THE BIG GO: 65th Annual Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals

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A picture is worth a thousand words — Pro Mod points leader Steve Jackson went -.015 red opposite season-long foe Todd Tutterow in the opening round of eliminations. Tutterow, for his own part, was nearly u beatable in the other lane, going .008 on the tree and outrunning the Bahrain 1 Camaro, 5.75 to 5.77. With second-place Jose Gonzalez missing the field, Tutterow and fourth-place Mike Janis are both primed to shake up the standings with late-round showings today.

Chad Green Update

Pro Modified competitor Chad Green was injured in a frightening high-speed crash last night during the final session of qualifying for the U.S. Nationals. In the first pair out and running opposite of Jose Gonzalez and in a do-or-die run to get into the record-breaking field, Green lost control of his Pat Musi-powered, nitrous-assisted Camaro and somersaulted, crashing back to earth on all four wheels.

Green was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of a back injury he sustained in the impact. The Midland, Texas native is set to undergo surgery for his injuries today.

“First off, the support we’re getting from the racing community has been overwhelming,” said crew. chief Pat Musi. “To everyone who’s offered to drive the rig, came by the pits and helped us load up, offered their well wishes – thank you. We truly appreciate it.”

Musi continued, “Right now, we’re focused on getting Chad on the mend. He’s with his family – his mother and father have flown in – and his kids were by his side all night. He’s alert, talking, knows what’s going on and what happened. The doctors have gotten his pain under control, and he’ll be going into surgery this afternoon.”

“It’s our hope to know more and have more details later today and, of course, over the course of the next few days, weeks and months,” said Andrew Petersen, Director of Marketing for Chad Green Motorsports. “Chad and his family are so very grateful for the outpouring of support – phone calls, texts, emails. We’ll do our best to keep our racing family and fans updated throughout this process.”

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The NHRA on FOX crew — Brian Lohnes, Tony Pedregon, and 10-time Indy winner Tony Schumacher — are live on the FOX broadcast network this afternoon clear through the final rounds of the 65th running of the most prestigious drag race.

Best Seat In the House

You know that cliche, “best seat in the house?” Well, it turns out the Lucas Oil Raceway really has one. In the upper corner of the Top Eliminator Club grandstands, where a television broadcast platform was erected and once used in the Diamond P Sports era, rest a pair of Uber-comfortable recliners. And there is an actual set of tickets sold for those seats. Brothers David and Willie Rice are the fortunate men who hold those tickets — the Richmond, Indiana natives have been coming to Indy since 1971, so one could argue they’ve rightfully earned these plush seats in time.

“Those Pro Stock cars just went down that track at 209 mph….I remember when Don Garlits went 167 mph and they said it would never be beaten,” David says with a laugh. A long-time John Force fan, David says he “has been buying John’s t-shirts since back before he ever won anything.”

A week of inclement weather and a rash of on-track delays hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm here at Indy, as the sunshine and blue skies have brought out a near-capacity crowd for the final day of the U.S. Nationals.

How hot is a clutch disc in the moments after a run? Heat emanates several feet away like a campfire.

A creative local musical group, known as High Octane, has brought a college football feel to the U.S. Nationals, playing its unique instrumental form of music in front of the grandstands and around the pit area and midway all weekend long.

Force Wins 151st, Kalitta And Laughlin First At Indy To Highlight U.S. Nationals

John Force, who secured his milestone 150th career NHRA victory just two races ago in Seattle, added another win to his incredible tally with a popular victory Monday at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Force, who has won Indy four times prior, earned his first U.S. Nationals crown in 127 years by defeating No. 1 qualifier Jack Beckman in a close 3.91 to 3.94 contest.

Force was as boisterous in celebration as he was in Seattle, but master it clear, “I didn’t cuss!”

The 16-time Funny Car champion had a strong car all weekend, qualifying third and clocking low elapsed the of the event in a 3.85-second defeat of Jonnie Lindberg in round one. He then dispatched teammate Robert Hight and Matt Hagan on his road to the final.

“Racing is what I love to do. Winning Indy is the biggest thing on my bucket list and I never thought I’d get the chance again. This is just incredible that someone my age could do this again. Don’t let anybody tell you you’re too old. Get up and stay alive, keep moving. I’m trying to fight the old man every day. You know I started hearing ‘you’re 70, this thing is over’ and its really true, it’s how bad you want it,” said Force. “This is a big moment for me. I’m having an emotional day because I won Indy. I owe this sport for so much. I love NHRA that has given me so much. It doesn’t matter what you do in life, you do it because you love it and I love it and when you don’t do good you do the best you can. This race really meant a lot to my girls, to my grandkids, a lot of my family was here.”

