Langdon Domination at U.S. Nationals

NHRA Top Fuel points leader Shawn Langdon had a career weekend with a remarkable double-win in Top Fuel during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis….

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the world’s most prestigious race, the 18th of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events. It is the last race in the NHRA’s regular season and sets the stage for the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs which begins Sept. 13-15 at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, N.C.

A day after winning the special $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout, Langdon earned another $100,000 payday after powering his 8,000-horsepower Al-Anabi Racing dragster to a run of 3.818 seconds at 320.97 mph to beat Steve Torrence in the championship round for the second straight day.

Langdon, who earned a class-best fifth victory of the season and sixth of his career, also beat Pat Dakin, Terry McMillen and Doug Kalitta to reach the final round.

Shawn Langdon was the class of the Top Fuel racing program at Indy - scoring two major wins.

Shawn Langdon was the class of the Top Fuel racing program at Indy – scoring two major wins.

“This is the biggest race of the year by far and this team just did a phenomenal job,” said Langdon of his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory. “With how special this event is and with the history behind the race, it was important for me to win this and I wanted it bad. This team has given me a great car and it’s a dream opportunity.”

Torrence and Bob Vandergriff secured the final two positions in the Countdown to the Championship. Everyone will start out chasing Langdon, who has plenty of momentum on his side as he is seeking his first Top Fuel world championship title.

“Having a car like this gives you confidence and now it’s up to me to perform,” Langdon said. “We have a chance to contend and being part of this team is a great feeling. We want to keep the momentum going and keep working hard.”

Hight broke a 35-race winless streak and claimed his 28th career victory and second at Indy by beating Jack Beckman in the final round. Hight went 4.111 at 312.64 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang to earn the victory over Traxxas Nitro Shootout winner Beckman’s Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger. The victory also gave John Force Racing its sixth consecutive Funny Car win at the tradition-rich Indy event.

Robert Hight broke a very long winless streak to win in Nitro Funny Car eliminator

Robert Hight broke a very long winless streak to win in Nitro Funny Car eliminator

“This is definitely the biggest win of my career,” Hight said. “We won four races in a row last year and then to go into that dry spell, you start wondering and doubting yourself, and that wears on you. (Crew chief) Mike Neff really changed things for me this weekend and this was the perfect time to get a win.”

A semifinal finish sent Tim Wilkerson into the Countdown to the Championship, and Del Worsham, who also fell in the semifinals, picked up a clutch second-round win against John Force to move him past Bob Tasca III into the No. 10 position. He will be one of nine drivers chasing points leader Matt Hagan when the Countdown to the Championship playoffs begin. That list includes Hight, who won the 2009 world championship.

“The competition in Funny Car just continues to get tougher,” Hight said. “We’re going to have to put together six good races and I think we’re going to have to win two of those six if we want to have a chance to win the championship.”

NHRA FC points leader Matt Hagan qualified #1 with a 4.007 secs and set top speed at 319.22 mph

NHRA FC points leader Matt Hagan qualified #1 with a 4.007 secs and set top speed at 319.22 mph

Pro Stock points leader Edwards earned his sixth season victory and 40th in his career by topping V Gaines on a holeshot in the final round to continue his banner season. Edwards posted a winning time of 6.637 at 208.39 in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro, using a quicker reaction time to beat Gaines, who went 6.62 at 208.78 in his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger. It was the second Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory for Edwards, who claimed his other Indy title 15 years ago in 1998.

“If you keep running well and keep giving yourself opportunities, that’s all you can ask for,” Edwards said. “It’s a tremendous feeling to win this race. That was some of the best racing in Pro Stock in a long time. It’s just anybody’s race out there and I’m just fortunate to get the win, especially doing it at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. It really feels good.”

Pro Stock points leader Mike Edwards won for the 6th time in 2013

Pro Stock points leader Mike Edwards won for the 6th time in 2013

Edwards went as quick as 6.613 en route to the victory, beating Chris McGaha, defending world champion Allen Johnson and six-time Indy winner Greg Anderson to reach the championship round. Edwards will start the Countdown in the top position after dominating much of the regular season.

