In a loaded Funny Car class, Alexis DeJoria hopes she is hitting her stride at the perfect time. The 2014 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner picked up her first victory of the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season in Brainerd, moving to 10th in points. But with the final Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship spot on the line at this weekend’s 63rd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, there is still plenty to be decided among a handful of standout drivers at The World’s Biggest Drag Race.
DeJoria bumped Pedregon from the 10th spot with the win, but she leads the two-time world champ by just 12 points heading to the world’s biggest drag race. Jim Campbell (40 points back), Jonnie Lindberg (53 points out of 10th) and former world champ Del Worsham (60 points back) are all within range as well, adding one juicy and must-see Funny Car storyline to this weekend.
“Winning Brainerd was a huge morale boost for our team,” DeJoria said. “It definitely gave us a step up in confidence and came at a great time. Obviously we're not safe in the Top 10, so we're just going to be focused on putting one foot in front of the other. We're not trying to get ahead of ourselves. We just want to enjoy every moment and hope for the best. A lot of people are gunning for that 10th spot right now so we'll see what happens.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of a race that will be broadcast on FOX and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including a live broadcast of finals on both FOX and FS1 on Monday, Sept. 4. Drag racing’s grandest event is the 18th of 24 events and the final race of the NHRA regular season, with the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship to follow.
Add in the point-and-a-half system in play for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and it adds up to a thrilling weekend in Indy for Funny Car. Pedregon, a three-time winner at the Big Go, knows full well what is need to perform on the highest stage. But after an early exit in Brainerd bumped him to 11th, the Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry dragster needs a big performance in Indy.
“We’re looking forward to it and the challenge, and to see how we stack up,” Pedregon said. “For us, it’s about consistent performances. Every run is going to be important. Without consistent runs, it’s hard to make the car go fast enough to outrun people. The people hovering around this spot are all good cars, so consistency is what I’m looking for.”
Campbell has excelled in his first full season driving for Jim Dunn, while rookie Lindberg advanced to two final rounds early in the season, continuing to stay in the top 10 mix. Worsham has struggled at times in a 2017 season that saw him return to racing with his father, Chuck Worsham, but he is certainly capable of dialing up something big in Indy, where he won in 2005. For Campbell, there are no nerves, only an excitement level to perform at the world’s biggest drag race.
“I’m absolutely looking forward to this,” Campbell said. “We need to go at least two rounds. One, we need to qualify and, two, we need to go rounds if we want to get in that top 10 spot. But I couldn’t be more thrilled and excited. This is the Super Bowl of drag racing and to be in contention, racing in a sport with the best drivers in the world, I couldn’t be more excited to have a shot.”
DeJoria has rebounded impressively after early-season struggles and missing three races. After winning in Brainerd with a number of strong runs – jumping four spots in the process – it could be just the start of an excellent finish for the 10,000-horspower Tequila Patron Toyota Camry driver.
“I really can't say enough about the guys that I work with,” DeJoria said. “It trickles down from the top. (Co-crew chiefs) Nicky (Boninfante) and Tommy (DeLago) have been doing an incredible job chipping away at it. We're getting better and better. The guys are strong and resilient. They've been through a lot and we're still standing. I have a lot of faith in this team right now.”
Bonus bucks are on the line for qualified drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car in the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout. Top Fuel will run on Saturday evening, while the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car is contested on Sunday. Traxxas Nitro Shootout winners will earn $100,000. Schumacher is the defending winner in Top Fuel, while Courtney Force was the 2016 winner in Funny Car.
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1. Two more sessions will take to the track on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 2:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 11:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 4. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be contested Saturday, Sept. 2 with rounds at 3:45 p.m., 5:45 p.m. and 7:40 p.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car takes place on Sunday, Sept. 3 for the eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:45 p.m., 2:45 p.m. and 4:40 p.m.
FOX national broadcast and FS1 will televise coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, starting with qualifying on Sunday, Sept. 3 on FS1 at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. EST. The broadcasts continue on FS1 with two hours of live coverage of eliminations on Monday, Sept. 4 starting at 11 a.m. EST, continuing live on FOX at 1 p.m. EST.
Tickets for the world’s most prestigious drag race can be purchased by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or online at www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.