Indy Marathon Finally Ends   

Drag racing’s biggest and most important event of the season had a truly rough go in 2012 after the residue effects of Hurricane Issac forced rescheduling of Indianapolis’ fabled NHRA Mac Tool U.S. Nationals….

On September 9th, some six days later then expected, Tony Schumacher raced to a record ninth Top Fuel victory for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway.  Mike Neff (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the final regular season event in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.  

Schumacher moved past “Big Daddy” Don Garlits for most Indy Top Fuel wins and into a tie with Pro Stock great Bob Glidden for most pro category wins at the world’s most prestigious drag race. In the final round, Schumacher powered his U.S. Army dragster to a 3.806 at 315.34 to hold off Spencer Massey, who trailed with a 3.828 at 319.37 in his FRAM/Prestone dragster.

Tony Schumacher won a record 9th NHRA U.S. Nationals Top Fuel title

“It may be sweeter [than the first Indy win],” said Schumacher of his second victory of the season and 69th of his career. “Anymore, it’s more difficult to win a race, by far, than it has probably ever been. There was a time where we were a tenth ahead of everybody and just needed to not make any mistakes, but the top seven cars are all so close that it’s pretty gratifying.”

Schumacher beat Hillary Will, Morgan Lucas and top qualifier Shawn Langdon in early rounds to advance to his 11th career U.S. Nationals final round.

“To have a chance to win a ninth against my teammate who was running as good if not better and had lane choice made it a perfect moment,” Schumacher said. “I didn’t feel like I was stellar on the lights, but I left on everybody, Mike Green [crew chief] made the car run fast, and we got the trophy.”

Another Don Schumacher Racing driver, Antron Brown, secured the top seed in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship and Bob Vandergriff Jr. held off Clay Millican and Khalid alBalooshi for the 10th and final playoff spot in Top Fuel.

In Funny Car, Neff raced to his second consecutive victory at this event, holding off hard-charging Tim Wilkerson in the final round. The win keeps John Force Racing’s domination going at Indy, as it is the fifth consecutive season that a JFR car has won this event.

Mike “Zippy” Neff roared to victory in Fuel FC in the JFR Castrol GTX Mustang

“This is the U.S. Nationals, and there’s something about it,” said Neff, who outran Tony Pedregon, Todd Lesenko and defending world champ Matt Hagan to advance to the final round. “You know there’s a lot more at stake. You try to tell yourself that it’s just another race, but it’s not. You can’t deny that. It’s amazing to me how close everything was to what I went through last year. I didn’t qualify real well last year but felt like we were pretty close. I remember getting up on Monday morning last year just not feeling very good. I was talking to my brother last year, saying, ‘I dunno. We’re really going to have to pull something out of a hat here to do something today.’ We were able to do it both times.”

Neff took his third win of the season and ninth of his career by powering his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a final-round performance of 4.079 at 311.05 to finish in front of Wilkerson’s Levi Ray & Shoup Shelby Mustang, which finished in 4.152 at 286.13.

“Tim Wilkerson left on me, and I caught a glimpse of him out of my peripheral at 300-400 feet,” Neff said. “When you can see someone in a Funny Car, they’re ahead of you. Just when I saw him poke his nose out there, I could see him mixing cylinders. He started going back the other way, and I knew the finish line was coming. I couldn’t have pushed any harder on that gas pedal. I didn’t even know we won when we crossed the finish line. I was asking, ‘Did we get him?” on the radio and didn’t hear anything, so I thought, ‘Crap. We must’ve got beat.’ As they’re pushing me off, the guy at the very end was clapping and pointing toward the TV cameras. I knew it was close and didn’t know if I got there first, so there was a lot of emotion going on there.”

Wilkerson’s runner-up finish elevated him to 10th in the final regular season points and into the Countdown playoffs, along with Jeff Arend, who secured the ninth spot. Defending world champ Matt Hagan just missed making the playoffs as he lost in the semifinals to Neff. Ron Capps earned the top seed in the playoffs in Funny Car.


Canada’s Todd Lesenko provided the event’s most harrowing moments – this violent top end explosion was one of two incidents suffered.

Connolly used a reaction time advantage to edge teammate Erica Enders in the Pro Stock final round. Enders’ full-time crew chief covered the distance in 6.589 at 210.05 in his IDG Chevy Cobalt to finish just in front of Enders, who posted a quicker but losing 6.580 at 210.31 in her GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt.

“It was definitely bittersweet in the final, to run Erica,” Connolly said. “I hope she wins the next six finals, but this was the U.S. Nationals, and there was no laying over. We just somehow, and don’t ask me how, we managed to win. We were making pretty ugly runs, and her car was like a bracket car. Our car was not picture perfect by any means, but I’m not giving the trophy back.”

Dave Connolly used some very slick driving to win his 3rd career Indy title in Pro Stock

It was Connolly’s third U.S. Nationals win and the 23rd of his career. The former perennial world championship challenger who is Enders’ full-time tuner is running a limited schedule this season in a second Victor Cagnazzi-owned machine. Enders, who has won three races this season, was trying to become only the fourth female driver to win the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in the Full Throttle Series.