“I’m ready to start the Countdown,” Edwards said. “It’s going to be a battle and a fight, and it’s going to come down to what drive can perform the best. But I feel like with my car and my team that we’re capable of winning, and it’s going to be fun.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, John Hall picked up his second win of the season by beating teammate Matt Smith in the final round. Hall rode his Viper Motorcycle Company Buell to a winning time of 7.034 at 188.38 to knock off Smith, who finished in 7.065 at 189.66 on his Viper Motorcycle Company Buell. Hall beat defending world champion Eddie Krawiec, Michael Ray and L.E. Tonglet to set up the memorable matchup with Smith.

John Hall rode his Viper MotoMotorsports bike to victory in PSM.

John Hall rode his Viper Motorcycle Company bike to victory in PSM.

Securing the final four Countdown positions on Monday were Eddie Krawiec, rookie Adam Arana, Tonglet, who advanced to the semifinals to move from 11th into the ninth position, and Shawn Gann. Hector Arana Jr., who has a class-best four wins, will start the Countdown from the No. 1 position, though Hall takes plenty of momentum into the final six races of the season.

“We just went for it and I was lucky enough to get the win,” Hall said. “It felt great to get that second Wally and this is huge for Viper Motorcycles. Everybody out there is tough and you have to be on top of your game to win one of these.”

Tops in Traxxas

Sunday’s racing action at Indy included the two most prestigious race-within-a-race features of the season as Traxxas hosted the Nitro Shootout events for the 2nd year in a row.

Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Jack Beckman (Funny Car) each raced to thrilling $100,000 victories in their respective categories.

Jack Beckman and Shawn Langdon each collected $100 "large" with Traxxas Nitro Shootout wins

Jack Beckman and Shawn Langdon each collected $100 “large” with Traxxas Nitro Shootout wins

Langdon won the rain-delayed Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Top Fuel, knocking off Steve Torrence in the final round.

Shawn ran a winning 3.821 secs at 320.05 mph to edge out Steve Torrence’s super close 3.828 secs at 323.04 mph for the win.

“This was eight of the best cars battling it out for $100,000 and to win it here at Indy, it’s just a great feeling,” Langdon said. “The only way you could top this is to win (Monday) and then win a world championship. The team is working hard, having a good team and the car is running excellent, so it’s all good vibes right now.”

Defending world champion Beckman won the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout prize in Funny Car with an explosive final round victory against Cruz Pedregon. Beckman used a holeshot start in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger and powered to a performance of 4.086 secs at 310.77 mph just before a spectacular engine explosion launched the body off Beckman’s car at the finish line. Beckman, who defeated Ron Capps and Courtney Force to reach the final round of the eight-car field, was uninjured and he talked about the magnitude of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout victory.

“It’s a fairly surreal experience and the fact that we haven’t won anything this year makes this win that much bigger,” said Beckman. “This just feels fantastic and truly is amazing. It’s one of those events that years from now you will always remember.”

Janis Wins Camaro PM Showdown

One of drag racing’s most popular and skilled Pro Mod racers Mike Janis won a very spirited Pro Mod eliminator title.

It was the second career win in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Series for the Western New York based racer. o

Janis’s first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win came when he powered his Valvoline Chevy Camaro past points leader Rickie Smith in the final round, denying Smith of his third straight victory in the series. Janis posted a winning run of 5.952 seconds at 241.41 mph in his supercharger-powered Camaro, topping Smith’s 5.955 at 241.37 in his nitrous-injected IDG Racing Camaro in the championship round.

Pro Mod veteran Mike Janis earned his biggest career win ever/

Pro Mod veteran Mike Janis earned his biggest career win ever/

Smith, who was also the No. 1 qualifier, maintained the points lead in the class, though Janis jumped from sixth to the third position with the winning performance.

Janis’ road to victory started with a round-best 5.976 at 241.15 in a first-round win against Jimmy Widener. He followed that up by going 5.976 at 242.23 to beat Kenny Lang and advanced to the final round by powering past Kevin Rivenbark with a 5.999 at 241.54.