Doug Kalitta has been ever-the-bridesmaid in his long Top Fuel career, coming up short of multiple championships and, despite three previous final rounds at Indy, never closing the deal at the sport’s biggest race. Until today.

Twenty-five years after Doug’s uncle, Connie Kalitta, scored his only Indy victory at the 40th annual U.S. Nationals, he survived a wild final round with Billy Torrence — that saw both cars suffer mechanical problems before the strip and coast at just over 200 mph — he joined the family fray as an Indy winner.

“I just can’t say enough about everyone that’s been working on my Mac Tools Toyota. They were busting their butts – and (team owner) Connie (Kalitta) was right there with them,” said Kalitta. “Having him in our corner is awesome. What a day. It feels great to win a big race that Connie won. The track conditions were incredible this weekend. The Safety Safari team busted their butts out there. The fans here are awesome. It hasn’t settled in that I won the U.S. Nationals.”

“I’m a real persistent guy, so I never give up. It does make you wonder. When we got by Clay I was thinking this is going to be a good opportunity and I’m just glad we were able to take advantage of it,” Kalitta continued. “These guys out here are all so good. You have to be right on your game every time and I’m not getting any younger, so you have to work a little harder at it. It worked out well just getting by Clay because those guys are always tough.”

Despite Erica Enders’ lead at this point in the race, she got loose and closed, allowing Laughlin to sneak by for his first Indy win.

In what was an equally unusual race in Pro Stock, Alex Laughlin earned his first Indy crown despite a very tardy .120 reaction time when opponent Erica Enders had issues in her open lane and slowed to a  6.77, to Laughlin’s winning 6.64. Laughlin ousted Steve Graham, Val Smeland, and reigning Indy winner Deric Kramer on his road to the final.

“I just about choked up there, to be honest, but at the end of the day we got it done,” said Laughlin, who has three career Pro Stock wins. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never even made the Countdown before and we’ve just made huge strides. It’s been a breakout season and I’m at a loss for words.”

Jerry Savoie, who won Pro Stock Motorcycle at Indy in 2015, added another U.S. Nationals Wally to his mantle on what was ultimately a solo victory lap, as points leader Andrew Hines was timed out at the tree and never challenged for the victory. Savoie took out Ryan Oehler, Joey Gladstone, and Eddie Krawiec in the earlier rounds.

“The Suzukis have been struggling, but we’ve been working and it paid off,” Savoie said. “I held my composure and we were able to make some good runs. When Andrew throws up a red light, you better thank God for it because that doesn’t happen very often. I didn’t know if I would ever win another one. It’s not easy. But we’re going to go for it and see what happens. It’s an honor to get this second one (at Indy).”

Pro Mod veteran Mike Castellana scored his first career victory at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, slipping past Rickie Smith on a holeshot in the final round of E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service action on Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
The series was presented by Hot Wheels in Indy and marked the ninth of 12 races in 2019. For Castellana, it was his first Indy triumph after finishing as the runner-up two previous times. He went 5.758-seconds at 248.43 mph in the finals in his blown Al-Anabi Performance Camaro, beating Smith’s 5.747 at 250.83 by a mere 17 inches thanks to a better reaction time. It is Castellana’s second win in 2019 and 10th in his E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series career.
“I just go up there and do my own thing and to try to win,” Castellana said. “It was pretty close at the finish line. I knew it was tight. It feels great to win this, especially for my team. They work their butts off all weekend, so it’s great.”
Castellana, who qualified second with a 5.751 at 248.93, picked up round wins against Sidnei Frigo, Doug Winters and AAP teammate Brandon Snider to reach the final round. Smith, a three-time world champ and the No. 1 qualifier this weekend, advanced to his 23rd career final round thanks to round wins against Eric Latino, Khalid AlBalooshi and defending world champ Mike Janis.

Indianapolis native Bill Skillman, who along with son, Drew, has dominated Factory Stock Showdown-style racing in 2019 in his Ford Mustang Cobra Jet, powered to victory late Monday evening by overcoming a holeshot start by opponent Arthur Kohn, 7.88 to a 7.91.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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