, who won three races in 2019, clinched when he went 6.398 at 219.33 in the semifinals on his Spevco/Jay Turner Racing Harley.

The storied event included the continuation of the NHRA’s E3 Spark Plugs Pro Modified series which ran off their 9th of 12 events for this season.

“Iron Mike” Strikes

Pro Mod veteran Mike Castellana scored his first career victory at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, slipping past Rickie Smith on a holeshot in the final round of E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service at Indianapolis.

The series was presented by Hot Wheels in Indy and marked the ninth of 12 races in 2019. For Castellana, it was his first Indy triumph after finishing as the runner-up two previous times.

Wily veteran Mike Castellana roared to victory in E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod racing.

Castellana went 5.758-seconds at 248.43 mph in the finals in his blown Al-Anabi Performance Camaro, beating Smith’s 5.747 at 250.83 by a mere 17 inches thanks to a better reaction time. It is Castellana’s second win in 2019 and 10th in his E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series career.

(For more details on Pro Mod class racing from Indy – visit our VP Racing Fuels Pro Mod Portal coverage – coming soon!)

Still Undefeated Challenge winner!

The U.S. Nationals highly popular Friday schedule included once again it institution — NHRA Dodge HEMI® Challenge.

Making history in the NHRA Dodge HEMI® Challenge isn’t something new for Jimmy Daniels, and the 23-year-old Pennsylvania native continued his undefeated streak at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis by driving his Super Stock 1968 Dodge Dart to a record fourth consecutive event victory.

Daniels, the event’s No. 1 qualifier, defeated Ohio’s Rich Locker in his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda with a run 8.576 seconds at 156.01 mph in the final round of the 19th running of the special event, annually part of the U.S. Nationals. The victory was the sixth time a driver piloted the 1968 Dodge Dart to victory in the event. Daniel’s father, Jimmy Daniels, Sr., won the event in 2010 and David Barton won driving the same machine in 2000.

For the 4th straight time — Jimmy Daniels Jr., won the prestigious annual Dodge Mopar HEMI® Challenge event.

“We had some tough battles to get this fourth win, including that semifinal,” admitted Daniels. “This HEMI Challenge is everything. We work all year for this. It means a lot for us. Special thanks to Dodge for continuing to support these cars and to the NHRA for allowing them to have the HEMI Challenge here in Indy.

“Ray and Dave Barton provide us with awesome horsepower. If it wasn’t for them, we would not be able to do this. I’m surrounded by my family here this weekend – my father, my mother, my girlfriend and my grandfather. This race is probably the coolest win of the four for me. Earlier this year, I lost my grandmother unexpectedly. We know she was watching over us tonight.”

Daniels’ quest for win number four began with a bye run as a result of his qualifying effort Thursday. His pass of 8.494 seconds was the best of the opening round and launched him into round two where he delivered another smooth lap of 8.512 to defeat Doug Fazzolare. His 17th consecutive round win at Indy came over 2017 HEMI Challenge runner-up Wendell Howes advancing Daniels to the semifinals where he faced a very game Jim Pancake in an all-Dodge Dart matchup. Pancake posted an impressive .017-second reaction time, but Daniels was able to power by and turn on the win light with a margin of victory being a mere 0.0027 seconds and approximately 7 inches.

In the final, Daniels grabbed the starting line advantage, but spun his tires just after the launch allowing Locker to grab the lead. Daniels’ gathered his machine under him and drove around Locker to secure the historic victory.

The Lucas Oil Lowdown

NHRA’s backbone Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series produced ferocious competition all weekend – featuring the cream du la cream and large entry lists for each of it’s elimination categories. Those final round results were:

Top Alcohol Dragster — Megan Meyer, 5.250, 270.64 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Foul – Red Light.

Top Alcohol Funny Car — Jay Payne, Chevy Camaro, 5.563, 264.86 def. Chris Marshall, Camaro, 5.565, 261.93.

Megan Meyer kept her 2019 NHRA Lucas Oil World title hopes alive with a big win in TAD.

Jay Payne won a US Nationals title for the 3rd time in his career when he scored in TAFC

Factory Stock Showdown — Bill Skillman, Ford Mustang, 7.888, 172.39 def. Arthur Kohn, Chevy Camaro, 7.918, 172.98.

Bill Skillman won over a highly competitive Factory Stock Showdown program in his Mustang.

Competition Eliminator — Frank Aragona, Bantam Roadster, 7.602, 174.01 def. David Billingsley, Chevy Camaro, 8.061, 165.44.

Defending NHRA World Champ Frank Aragona won in Comp.

Super Stock — Tyler Cassil, Chevy Camaro, 9.346, 138.67 def. Dave Dupps Jr., Chevy Cobalt, 8.342, 158.99.

Super Stock class racing produced a first time NHRA national event winner -Tyler Cassil – in his FSS/H COPO

Stock Eliminator — Austin Williams, Chevy Camaro, 11.058, 116.50 def. Matt Antrobius, Camaro, 11.043, 119.49.

Super Comp — Lynn Ellison, Dragster, 8.923, 171.79 def. Rock Haas, Dragster, 8.922, 168.49.

Lynn Ellison rolled to victory over a massive Super Comp (8.90 index) program.

Super Gas — Nathan Vrooman, Chevy Beretta, 9.919, 164.37 def. Steve Hoyt, Chevy Corvette, 9.920, 161.25.

Nathan Vrooman – racing his Chevy Beretta – won his third career national event title in the S/G 9.90 eliminator.

The 65th edition Chevrolet Performance US Nationals at Indy also included for the very first time competition in Top Sportsman and Top Dragster classes which was presented by Larry Demers and Rusty Baxter made history by winning in TS and TD respectively.

Larry Demers – who won the previous NHRA race at BIR two weeks prior – was again a winner in Top Sportsman.

Posted with files by NHRA Communications – Bill Klingbell and Bruce Biegler
Photos by Bruce Biegler & Steve Embling

Link to LMLCMedia’s extensive Chevrolet Performance US Nationals event photo gallery presentation : HERE