The magnitude of the 2020 Denso Spark Plugs US Nationals – expanded!

Summernationals Concluded — Funny Car driver Matt Hagan gave Don Schumacher Racing its 350th career win, beating teammate Jack Beckman in the final round of the rain-delayed Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals, which was completed during final qualifying of Saturday’s DENSO Spark Plugs U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

In other racing, rookie Justin Ashley earned his first career Top Fuel win by beating T.J. Zizzo also in the final round of the previously postponed Summernationals.

Hagan picked up his second win this season — both coming since the NHRA’s restart in July – and 35th overall, going 3.919-seconds at 328.54 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye in the final round to beat Beckman’s 3.940 at 325.53. It led to an emotional winner’s circle for Hagan, who helped DSR also claim its eighth straight Funny Car win.

Matt Hagan roared to a fuel FC victory in the Mopar Dodge SRT Hellcat Redeye car — for the rain deferred NHRA Lucas Oil Summernationals event.

“This is amazing and what a huge milestone to get for Don,” Hagan said. “I was probably as nervous as I am running for a championship because you want to get it done for Mopar. This car is running so well and (crew chief) Dickie Venables has put a great car underneath me. I’m just trying to do my job on the starting line. Don has been a big part of my career and to get a Wally on a Saturday, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

In a battle of first-time Top Fuel finalists, Ashley went 3.958 at 267.96 in his 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster, knocking off Zizzo to become the NHRA’s 109th different Top Fuel winner. The matchup was also the first time since 1997 that two first-time finalists met in the championship round, and Ashley led from start to finish to secure the win.

Justin Ashley became NHRA’s newest Top Fuel class winner during the Lucas Oil Summernationals concluding round.

“I’m going to have to hold back tears because this is a dream come true for me,” Ashley said. “To be here means the world to me. Truthfully, it’s not about me, but all the guys on this team and all the partners that have supported us to help get us to this point. Make no mistake, this trophy is for my dad (Mike Ashley) and we’re coming home with the win.”

A First Factory Finish — NHRA’s creative FS/XX class cars were in full flight at Indianapolis while staging their second eliminator of the season for the Sam-Tech School of Automotive Machinists Factory Stock Showdown.

A great field of cars (24 entries) boiled down to a final round showdown between the top two qualified cars — Aaron Stanfield’s ’20 Camaro and Mark Pawuk’s Dodge Challenger.

Aaron Stanfield was the quickest FS/XX car at Indy and he parlayed that to victory in the Factory Stock Showdown feature.

That finale produced a first time FSS winner with Stanfield (who is son to legendary engine builder and racer Greg Stanfield) taking the stripe fyi a convincing 7.918 secs 172.98 mph to 7.970 secs 172.83 mph margin.

Aaron, who is from Louisiana had qualified #1 in the Camaro (7.874 secs) which stood as low ET of the event. He also beat the Chevy Camaro cars raced by Arthur Kohn, Waldemar Rodriquez and Jesse Alexandra during earlier round competition. The event victory was his first in FS/XX but his 6th career overall in NHRA Sportsman racing.

High HP Tradition — The 2020 edition of the Dodge HEMI® Challenge crowned a new king during Friday’s event schedule at Indy.

Featuring exclusively dedicated Super Stock/A-HEMI (SS/AH) 1968-model Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda — this year’s classic saw No.1 qualifier Stephen Yantus battle to become the first new winner in five years.

Yantus, who earned the No. 1 qualifier position aboard his ‘68 HEMI-powered Plymouth Barracuda with an 8.477 second, 158.50 mph pass, put together a string of quick and consistent elapsed time laps at 8.412, 8.452 and 8.413 seconds through eliminations with a solo run and wins over Russ Campbell and past winner Bucky Hess (2001).

Stephen Yantus (far lane) beat Steve Comella in the 2020 Dodge HEMI Challenge final round.

He advanced to his first Dodge HEMI Challenge final round showdown to face Steve Comella who had qualified 15th but made his way to his first final as well with wins over Jim Pancake, Gary Wolkwitz, and Steve Kent.

In the all-Cuda final round, Yantus beat Comella off the start with a 0.030 to 0.062-second reaction time and led the way to his quickest run of the weekend; an 8.410 second pass at 158.28 mph. With the win, Yantus earned his first coveted 42.6 lbs. Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy uniquely-crafted with a 426 HEMI cylinder head along with a $15,000 award.

“We kept on plugging away, kept on chugging, and my whole team, my owner of the car, (engine builder and past winner) Charlie Westcott and Militia Racing Products built me the baddest bullet on the face of the planet,” said Yantas.

