Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Friday Notebook

18 Aug 2017
NHRA National Dragster staff
Race coverage
Brainerd

Features | Photos | Preview | Results

QUALIFYING SESSION RECAPS

angie2.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q1 (2:55 p.m.): Angie Smith has never been the low qualifier in her 133-race career, but she’s leading the pack in Brainerd after the first session after posting a 6.947 pass on her Buell. Two-time Brainerd runner-up Hector Arana, representing event sponsor Lucas Oil, is sitting No. 2 after a 6.995 while Andrew Hines grabbed the third spot with a 6.953 aboard his Harley-Davidson Street Rod. Just six bikes found the six-second zone thanks to the humidity in the air.

butner2.jpgPRO STOCK Q1 (3:10 p.m.): Bo Butner jumped to the top of the heap with a 6.628-second pass as temperatures cooled at Brainerd International Raceway. Greg Anderson came in close behind with a 6.635, while Tanner Gray came in right behind with a 6.639. Drew Skillman and Dave River failed to navigate the race track with passes in double-digits; that’s something of a rarity for Skillman, particularly as of late. Shane Gray made a solid pass in his first race since Bristol, running a 6.707, Jason Line (6.642) and Allen Johnson (6.658) rounded out the top five.

hagan2.jpgFUNNY CAR Q1 (4:08 p.m.): Courtney Force set the track record for speed (335.98 mph), but Matt Hagan grabbed the No. 1 qualifier spot after the first session with a 3.831-second pass. That bested Robert Hight (3.844), and Force (3.863), while Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.907), and Ron Capps (3.928) rounded out the top five. The quick-half of the field all landed in the 4-second range thanks to cool conditions, while a handful of cars failed to get down the track; that included Countdown hopefuls Alexis DeJoria, Del Worsham, Cruz Pedregon, and Jim Campbell. 

pritchett.jpgTOP FUEL Q1 (5:45 p.m.): Leah Pritchett blasted her Papa John’s dragster to a 3.677, just shy of Shawn Langdon’s two-year-old 3.662 track record, to grab the early qualifying lead after the first session, which was halted midway by a rainshower, then resumed an hour later. Steve Torrence slid into the second spot with a 3.709 with Doug Kalitta in the No. 3 spot with a 3.711. Defending event champ Brittany Force is fourth with a 3.731. Points leader Antron Brown lost traction early and slowed to a 10-second pace.

arana2.jpgPRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE Q2 (6:30 p.m.): Hector Arana Jr., a two-time runner-up at this event – his sponsor’s event – zoomed to the No. 1 spot with a 6.879 from his Lucas Oil Buell. Matt Smith, whose 6.884 earlier in the session took the No. 1 spot from his wife, first-session leader Angie, settled into the No. 2 spot with his Victory Polaris while Scotty Pollacheck is third with his Suzuki at 6.908. If Arana holds onto the No. 1 spot through Saturday it would be his first pole since Norwalk 2015.

tanner.JPGPRO STOCK Q2 (6:55 p.m.): A whole bunch of cars showed improvement in the second qualifying session, but rookie Tanner Gray made the jump to the No. 1 spot by running a 6.607-second pass. That earned him three qualifying bonus points and put him ahead of Bo Butner (6.617), and Allen Johnson (6.622). Teammate Drew Skillman (6.628) and rival Jason Line (6.633) rounded out the top five, while Tanner’s dad, Shane, sits in the No. 7 position. Only Dave River failed to get down the race track after a couple of rain delays offered a lengthy break between sessions. 

hight2.JPGFUNNY CAR Q2 (7:27 p.m.): Robert Hight rewrote the Funny Car history books with the quickest elapsed time ever by running a 3.793-second pass, the first in the 3.7-second range. That came just two races after Hight blasted the fastest run ever at the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals with a 339-mph pass. That makes him the provisional No. 1 qualifier, ahead of Matt Hagan (3.807), John Force (3.852), Courtney Force (3.863), and Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.88). There are 12 cars in the 3-second range thanks to the cool conditions at Brainerd International Raceway, but none quicker than the incredible run by Hight, who has three of the quickest runs in Funny Car history.

pritchett3.jpgTOP FUEL Q2 (7:50 p.m.): Leah Pritchett closed out an historic day at Brainerd Int’l Raceway, following Robert Hight’s jaw-dropping national record Funny Car run with one of her own, a 3.640 that broke her own 3.658 national record set in Phoenix in February. Pritchett’s run was more than four-hundredths quicker than her closest competitor, defending event champ Brittany Force, whose 3.685 pass was accompanied by a track-record speed of 333.16 mph.

