NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Event Recap
Words compiled from media releases via NHRA Communications:
Larry Dixon kept his perfect final round streak alive Monday by racing to his 10th win of the season at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, the world’s most prestigious drag race.
Ashley Force Hood, Greg Stanfield and LE Tonglet also were winners in their respective categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship event, the first of six playoff races.
Dixon earned his fourth win at Indy and 58th of his career by outrunning Cory McClenathan in the final round. Dixon defeated Bruce Litton, Steve Torrence and Shawn Langdon in earlier rounds to advance to the final.
Top qualifier Dixon covered the O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis dragstrip in 3.837 seconds at 319.60 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to hold off McClenathan, who trailed with a 3.870 at 319.82 in his FRAM dragster.
“Winning Indy is enough for me,” said Dixon, who with the victory became the first driver in NHRA history to win 10 consecutive finals in a season without a loss. He increased his series lead to 46 over McClenathan as he works on a third world championship title. “Nothing against Atlanta or Phoenix, but I would trade them all in to win at Indy.”
Force Hood claimed her first win of the season, second in a row at this event and fourth overall by outrunning her father, John Force, in the final round. She powered her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a winning performance of 4.141 at 308.07 while her father’s Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang lost traction at mid-track and finished in 7.246 at 91.61.
“This has just been an amazing day,” said Force Hood, who beat Del Worsham, Paul Lee and Jack Beckman in earlier rounds. “This may mean more than last year because we struggled so much this season. Last year we were on a roll – we had gone to some finals and won some races and were up high in the points — but this year it’s been the other end of the spectrum, but our team has stayed positive and we just said we’d use the start of the playoffs to turn it all around and forget the past.”
Stanfield used a quicker reaction at the starting line to defeat defending world champion Mike Edwards in the Pro Stock final round. Stanfield posted a 6.665 at 207.59 in a his NitroFish Gear Pontiac GXP to hold off the quicker-but losing 6.627 at 208.75 effort from Edwards in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries GXP. It was Stanfield’s first win of the season and fourth of his career.
Stanfield moved to third in the points and had early round wins over Warren Johnson, Jason Line and Allen Johnson.
“This is just a huge win for me, especially after coming so close here last year [in a.001-second loss to Jeg Coughlin in the final],” said Stanfield. “And it was really exciting for our Nitro Fish Gear team owner, Kenny Koretsky, who was the Pro Stock runner-up at the 2004 Indy [which was the 50th anniversary of the event]. We came here with our first complete DRCE-3 engine, which makes more power than our old combination, and we also got the suspension straightened out to make good use of that extra power. We were struggling a lot earlier in the year, and I was beginning to doubt if I could get the job done. But I had promised Kenny that I’d get him at least one Wally this season, and I’m going to give him the trophy right after this race. I hope that we can win a few more.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, rookie LE Tonglet captured his second win of the season and moved into second place in the playoff point standings. Tonglet powered his Tonglet Racing Suzuki to a 6.869 at 195.22 to hold off top qualifier and national record-setter Andrew Hines, who was denied an Indy victory once again and finished in 6.962 at 194.13 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
Tonglet, who becomes the fourth rookie driver to win at Indy in the modern era, beat Joe DeSantis, Chip Ellis and Eddie Krawiec in the first three rounds.
“In Brainerd, when we broke that engine, our season was over,” he admitted. “We weren’t coming here but Vance & Hines and Fuel Pak stepped up and helped us out. Even so, I never expected to be sitting here telling you all how good I feel right now. We knew the Harley-Davidson would put down a big number and we knew we needed to step up. We have been taking it easy on this engine all weekend but we finally got my dad [Gary] to lean on it and we outran Eddie [Krawiec] in the semis. Dad said, ‘We’ve come this far. We’re in it to win it.’ We’re still taking it race by race but after this, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be in Charlotte.”
Brad Personett raced to his first career victory in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Series Monday at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, the world’s most prestigious drag race.
