Countdown berths still in the balance as Indy set to resume
Wednesday, September 05, 2012

by Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor

In addition to crowning event champs, week two of the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus will settle what rain-drenched week one could not: the establishment of the 10-racer fields for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. With just the one race left, four drivers in Top Fuel, six in Funny Car, and eight each in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle still have mathematical chances to lock up the few remaining spots.

The situation is most clear in Top Fuel, where nine of the top 10 spots have been clinched. Antron Brown, Spencer Massey, Tony Schumacher, Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta, Morgan Lucas, Shawn Langdon, David Grubnic, and Brandon Bernstein have had their tickets punched for the six-race playoffs that begin with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Charlotte Sept. 14-16.

Bob Vandergriff Jr.

Bob Vandergriff Jr. is clinging to the No. 10 spot, just eight points in front of Clay Millican. Khalid alBalooshi and Terry McMillen also are mathematically alive, but McMillen will be eliminated if Vandergriff remains qualified. Vandergriff is in a good spot to do so, ranked eighth, meaning his top 12 time will carry over to the resumption of qualifying. alBalooshi is No. 6; McMillen is not currently qualified.

In Funny Car, Courtney Force, the provisional No. 1 qualifier, earned enough bonus points during week one to clinch her spot, one of six finalized. She’s locked in with Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Jack Beckman, Johnny Gray, and Mike Neff. Cruz Pedregon will instantly have the seventh spot if he qualifies for the field, but that might be a big if because he’s not currently in the show. John Force, Jeff Arend, and Bob Tasca III hold the final three spots, but reigning world champ Matt Hagan is less than a round behind Tasca and just 32 behind Arend, and Tim Wilkerson is just seven points back of Hagan. John Force could clinch by qualifying depending on his qualifying position and/or bonus points versus Hagan’s qualifying position and/or bonus points.

Jeg Coughlin Jr.

Allen Johnson, Jason Line, Greg Anderson, Mike Edwards, Erica Enders, and Vincent Nobile have been locked into the Pro Stock playoffs; the battle for the remaining five spots will be waged between Ron Krisher, Shane Gray, Larry Morgan, V. Gaines, Jeg Coughlin Jr., Ronnie Humphrey, Rodger Brogdon, and Kurt Johnson.  Gaines holds the No. 10 spot, but he’s just two points in front of Coughlin. Morgan’s ninth spot, just 18 ahead of 11th-place Coughlin, could be in jeopardy because he is not qualified while Coughlin has a qualified carryover time from week one. Humphrey, who also is not qualified, is just 21 points behind Gaines, who is currently in the Indy field in the No. 11 spot.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec, Andrew Hines, Hector Arana Jr., Hector Arana Sr., and Karen Stoffer have clinched. Scotty Pollacheck, LE Tonglet, Michael Ray, Matt Smith, and Shawn Gann hold spots 6 through 10, but John Hall is just 22 points back of Gann and 29 shy of Smith. Steve Johnson is 56 points out of the 10th spot, and Michael Phillips has a slim mathematical possibility.

Two qualifying sessions will be held Saturday, Sept. 8, to set the fields. Final eliminations will be Sunday, Sept. 9. For tickets for the rescheduled event, log on to