FRIDAY RECAP: Pritchett, Hight smash national records; Gray, Arana Jr. also grab Friday poles

FEATURES

Last weekend may have been an off weekend for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, but a number of the tour drivers weren’t sitting idle.

R_Hight.JPGSeattle winner Robert Hight, along with his boss, John Force, Del Worsham, Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, and Tim Wilkerson all competed at the Night Under Fire at Summit Motorsports Park. 

In the final – which was made up of the night’s two low qualifiers -- Hight blasted to a 3.86 at 321 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevy to defeat low qualifier Pedregon’s 3.92 at 322 mph in his Snap-On Toyota. Capps, the No. 4 qualifier, won the consolation final against Force.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re running a foot race: You want to beat these other guys,” said Hight. “We came there to put a great show on for the fans, but, really, we wanted to win that thing – and we did.”

L_Pritchett.jpgDSR’s Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett were in Michigan for a Mopar-sponsored event and did a burnout on a temporary dragstrip built on famed Woodward Avenue in Pontiac, Mich.

"That was one of the coolest things I've ever done in a racecar," said Pritchett, whose resumé includes numerous race wins and the current Top Fuel national record. “I probably got up to 100 mph and went for about 500 feet. Definitely the longest and fastest burnout I've done in a dragster."

Jack Beckman competed at the Nightfire Nationals at Firebird Raceway near Boise, Idaho, racing Dick VanderMeer's 180-mph Top Dragster.
 
Antron Brown, meanwhile, was with daughter Arianna, and sons Anson and Adler to Terre Haute, Ind., as they competed in the Midwest Junior Super Series event at Crossroads Dragway.

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Clutch discs are some of the most prized possessions of a Top Fuel Dragster team. Back in Seattle, we talked to Steve Torrence about clutch discs and his quest to buy up a whole production cycle of the discs when the Capco Contractor team found a batch they liked. Well, it’s not breaking news to report the Kilgore, Texas team isn’t the only one with a clutch disc strategy. 

One of Torrence’s biggest rivals for the Top Fuel title, Leah Pritchett, has a plan, too. Following the NHRA Springnationals in Houston (race No. 5), the Papa John’s squad squirrelled away the rest of the clutch discs from the batch that brought Pritchett three Wallys. So, Pritchett has raced with a “hot race” package from contest No. 6 to No. 16. Now, the “cool race” package is coming back out. 

barlam.jpg“It wasn’t an experiment necessarily, but we ran some other stuff over the summer,” said assistant crew chief Joe Barlam. “We’re getting back to the winter-type racing, now.”

What’s the difference between the package they’re running now vs. what they ran during the middle of the season?

“It’s maybe a little more aggressive,” said Barlam. “Just because, the weather, and it’s not summer. You’ve got a couple hot races, but… Pomona is killer, Vegas is killer, Reading is killer, Dallas is pretty good, St. Louis is pretty good.”

Teams run multiple packages over the same season because it’s difficult to get a consistent group of clutch discs, despite them all coming from the same place. As such, saving the very best clutch discs for the Countdown to the Championship isn’t a totally uncommon practice. 

“Obviously it’d be great to run all year on the same thing, but it’s hard to get that many that are all the same,” said Barlam. “They’re made by humans. Even so, it’s so much better now than it was 5-10 years ago.”

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mcmillen.jpgTerry McMillen is 154 points clear of 11th-place Shawn Langdon and feeling good about making his first Countdown appearance. His runner-up two weeks ago in Seattle, certainly didn’t hurt his cause, despite a painful final-round holeshot loss to Antron Brown.