Personett, from Elkhart, Ind., cruised to the win in the final when Joe Baker couldn’t make the call. In earlier rounds, Personett defeated Rick Stivers, Kenny Lang and Ed Hoover. During the weekend Personett reset the national speed record in the series to 255.39 mph in his ultra-fast Personett Performance ’68 Camaro.
In Top Fuel, Larry Dixon’s track record time of 3.776 at 324.36 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster from Saturday stood as the quickest of the weekend, giving the three-time Indy winner his sixth No. 1 effort of the season, 46th of his career and third at this event. He will face Bruce Litton in the opening round.
“The championship is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but the champion will be determined in two months; the only thing we can decide tomorrow is who wins Indy,” said Dixon. “A lot has been made of Tony [Schumacher] and myself, and they put us on the cover of Drag Illustrated. I think someone ought to put Cory Mac on there, too. Maybe it gave that team a chip on their shoulder, because they’re running strong. I’m not looking past Bruce Litton in the first round tomorrow, to be honest. He has a good car, and we have to be on our game.”
Matt Hagan claimed his third top qualifying position of the season and fifth of his career with a track record time of 4.039 at 299.86 in his DieHard Dodge Charger. He will face Tony Pedregon in the first round.
“It feels great to come out here and qualify No. 1,” said Hagan, who qualified No. 16 here in 2008 and No. 15 last year. “I remember back when I was racing the IHRA and we’d come over here and qualify 16 and that would feel like we won the race. To go from that and in two years qualify No. 1 here is a huge step in the right direction for my career and for our whole program out here. I owe it all to [crew chief] Tommy DeLago. This guy, he gets smarter every day. I just don’t know how he puts it all together up there, but he does. The track’s been great. We owe a lot to the track being great and being able to run those kind of numbers out here. The weather just kind of worked out in our favor. It was warmer today, and that plays into tomorrow. It’s supposed to be warmer tomorrow if the weather man’s right, but who knows.”
Mike Edwards powered his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP to a track record time of 6.579 seconds at 209.26 mph to take his 12th top qualifying position of the season, 34th of his career and second at historic O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. Edwards, who edged out three drivers including Saturday’s low qualifier Jeg Coughlin for the top spot, will face Justin Humphreys in the opening round.
“There’s a lot of fast cars that are bunched up together [at the top of the qualifying order], and I feel that we were very fortunate that Allen Johnson had to run in the first pair this morning,” said Edwards. “If it hadn’t been for that, you probably would have been talking to him instead of me as the No. 1 qualifier. There is more pressure because this is the first race of the Countdown. It’s hard to get there for your first championship [as Edwards did in 2009] and it’s even more difficult to defend it. I’m trying to take some of the pressure off of myself by talking with my wife a lot. You just try to have fun. [10-time Pro Stock champ] Bob Glidden came over this morning and told me to just ‘quit thinking and do it.’ ”
Hines led all five Pro Stock Motorcycle qualifying sessions on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson and earned his second No. 1 of the season and 28th of his career with his national record run of 6.185 seconds at a track record speed of 196.76 mph. Hines will face Wesley Wells in the first round as the three-time world champ tries to win at Indy for the first time in his career.
“I don’t know if I got 15 points in the whole Countdown last year,” said a smiling Hines, who claimed three points for each of the five qualifying sessions he led this weekend. “It’s great to take every point on the table because it came down to a couple of ‘little points’ last year for Eddie [Krawiec, teammate]. I love this track. We live just two miles from the track and our shop is two miles the other direction, so we’ve tested a lot here in the past. I’ve probably made more passes here than any other Pro Stock Motorcycle rider. I probably make 60 or 70 runs a year out here so I know how to get down the track. This is definitely the best chance in my career to win the U.S. Nationals.”
Raymond Commisso upset top qualifier Mike Janis during the first round of eliminations in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Series portion of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, the world’s most prestigious drag race at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.