His victory did end the four-year reign of Jimmy Daniel who had qualified No.2 in his 1968 Dodge Dart amongst the 15-car field of contenders. Daniel suffered his first-ever defeat since taking the wheel from his father Jim Daniel Sr. in 2016 against Jim Teuton in the first round of eliminations with an 8.60 sec. to 8.58 loss.

Prior to the final round, guest of honor and legendary Mopar racer, Herb “Mr. 4 Speed” McCandless, led the parade of Darts and Barracudas that participated in this year’s Dodge HEMI Challenge down Indy’s fabled return road aboard his own original 1968 Super Stock HEMI Dart in celebration of the classic muscle cars that contributed to Mopar and Dodge brands’ legendary reputation and success at the drag strip.

Allstars Accolades — Due to the pandemic — the 2020 version of the highly respected Jegs Allstars race was relocated from Chicago to Indy for this season and was also part of Friday’s event racing schedule.

For the third time in the last six seasons, the team from NHRA’s West Central Division (Division 5) captured the overall points title at this 36th JEGS Allstars edition.

The victorious team, which shared a $20,000 bonus from JEGS Mail Order, got wins from Trevor Larson (Super Comp), Kris Thies (Super Street), and Allen Firestone (Top Sportsman), to help accumulate 1,300 points, outscoring the competition from the Division 4 team by 300 points. Division 2 tallied 800 points to finish third.

The alcohol title was clinched by the Eastern Region after Jackie Fricke drove to the Top Alcohol Dragster title and Dan Pomponio earned a runner-up finish in Top Alcohol Funny Car.

Larson, who has the distinction of being the only driver to double-up at the JEGS Allstars race, defeated Division 4 racer Christopher Dodd in what was easily the most memorable final round of the day. On the starting line, Dodd was perfect with a .000 reaction time but his advantage was almost nil since Larson had an equally-competitive .001 light. Larson won with an 8.909 run after Dodd broke out with an 8.873.

Thies chipped in with three round wins of his own in Super Street after topping Division 2 racer Kevin MacNicol in a double-breakout final, 10.877 to 10.874. Thies was also stellar on the starting line with two near-perfect reaction times in his three round wins.

Firestone, who already has two divisional victories this year, added the JEGS Allstars title when he slipped past defending JEGS Allstars champion Kynon Dinkel in the Top Sportsman final. Firestone also turned in an impressive performance with a 6.561 on his 6.56 dial-in.

The Division 4 team made a strong run at what would have been a record ninth overall championship with strong performances by Comp winner Craig Bourgeois, and Stock star Slate Cummings. Bourgeois, a past national champion in his front-engine Nostalgia Dragster, won after reigning world champion Frank Aragona Jr. red-lighted in the final.

Cummings continued his run of exceptional performances at the JEGS Allstars race with his fifth title. Cummings won in Stock Eliminator after his opponent, Division 5 racer Tyler Wudarczyk, encountered a problem on the starting line and received a foul start.

After just missing out on the Super Stock world championship last year, Division 7 racer Kyle Rizzoli visited the winner’s circle in Indy by beating Division 2’s Mike Crutchfield in the final. Rizzoli drove his Jim Whiteley-owned Camaro to a 9.47 on his 9.45 prediction for the win after Crutchfield broke out.

The Super Gas title went to reigning world champ Jeremy Mason of the Division 3 team. Mason got the win light when opponent Vernon Rowland red-lighted. Rowland was one of several drivers to qualify for the Allstars in two classes, racing in Super Comp and Super Gas.

Cody Webber picked up the Top Dragster victory over Division 5 racer Victoria Johnson on the strength of a .006 light and a 6.38 on his 6.36 dial. Johnson, a past winner of the Mile-High Nationals in Denver, broke out with a 6.56 on her 6.59 dial.

Fricke drove to the Top Alcohol Dragster title by beating Randy Meyer Racing teammates Rachel Meyer and Julie Nataas on the way to the final, where she finished the job with a 5.299 to 5.406 win in a battle against Josh Hart, her East Region teammate. Representing the North Central Region, Ray Drew won his second consecutive JEGS Allstars crown when he stopped Dan Pomponio, 5.500 to 5.591.

The Jegs Allstars TAD title was captured by skilled female driver Jackie Fricke.

Posted with files by NHRA Communications, Rob Geiger, Pat Caporali and Bruce Biegler

Photos by Dave DeAngelis

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