“I was swinging for the fence because I knew I didn’t stand a chance,” said Connolly, who beat Mike Edwards, Ron Krisher and Vincent Nobile in earlier rounds. “She drives incredibly consistent; she’s hard to rattle. She had a .026 [reaction] in the final and that should have been enough for sure. I can’t explain what happened to her. I feel for her. You know, like I said, there was no reason why she shouldn’t have run a 6.55 again and turned on the win light.”

Erica Enders continued her hot hand in Pro Stock setting low ET of the event and losing by only a hair width in the final.

Allen Johnson captured the top seed in Pro Stock for the Countdown playoffs and the final three Pro Stock playoff positions were claimed by V. Gaines, Larry Morgan and four-time world champ Jeg Coughlin.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines earned his first Indy victory by outrunning Hector Arana Sr. in the final round. Hines rode his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.937 at 191.70 to take the easy win as Arana’s Lucas Oil Buell slowed at mid-track and finished in 7.456 at 157.54. It was Hines’ fourth win of the season and 29th of his career.

Hines used a string of consistently low 6.90-second runs to defeat Dawn Minturn, Karen Stoffer and Hector Arana Jr. in the first three rounds.

The PSB final sent to Andrew Hines (near lane) over Hector Arana Sr.

“This is really satisfying,” Hines said. “Minus one year, I’ve raced every year on a Harley. And for us to struggle like we’ve done here, with inconsistency in tuning and riding, and every scenario possible going against us, like last year when my transmission locked up after the first round burnout, to finally get the Indy win and stand in the U.S. Nationals winner’s circle is something I can look back on years from now. I had found the winner’s circle four times here with the Pro Bike battle, and to actually stand there with the U.S. Nationals trophy means the world to me.”

With the win, the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team claimed victories in all 10 regular season events and Krawiec locked up the top seed for the playoffs. Michael Ray, Shawn Gann and Matt Smith claimed the final three playoff positions in the PSM top 10.

“We remained undefeated in the regular season, so [teammate Eddie Krawiec] and I intend to extend our streak,” Hines said. “Charlotte and Dallas are two tracks that I’ve never won at, so those are the last two on my list there. It’s a whole new deal now with the Countdown. Luckily I just made up a whole bunch of points on [first place] Eddie, but that doesn’t matter because they all get reset. He’s 30 in front of me, we’ve got six races to go, and luckily my motorcycle finally turned the corner and we could have fun with it and tune it.”

Flooded pit areas were a big problem at Indy and ultimately contributed to the event’s one week deferral.

Event Essentials:  58th Mac Tools U.S. Nationals (Aug. 29-Sep 9th, 2012)  Indianapolis IN.

TOP FUEL Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Tony Schumacher 3.806 315.34 69th
R/UP: Spencer Massey 3.828 319.37  
Low ET: Shawn Langdon 3.740    
Top Speed: Tony Schumacher   326.79  
Bump Spot:   3.900    
FUNNY CAR       Career Win
Winner: Mike Neff 4.079 311.05 9th
R/UP: Tim Wilkerson 4.152 286.13  
Low ET: Courtney Force 4.049    
Top Speed: Courtney Force   317.27  
Bump Spot:     4.194  
PRO STOCK       Career Win
Winner: Dave Connolly 6.589 210.05 23rd
R/UP: Erica Enders 6.580 210.31  
Low ET: Erica Enders 6.550    
Top Speed: Mike Edwards   211.13  
Bump Spot:   6.622    
PRO STOCK BIKE       Career Win
Winner: Andrew Hines 6.937 191.70 29th
R/UP: Hector Arana 7.456 157.54  
Low ET: Andrew Hines 6.861    
Top Speed: Eddie Krawiec   195.28  
Bump Spot:   7.044    
Pro Mod Pro Care RX        
Winner: Brad Brand 5.914 251.83 2nd
R/UP: Mike Castellana 12.76  83.97  
Low ET: Don Walsh 5.854    
Top Speed: Troy Coughlin   256.21  
Bump Spot:   8.940    
LUCAS OIL        
Sportsman Winners:        
TA Dragster Duane Shields 5.439 267.91  
TA Funny Car Chris Foster 5.548 258.96  
Competition Greg Kamplain 6.882 190.24  
Super Stock Lynn Ellison 9.791 127.87  
Stock Mike Weifel 11.22 116.04  
Super Comp Tommy Phillips 8.905 173.18  
Super Gas Roger Weaver 9.903 138.02  


Sportsman Summary – Shields & Foster Score in TA

Duane Shields and Chris Foster led a list of first time winner’s for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis winning in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car respectively.

Shields, Boulder City, Nev., came out of the number 11 qualifying position and ran low 5.40’s (seconds) in the final three rounds of eliminations to capture the elusive Indy trophy.  The win was Shield’s first at Indy and 18th overall as he took out No. 1 qualifier Sidnei Frigo who was coming off a win just a few days earlier from the rain delayed Heartland Park Topeka Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Regional event that was completed at Tri-State Raceway.  Shields clocked in at 5.439 seconds at 267.91 mph to Frigo’s tire smoking 5.852, 228.92.

