John Hall always knew the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals was big, but it wasn’t until the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standout won the world’s most prestigious drag race a year ago in Pro Stock Motorcycle that he realized just how significant it was.
“It’s a race everyone wants to win and I’m lucky enough to do it, but I didn’t really get how big it was until after I won,” Hall said. “If you win at Indy, you will be remembered for that. When people introduce you they will say you won at Indy. That’s pretty cool and not something I knew was going to happen until after I won.”
Now Hall enters the biggest race of the year as the defending event winner hoping to add a second straight victory on his Matt Smith Racing Buell during the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2 in more than 10 hours of coverage. It is the 10th of 16 Pro Stock Motorcycle events during the 2014 season and the final race of the regular season for the two-wheel category before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins.
As Hall quickly found out after beating teammate and reigning world champion Matt Smith in the final round a year ago in Indy, the significance of a Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory is something that cannot be fully comprehended until it is experienced.
“Indy is bigger to me now than it was before and it’s something where you don’t truly understand the magnitude of it until after you win,” Hall said. “When I saw that win light come on last year I couldn’t believe it. I’m honored to have won there.”
As much pressure as entering this year’s event as the defending champ might provide, Hall calmly said he doesn’t feel any of that. In fact, he expects that last year’s win at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis will provide a calming effect heading into the 2014 edition of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
Hall is currently fifth in the series standings and in the midst of a solid and consistent season, but the two-time event winner is also looking for his first final round of the season. He posted one of four semifinal appearances at the most recent event in Sonoma and Hall knows that another strong performance in Indy would be the ideal scenario heading into the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“I’m confident in our chances but I don’t really feel any more pressure,” Hall said. “I’ve got a trophy from Indy and I’m very grateful for that. That’s the trophy you really want and a lot of people don’t have it, so I feel like there’s more pressure on them to try and get it.”
Finding a good set-up during testing leading up to this weekend might have Hall confident, but he will face off against a talented field that includes points leader Andrew Hines, who earned the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory in 2012. Hines’ teammate Eddie Krawiec has yet to win in Indy but sits second in points while other standout competitors in the category include reigning champion Smith, Epping winner Angie Smith, Michael Ray, Scotty Pollacheck, Hector Arana Jr., Hector Arana and two-time Indy winner Steve Johnson.
Hall barely qualified a year ago at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, squeaking in at No. 15. But he turned it on during eliminations, knocking off Krawiec, Ray and LE Tonglet before reaching the final round. That performance proved to Hall he was capable of winning any race no matter the circumstance. Having it happen during the world’s biggest drag race simply made it that much sweeter.
“I wasn’t even sure I was going to be in the race a year ago,” Hall said. “You just never know because this class is so tight. No matter where someone qualifies they are capable of winning. You need luck, consistency and you have to be good. But everybody is good in this class, so you need all three to get one of these wins.”
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29. Two more sessions will take to the track on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Aug. 31 at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 1.
ESPN2 will televise more than 11 hours of coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Five hours of qualifying coverage and coverage of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout will air on ESPN2 at 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (ET) and 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31. Monday’s (Sept. 1) eliminations for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be featured in six hours of coverage starting at noon (ET).
To purchase tickets for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, fans can contact NHRA’s Ticket Sales Center at 800-884-NHRA (6472), or get their tickets online at www.NHRATIX.com.