The 63rd edition of the NHRA’s U.S. Nationals, known simply as “The Nationals” or “The Big Go”, is less than a week away, and if history is any indicator, we’re in for another year of thrills and unexpected moments that only the world’s biggest and most prestigious drag race can deliver. But will this one top the ’93 Nationals?
In the days leading up to the kickoff of the U.S. Nationals, we’ll be taking a look back at some of the top moments in Indy history, and over the course of the last 25 years, there has been perhaps no greater running of the race than that ’93 edition, which seemingly had it all.
Most notably, of course, John Force won his first career U.S. Nationals title; by that point in his career, he’d already won and done virtually everything there was to win, including some championships, a whole lot of races, and a number of national records. But he hadn’t won the big one.
But even more notable than Force’s victory was the success of the man to whom he was to have raced in the final round that Labor Day Monday. Japanese racer Kenji Okazaki, still a household name to veteran drag racing fans, had shocked the drag racing world — and garnered countless supporters of his unlikely, underdog effort at the world’s biggest race — by driving Jim Dunn’s Mooneyes Dodge to the final round. It was to be a David vs Goliath matchup, but it was over before it ever began, as Okazaki’s machine developed a fuel leak before the burnout and had to be shut off, allowing Force a solo.
But few who were there or were watching on television will ever forget the sight of Okazaki standing on the starting line, watching Force blast to low elapsed time of the race for the victory.
In Pro Stock, Warren Johnson and Scott Geoffrion, the class’ two most polarizing figures during the ’90’s, squared off an in a final round for the ages, while Pat Austin, the sentimental favorite given his history at Indy, finally earned redemption for his heartbreak in the final round two years earlier with a victory in a wild and exciting Top Fuel final.