Commisso used a near-perfect .003 reaction time and powered his ’68 Camaro to a 6.048-second run at 240.72 mph to hold off Janis, who trailed with a 6.118 at 219.36 in his 2010 Ford Mustang.
In other first round action, series points leader Von Smith was upset by Ed Hoover in a very close race, while No. 2 qualifier Brad Personett defeated Rick Stivers.
Second round pairings are Commisso vs. Rickie Smith; Joe Baker vs. Danny Rowe; Personett vs. Kenny Lang; and Dave Pierce vs. Hoover.
Larry Dixon, winner of nine races and the top seed in Top Fuel entering the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, covered historic O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis with a track record run of 3.776 seconds at 324.36 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
“It’s like Houston air got imported into Indianapolis,” said Dixon. “The weather is great, and I’m glad the car stuck. It hooked up and wasn’t moving left or right. I could see the .77 on the board, and I thought, ‘Wow. That’s nice.’ I love having two night sessions, especially since we missed it last night. Running in these conditions again was like getting a ‘get out of jail free’ card. We needed that run to get out of the middle of the field. That was a clutch run by Alan [Johnson, team manager], Jason [McCulloch, crew chief], and the team.”
Don Schumacher Racing drivers held down the second and third spots as Cory McClenathan posted a 4.784 at 323.66 in his FRAM dragster and eight-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner Tony Schumacher ran 4.790 at 324.83 in his U.S. Army dragster.
Matt Hagan powered his DieHard Dodge Charger to the top of the Funny Car order with a track record time of 4.039 at 277.89. Ron Capps moved to second in the lineup with a 4.049 at 309.77 in his NAPA Charger and Robert Hight dropped to third overall with his performance of 4.055 at 310.98 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang.
“Wow, what a run,” Hagan said. “You know, [crew chief] Tommy DeLago, he really knows how to tune these race cars up. He said, ‘If it makes it past 60 foot, it’s going to haul the mail.’ It really left hard. I got somewhat of a vibration in there. I was like, ‘Man, it’s really running,’ because it blurred my vision a little bit. I could see the groove pretty good, but it got out there and it felt like it was getting a little bit towards the wall to me, and I would just as soon click it off a little early. To look at the numbers and what Tommy DeLago thinks, he thinks it may have been on a 4-flat lap.”
Three-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner Jeg Coughlin moved to the front of the Pro Stock field with a track record time of 6.580 at 209.39 in his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt. Defending world champ and playoff top seed Mike Edwards was second with a 6.585 at 209.26 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP, while Ron Krisher was third in his Valvoline Chevy Cobalt with a 6.586 at 209.56.
“The fight for the No. 1 spot is always a challenge, especially here at the U.S. Nationals,” Coughlin said. “It feels fantastic to bring it back to the JEGS pit, even if it’s just for one night. Tomorrow’s going to be another battle because the conditions are supposed to be similar to what we saw today. Pro Stock cars love it when it’s cool and dry like this.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Andrew Hines set a national record with a 6.815 second time at a track record speed of 195.17 mph on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Hines teammate Eddie Krawiec held down the second spot on his V-Rod with a 6.867 at 194.94 while defending world champ and event winner Hector Arana was third in his Lucas Oil Buell with a 6.900 at 192.66.
“That 20 points [for the record] is huge when you only have a 30-point lead to start the Countdown,” said Hines, who enters the playoffs as the top seed in the two-wheel category. “On the 6.81, I didn’t know what to expect. I saw Eddie run 6.86 and my bike had same tune-up, so I thought it would be good. We ran 4.34 at the eighth-mile and we’ve never seen that before. The air got dry and bikes like that. This afternoon, it had more moisture and we slowed down. I have a motorcycle that is capable of going rounds on Monday. I haven’t had one this good in a long time. I’ve also been good on the lights; I’m happy with the way I’m riding. This is my best chance to bring home an Indy Wally.”
Mike Janis raced to the qualifying lead Saturday in the Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, the world’s most prestigious drag race.