Mike’s victory came over a large field of cars entered (24) which featured a 6.123 secs bump spot.

NHRA Indy - 001

Event Essentials:  59th Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Aug. 28-Sep. 2nd, 2013  

TOP FUEL Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Shawn Langdon 3.818 320.97 6th
R/UP: Steve Torrence 3.907 309.63  
Low ET: Steve Torrence 3.775    
Top Speed: Steve Torrence   328.38  
Bump Spot:   3.878    
FUNNY CAR Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Robert Hight 4.111 312.64 28th
R/UP: Jack Beckman 6.072 111.46  
Low ET: Matt Hagan 4.007    
Top Speed: Matt Hagan   319.22  
Bump Spot:   4.138    
PRO STOCK Name ET MPH Career Win
Winner: Mike Edwards 6.637 208.39 40th
R/UP: V. Gaines 6.620 208.78  
Low ET: Mike Edwards 6.613    
Top Speed: V. Gaines   208.78  
Bump Spot:   6.706    
Winner: John Hall 7.034 188.38  
R/UP: Matt Smith 7.065 189.66  
Low ET: Hector Arana 6.938    
Top Speed: Hector Arana    194.16  
Bump Spot:   7.025    
Winner: Mike Janis 5.952 241.41  2nd
R/UP: Rickie Smith 5.955 241.37  
Low ET: Rickie Smith 5.948    
Top Speed: Troy Coughlin   247.02  
Bump Spot:   6.123    
LUCAS OIL        
Sportsman Winners: Name ET MPH  
TA Dragster Jim Whitely 5.353 268.81  
TA Funny Car Frank Manzo 5.562 261.27  
Competition Jason Coan 8.160 157.15  
Super Stock Todd Frantz 8.832 152.66  
Stock Bo Butner 9.675 133.95  
Super Comp Frank Kohutek 8.902 165.92  
Super Gas Phillip Smida II 9.900 139.79   


Reigning Champs Prevail

Reigning NHRA Lucas Oil Series national champions Jim Whiteley and Frank Manzo ruled the most prestigious race of any season, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Whiteley in Top Alcohol Dragster and Manzo in Top Alcohol Funny Car.

In the Top Alcohol Dragster final, Whiteley beat Chris Demke, the number two driver in the nation behind him last season, the number two driver behind him in points this season, and No. 1 qualifier for this race, 5.35 to 5.37. “That was a lot of pressure,” Whiteley said. “Winning Indy is something I really wanted to get done before I stop racing in Alcohol Dragster, and points-wise, this is just huge.” With the final-round victory, he passed Demke to take the lead in the national championship by less than one round, 668 points to 649.

“I really wanted that one,” Demke said. “The first time this team came back here, in 1998, when Darren Nicholson was driving and I was on the crew, we won, and we almost won it the next year, too.” Demke had a solid reaction time, .041, but Whiteley’s was even quicker, .025, his best of the event. “We’d been in the left lane all day, but when he outran us in the semi’s, I knew we’d be over in the right for the final, and I just didn’t want to give it away by shaking the tires because we almost did in the semi’s,” Demke said.

Defending World Champ Jim Whitely cleaned up again in TAD

Defending World Champ Jim Whitely cleaned up again in TAD

Whiteley, who was knocked down to No. 2 in the final qualifying session when Demke stepped up to a 5.33, was unerringly consistent throughout eliminations, with winning times of 5.33 over Paul Fishburn, 5.32 over Randy Meyer, and 5.34 in the semi’s against Aaron Olivarez. Demke was just a few ticks behind in every round, with a 5.42 against Dave Heitzman, 5.33 against Rich McPhillips, and 5.36 in the semifinals against 2010 U.S. Nationals runner-up Shawn Cowie.

“I always get up to race Chris,” Whiteley said. “It was a great race – when we run each other, it usually is – and to me, it was just what it should have been. The final round of the U.S. Nationals ought to be side-by-side with both cars running great. This is just about the biggest win I’ve ever had. The only one I ever liked more was in Topeka [in 2009] against Tom Conway in the final.”

