The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series will return to historic Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis Sept. 8-9 for the conclusion of the rain-delayed Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus. The event was originally scheduled for Labor Day weekend, but persistent rain showers from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac forced series officials to delay the event by one week.
Regardless, the event remains the world’s most prestigious drag race, the one that every racer has his or her eyes fixed upon during the season. Most drivers have taken the postponement in stride and are eager for racing to resume.
“It’s kinda like being a kid and somebody gave you this big piece of candy, and then they take it away and say you can’t have it until tomorrow night after dinner, not tonight like we first told you,” said Antron Brown, the defending Top Fuel winner. “The weather is looking really good, mid-70s, so we’re looking for some fast times, and it gets you excited about that, but right now, you are bummed because you are just sitting here waiting for it to happen.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will be the qualifying leaders when racing resumes on Saturday with the first of two Pro qualifying sessions, scheduled for 11 a.m. The race, which is the final opportunity for NHRA drivers to qualify for the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, will be televised by ESPN2HD on Sunday with five hours of coverage beginning at 3 p.m. ET.
Force, who led Funny Car in the first three qualifying sessions last weekend with a performance of 4.049 seconds at a track record speed of 317.27 mph in her Traxxas Ford Mustang, is eager to return and try to solidify her first No. 1 qualifying position.
“It is delayed a week, but it is still the Indy race, the Big Go," the 24-year-old Force said. “The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals is obviously the biggest race of the season, and it really sets the mood for the Countdown to the Championship. Everyone is really trying to lock in. It doesn’t matter if it is this weekend or next; everyone is going to be fighting out there to get that spot.”
In addition, she is one of eight drivers who will race in the $100,000 NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car, a special all-star race within a race that will be held Saturday. As the winner of the fan vote/lottery for the eighth starting spot, she will face top seed Ron Capps in the opening round of the lucrative bonus race.
“You’re ready to race, and you are so excited since you are at the U.S. Nationals getting qualified and being in the No. 1 spot, and then it all just kinda fades away. You look at it, and you go, 'I have to come out and do it all again,' ” Force continued. “It is tough to get a No. 1 spot, and it will roll over, but anyone can come out here and run better than a 4.04. You’ve got to be ready, and you really have to get back in the fight mode.”
Massey, who won the $100,000 NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel, will try to keep his hot Indy run going in his Prestone/FRAM dragster and will work on claiming the top qualifying position and race victory.
“Coming off the NHRA Traxxas Top Fuel Shootout win and being the [qualifying leader], we obviously wanted to come out there Monday and to get the race day going because we had some momentum going,” Massey said. “We still do; it’s just now we have to have a week off in between to keep it going. Now we are going to have two more runs, which is good and bad because it is a chance for other guys to knock us off the No. 1 spot but also a chance for us to get two more runs of data and to keep going.”
Several Countdown-eligible drivers who failed to qualify for their fields last weekend will now get a much-needed second chance. Those drivers include Steve Johnson in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Terry McMillen in Top Fuel, Larry Morgan in Pro Stock, and two past event champions in Funny Car – Robert Hight (2006, 2008) and Cruz Pedregon (1992, 1994, 1995).
“We have new life; the weather put us in this predicament, and the weather kinda got us out of it,” Pedregon said. “We are going to take advantage of it. The Snap-on Tools Toyota was off the first three runs, but the schedule was for five runs, and we are going to make our best, be smart, get into the field, and race like we are capable of doing, and we could win this race.”
Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx also will continue qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 8, with the rest of Sportsman eliminations scheduled for Saturday.
SATURDAY, Sept. 8
LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying, time trials, and eliminations, 8 a.m.
PRO MOD SERIES PRESENTED BY PROCARE RX qualifying, 2 p.m.; first round of eliminations, 4:35 p.m.
TRAXXAS SHOOTOUT (Funny Car) rounds, 12:30, 3:30, and 4:30 p.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying, 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 9
LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations, 8:30 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations, 11 a.m.
PRO MOD SERIES PRESENTED BY PROCARE RX eliminations continue, approximately 2:30 p.m
TELEVISION: Sunday, Sept. 9, ESPN2HD will televise five hours of coverage at 3 p.m. ET