Janis powered his late model Ford Mustang to a leading time of 5.887 seconds at 244.16 mph to lead the 16-car order.
Indiana native Brad Personett was second in his turbocharged ’68 Camaro with a 5.896 at a track record speed of 254.14.
Yesterday’s qualifying leader, Roger Burgess, failed to improve during Saturday’s two sessions and sits third overall with his 5.926 at 246.89 in his ProCare Rx ’68 Camaro.
Team JEGS Troy Coughlin (5.928, 238.51) and Danny Rowe (5.930, 247.16) rounded out the top five qualifiers.
Cory McClenathan, a two-time Indy winner and second place driver in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs, powered his FRAM dragster to a leading performance of 3.789 seconds at 319.98 mph. McClenahan’s elapsed time is an O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis track record. Last week the championship-hungry McClenathan also had the quickest dragster during two days of testing for this event.
“The track was better tonight than it was in testing, but we just wanted to go out there and repeat what we had done, and we did it,” McClenathan said. “(Crew chiefs) Todd (Okuhara) and Phil (Shuler) are just doing such a great job and are so in tune with each other on what they’re going to do in different conditions. This is probably my best chance to win the championship since 1997, and it’s interesting that some of the same people are still around me, like Mike Green, and Lee Beard. I don’t want to say it’s going to happen, but it will be a lot of fun if it does. We’ll rock the house down, I guarantee you.”
Two-time Indy winner Robert Hight set a Funny Car track record for time with his leading run of 4.055 at 310.98 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Hight’s team owner, four-time U.S. Nationals winner John Force, was second in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang with a 4.058 at a track record speed of 312.86.
“It’s exciting to come in here with a new paint job that celebrates my 2009 championship and take it to the top, but what’s really exciting for me is that all three of the John Force cars are 1-2-3 within thousandths,” said Hight, the defending world champion who comes into the event in second place in the playoffs.
“More than anything, that’s the way to start the Countdown out,” he continued. “This is a new season for us. From this point forward, we have to forget everything that happened before. It doesn’t matter how many wins we had at Force Racing. From here forward, we have to be perfect and do our job because there’s too many good cars out here that are chasing us.”
Defending world champ Mike Edwards, who won this race in 1998 and is the top seed for the playoffs in the 200 mph category, paced the Pro Stock field with a 6.596 at 208.46 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP.
“It was a really good way to start the weekend,” Edwards said. “We thought we could run a 6.60, but we ran a little bit better than we thought we could. The guys on my team obviously did a great job. With the conditions forecast for the weekend, we may improve on that. We’ll see what happens. The [qualifying bonus] points are very important to me. All those points really add up. At this race, with five qualifying sessions, that’s almost a full round’s worth of points.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, playoff top seed Andrew Hines was quickest with a 6.974 at 185.69 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
“I dreamed of coming to this race as a little kid and to be here riding a Harley-Davidson at this race is just fun,” Hines said. “I’ve never had as good a motorcycle as I have right now and I’m probably the best racer I’ve ever been in my career. My lights are consistent – and not red, which is a big deal – and it’s all about being comfortable. This team is back where it used to be.”
Roger Burgess raced to the qualifying lead in the Get Screened America Pro Mod portion of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Friday at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.
Burgess powered his ProCare Rx ’68 Camaro to the front of the 16-car field with a performance of 5.926 seconds at 244.74 mph. Burgess won the Pro Mod race here one year ago, when it was an exhibition event. Now he’s hoping to defend his victory since the category has become an official NHRA touring series.
“Last year was a nice win for us but it didn’t result in a Wally, so we’re hoping to get one of those this time,” Burgess said. “Al (Billes, crew chief) got the tune-up right and we pretty much went straight down the track. We may have left a little in there so that gives us something to shoot for the rest of the weekend. We want to shoot for consistency and I think the weather tomorrow should give everyone a chance to improve. If conditions get better, we’ll all get quicker.”