In Top Alcohol Funny Car, as in Top Alcohol Dragster, eliminations distilled into a match between the No. 1 and No. 2 qualifiers. Manzo, who never ran slower than 5.63 all weekend, got the jump on Annie Whiteley, who hadn’t run slower than 5.61, and maintained the lead for a tight 5.56 to 5.57 win.

“I really wanted to run a .54 or .55 that time, but a .56 was enough,” Manzo said. “I just didn’t want to beat myself – I’ve done way too much of that lately. She’s going to win a lot of races and probably a lot of championships down the road. That’s just a really good team over there, and I was plenty concerned.”

Manzo paced the field in qualifying with a 5.53 in the final session, and Whiteley ended up No. 2 with increasingly quicker runs of 5.61, 5.59, 5.58, and 5.55. Both were just as consistent in eliminations, Manzo with times of 5.55, 5.52 (low e.t.), and 5.55 against Wayne Butler, Todd Robertson, and national points leader John Lombardo, and Whiteley with a string of 5.61, 5.57, and 5.58 against early season points leader Dan Pomponio, two-time Indy winner Tony Bartone, and 2010 U.S. Nationals champ Jay Payne.

Frank Manzo was convincing while winning at Indy (again!) - qualifying #1 and setting both low ET and top MPH in TAFC.

Frank Manzo was convincing while winning at Indy (again!) – qualifying #1 and setting both low ET and top MPH in TAFC.

“It was still an unbelievable weekend, even though we didn’t win,” said Whiteley, who earned her first national event title earlier this season in Chicago. “I was happier just to have been in the final than I was bummed about not winning it. I would love to beat Manzo one time before he’s done, but this was a lot different than the last time I raced him in a final, last year at Brainerd. I wasn’t thinking, ‘That’s Frank Manzo over there, and this is the final’ or staring at the back of his car the whole way down the track.”

Manzo was, for once, very aware of what was at stake. “I was thinking, ‘This is it – the last time I’m ever going to stage at the U.S. Nationals,’ as I was pulling to the line for the final round,” said Manzo, who has hinted about retiring all season. “There’s still a long way to go if I’m going to win one last championship, but this was a big one. It’s Indy, and it means a lot.”Jason Coan and Mike Farrell face off for the Comp Eliminator title in a pair of ‘32 roadsters with Coan taking the early lead and holding on for the win in 8.160 seconds at 157.15 mph.  Farrell got out of the grove near the top end, crossing the centerline and was disqualified. The win is Coan’s fourth.

Brad Plourd and Frank Kohutek scored their 15th and 10th NHRA national event wins respectively as Plourd ran down Mike McGinley in Stock Eliminator and Kohutek logged a .008 package for the Super Comp win.  McGinley was out first on Plourd but Plourd drove around him in his ’72 Nova running 11.419 at 113.25 to  McGinley’s 11.563, 112.74.  Former NHRA World Champion Kohutek had a .006 reaction time and ran 8.902 on the 8.90 dial for the win.

Todd Frantz, Louisville, Ky., grabbed his second national event win and his second U.S. Nationals title defeating Jeff Dona in Super Stock.  Frantz, who won the ’97 event, drove his ’88 Beretta to a lap of 9.675 at 132.95 mph.

The Super Stock final at Indy  saw Todd Frantz (far lane) defeat Jeff Dona.

The Super Stock final at Indy saw Todd Frantz (far lane) defeat Jeff Dona.

Phillip Smida, Canfield, Ohio, capped off his day with a dead-on 9.900 second lap at 139.79 mph coupled with a .007 reaction time for the win in Super Gas over Marlin Snyder who broke out by .007 seconds.  The dead-on run was Smida’s second in eliminations having knocked out Rob Moser in round 3 with a 9.900 and a .011 reaction time.

Photos by:  Bruce Biegler & Steve Embling

Filed with postings from NHRA Communications, Eric Lotz and Bruce Biegler

To view DragRaceCanada’s extensive photo gallery from the U.S. Nationals – click:  HERE