The TAD final was all injected nitro cars with Duane Shields (far lane) topping Brazil’s Sidnei Frigo.

Foster grabbed his first NHRA National event win ever as he took out 15-time Lucas Oil National Champion Frank Manzo and Todd Veney on his way to a final round match up with former national champion Tony Bartone.  Foster led from stripe to stripe in his Ford Mustang as he got the hole-shot starting line advantage and never looked back covering the quarter-mile in 5.548, at 258.96 mph for his best run on the weekend.

Mike Welfel and local runner Roger Weaver joined the list of NHRA national event winners taking home trophies in Stock and Super Gas.  Welfel put his ’69 Camaro Stocker in the winner’s circle knocking out Joey Wilkes in 11.228 seconds while Weaver, Indianapolis, was near perfect running 9.903 on the 9.90 dial in his win over Jay Bunce.

Greg Kamplain from nearby Brownsburg, Ind., raced to a 6.882 second win in the Comp Eliminator class over Glen Treadwell and his ’23 roadster.  Kamplain used a .003 second reaction time for his first U.S. Nationals victory.

In one of the best final round match ups of the day, Tommy Phillips, Forney, Texas, defeated Gary Stinnett, Emporia, Kan., in Super Comp.  Both drivers had good reaction times as Phillips was slightly better and held on for the win in 8.905 seconds at 173.18 mph.

The final trophy went to Lynn Ellison out of Kentucky, with a win over Andy Kronenbitter, Millersport, Ohio, in Super Stock.  The win is Ellison’s 5th national. 

Lynn Ellison won in Super Stock driving this 2005 Pontiac Sunfire

Massey Cards Inaugural Traxxas Shootout 

Top Fuel driver Spencer Massey won the inaugural $100,000 NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout during on September 1st during the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.  

Massey set low E.T. of the weekend during the third qualifying session of the weekend, which also happened to be the second round of the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout, a special $100,000 bonus race within a race.

Spencer Massey collected $100 “large” on September 1st winning the Inaugural Traxxas TF Shootout

“For Traxxas to come into our sport and put up this much money and add these two bonus races is awesome,” Massey said. “I can’t believe that we won it. We’ve wanted to win it since we qualified when we won the season opener and it’s been a lot of pressure this week but it’s been awesome to be able to say we won the first Traxxas Nitro Shootout.”

Massey’s 3.762-second pass at 324.51 mph wasn’t only good enough to advance to the final round of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, it also gave him the provisional Top Fuel lead heading into Sunday.  Massey outran fellow Texas-native Steve Torrence in the final round of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout to earn the win.

“Torrence’s car has been running on a string all year long and I know he wanted to win this thing just as much as I did,” Massey said. “When I hit the throttle the car started moving and I knew I was on a good ride. Then I crossed the finish line and saw the win light and I couldn’t believe it. I’m so proud of my Prestone guys, they deserve this win.”

The Traxxas Shootout for Funny Cars, originally planned for Sep. 2nd at Indy, has been postponed to the event at Dallas and will take place there on Sep. 22nd during the AAA NHRA Fall Nationals event.

Posted by:  NHRA Communications & Eric Lotz

“Triple B” Defends Pro Care RX Pro Mod Title

Brad Brand completed one of the strangest journeys to the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals victory circle in the 58-year history of the event.

Brand started the rain-delayed event as the crew chief for the R2B2 Racing’s two turbo powered entries in the NHRA Pro Mod Series presented by ProCare Rx. When the rains pushed racing to a second weekend, driver/team owner Roger Burgess couldn’t make it back to resume the race.

Brad Brand scored for the 2nd in year a row at Indy for the ProCare RX Pro Mod team.

The figurative keys to the ProCare Rx Chevy Corvette were turned over to Brand with one opportunity to make the field.
“I really thought I’d be able to get down the track,” Brand said. “The air was so good yesterday that we had more power than we’ve had for this car all season. I missed it pretty bad.”
So bad, in fact, that Brand qualified No. 17 and initially didn’t make race. Luckily, some racers who were at Lucas Oil Raceway for the first weekend, couldn’t make it back for the second. Brand, as first alternate, got into the field as the No. 16 qualified car. 

“We got lucky,” Brand said. “I knew if we turned the power down, we’d still go fast.”   

Brand was fast enough to beat No. 1 qualifier Don Walsh in the first round on Sunday morning then followed it up with wins over Steve Matusek, Rickie Smith and finally Mike Castellana in the final.  

“I think it’s safe to say we made some good calls today,” Brand said. “Good calls, great team, no parts breakages. It’s a pretty nice feeling.

In the finals against Castellana, Brand made his second best pass of the day: a 5.914 second lap at 251.63 mph. Castellana shook the tires at about 100 feet and limped home with a pass of 12.763 seconds at 83.97 mph. 

The win marked the 2nd year in a row that the R2B2 Racing team won at Indy.   Eric Dillard was the defending 2011 event champion.

Posted by Rob Geiger  

Photos by:  Bruce Biegler & Steve Embling 

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