CLERMONT, Ind. – official release — Kent Steele photo — John Force took home the Traxxas Nitro Shootout victory Sunday, concluding an action packed day of racing at the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the world’s most prestigious drag race.
Force, a 16-time Funny Car world champ, pocketed $100,000 and bragging rights when he beat teammate Robert Hight with a 4.061-second run at 317.19 mph in the Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. He defeated fan vote/lottery winner Tim Wilkerson and two-time season winner Alexis DeJoria to reach the final. It was Force’s second Traxxas Shootout win and seventh career victory in an NHRA all-star race. Force will look to conclude the weekend tomorrow with his fifth Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory.
“It was a win-win situation,” Force said of running against his teammate in the final. “We couldn’t lose. All of the sponsors were on all of the cars. We just couldn’t lose it.”
Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford Mustang, was appearing in his first Traxxas Shootout final round. He is a three-time and defending Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner and will be going for a fourth tomorrow.
In other racing on Sunday, Jason Line claimed the rain-delayed Brainerd victory and the No. 1 qualifying position in Pro Stock. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) joined Line as No. 1 qualifiers and will lead their categories into Monday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the final NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event of the regular season. Following this event the top 10 fields in each class will be set for the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs, which starts Sept. 12-14 at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.
In the Brainerd final, Line raced to a 6.596 at 207.40 in the Summit Racing Chevy Camaro to defeat reigning world champ Jeg Coughlin in the JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart. It was Line’s third win in a row and the first time he has achieved that feat. It was Line’s 35th career victory and the win propelled him into the top spot in Pro Stock points. Line’s 6.589 at 210.01 from Saturday qualifying was good enough to also secure the No. 1 starting position. He will face Rodger Brogdon in the opener as he goes for his first U.S. Nationals victory.
“It was very Brainerd-ish,” Line said of the cloudy and rainy weather conditions that delayed racing for a bit on Sunday morning at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. “Our car ran very good. Our Camaro was very fast this weekend. It was a little bit weird to win Brainerd at Indy. But it’s the first thing I’ve ever done well at in Indy.”
In Pro Stock qualifying, Vincent Nobile was second with a 6.601 at 208.49 in the Mountain View Tire Camaro. He will race Matt Hartford in the first round. Shane Gray’s Gray Manufacturing Camaro qualified third with a 6.603 at 209.17 and will face Aussie rookie driver Shane Tucker.
With their results in qualifying, V Gaines and Chris McGaha clinched their spots in the Countdown to the Championship. Greg Anderson and Jonathan Gray will face off tomorrow in the first round, a matchup that will be critical in deciding the final transfer spot for the Pro Stock top 10.
In Top Fuel, Schumacher ran a 3.748 at a track record speed of 328.54 in his U.S. Army dragster during the Traxxas Nitro Shootout final, which was quick enough to earn the No. 1 qualifying position. It was the third top starting spot of the season for Schumacher and 75th of his career. He will go for a record-breaking 10th Indianapolis victory when he meets 2012 world champ and 2011 event winner Antron Brown in the first round.
“You think you’re going to run an easier car when you’re No. 1,” said Schumacher of his matchup with his Don Schumacher Racing teammate. “Before he even ran, the bump was .84. You were running a bad to the bone car no matter what. As a teammate, I’m happier he got in and I have to race him than had he gotten bumped.”
Steve Torrence qualified second with a 3.753 at 326.16 in the Capco Contractors dragster. He will race J.R. Todd in the first round. Brainerd winner Morgan Lucas was third in the Lucas Oil dragster with a 3.757 at 322.81, good enough for a matchup with No. 14 seed Khalid alBalooshi.
With his qualifying result, Todd secured the final Top Fuel spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
In Funny Car, Hagan sped to a track record time of 3.998 at 316.01 in the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger during the fourth session to claim the No. 1 qualifying position. It is the first time a Funny Car has completed a run quicker than four seconds at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. It was the first No. 1 qualifier of the season for Hagan and 16th of his career. He will face Bob Bode to open eliminations.
“It was just a phenomenal run,” said Hagan, who is looking for his first career Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory. “Especially after those guys (The Mopar Express Lane crew) having such a late last night when we banged the blower off of it and they had to pull another body out and another motor out.”
Jack Beckman, the 2012 Funny Car world champ, had a much needed qualifying effort, securing the No. 2 position with a performance of 4.004 at 312.13 in his Valvoline Max Life Dodge Charger. Beckman trimmed six points off 10th place Tim Wilkerson’s lead, which is now 10 points (less than one round) for the final transfer spot for the Countdown to the Championship. He will pair against Blake Alexander in the first round. Wilkerson will race Tommy Johnson Jr. in the first round.
Courtney Force qualified third with a 4.005 at a track record speed of 322.73 in the Traxxas Ford Mustang. The run occurred during the first round of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout when she defeated Brainerd winner Ron Capps.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec posted a 6.829 at 196.56 on the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to earn his sixth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 20th of his career. He faces Shawn Gann in the first round as he seeks his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory.
“That’s definitely one I’d look to put a check next to,” said Krawiec. “We learned some stuff today. That was the key to moving onto Monday here. It’s not often you get five qualifying sessions, but when you do you need to take advantage of it.”
Jerry Savoie was second on the Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki with a 6.878 at 194.18. He will open eliminations with Chaz Kennedy. Reigning world champ Matt Smith qualified third on his Matt Smith Racing/Stockseth Racing Buell with a 6.888 at 193.54 and will face Adam Arana in the first round.
Following qualifying, John Hall, Michael Ray and Smith claimed their spots in the Countdown to the Championship. Three spots remain in Pro Stock Motorcycle, with six riders still mathematically in contention. Steve Johnson holds down the 10th spot, and is followed by No. 2 qualifier Savoie in 11th, 63 points back.