“We had a fabulous weekend,” McMillen said. “I was the weak link. Rob Wendland had this hotrod tuned to win.”

While McMillen hasn’t mathematically clinched his spot, a combination of another good showing in Brainerd and stumbles by Langdon and 10th place Troy Coughlin Jr. could make for a stress-free Indy weekend at the final event of the regular season.

“We can’t count our chickens just yet,” McMillen said. “But we’re well on our way to meeting one of our goals of making The Countdown. I think we're peaking at the right time to make a run in The Countdown.

“Our second goal was to win a race,” McMillen added. “We were really close [in Seattle] and we can try and earn our way into the Traxxas Shootout with a win [in Brainerd] and solidify our position in The Countdown. We’re still just a small team with a big dream and we can’t thank all of our partners and fans that have supported and encouraged us to keep chasing this dream.”

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millican.jpgClay Millican's first trip to the semifinals since Chicago ended the same way it did in the Windy City: with a loss to Antron Brown. That’s become a familiar story for the racer from Drummonds, Tenn. Millican is 1-22 against Brown in his career, one of the most lopsided matchups in the sport. 

He was .013-second slower than Brown down the lane, something he said came down to the team choosing to slow the car down a bit because of the warmer conditions in the third round. In typical Monday-morning-crew-chiefing, Millican said he and crew chief David Grubnic would have liked to have that call back after running 3.769 in the second round. The Great Clips car posted a 3.794 in the semi’s. 

“That’s kind of what we’re going to try to just repeat, that consistency,” said Millican. “If things go well today, if we’re in the top six or so, we’ll test tomorrow. That bit us in Sonoma, because we made one really good run off the trailer, and we sucked the rest of the way.”

Millican is 40 points out of sixth place (behind Doug Kalitta), and 55 out of fifth place (behind Brittany Force). The team wants to get into the top five before the Countdown arrives, which remains achievable, particularly with extra points available at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis in two weeks. 

That starts with a good first night of qualifying. If the good weather holds, Millican thinks the team can do something special. He can do it with one of his biggest sponsors, Great Clips, in the house. The company is based in nearby Minneapolis and the team will host a handful of executives over the weekend. Don’t worry, he got a haircut before the race, and he’ll be on his best behavior in the driver’s seat.

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force2.jpgThree events after tweaking the chassis in a huge wheelstand during qualifying in Denver at the start of the Western Swing, John Force and the Peak Chevy team finally were able to make changes before heading to last weekend’s match race in Norwalk.

“We know we bent it, but it was working pretty good,” he explained, “Now that we have the opportunity to switch it, we’ll bring the new out and run it and we’ll front-half the other one and it will be a backup and get ready for Brainerd.”

Force has had a lot of success in Brainerd with a tour-leading 11 victories. He’s only experienced more success in Pomona – where NHRA races twice a year – with 16 victories.

“We’re going to be running a whole new combination here that we’ve been working on for months," added Force. "It’s going to come together, and when it does, John Force will be there. We’re hoping to start at Brainerd. That’s what we plan on doing, going for the win.”

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lindberg.jpgHere’s a quick recap of the past few weeks for Jonnie Lindberg: He tuned Jay Payne’s Top Alcohol Funny Car to the winner’s circle at the NHRA Northwest Nationals while also driving Jim Head’s Nitro Funny Car. After that, he travelled to Sweden for the wedding for his brother, Johan, and new sister-in-law, Coco. 

Now, the whole family is in the United States for a weekend of racing at Brainerd International Raceway as the Swede hopes to tune his brother into the winner’s circle in the TAFC Jonnie won a championship in. Add that to Jonnie’s regular responsibilities as a Nitro Funny Car driver, and tuning Payne’s car. Just a typical weekend for one of the busiest drivers in NHRA Drag Racing. 

“Normal weekend, you know,” said Jonnie, who served as the best man in the wedding. “We had a good wedding back home.”

This is Coco’s third race in the United States. She was on hand for Jonnie’s first race in a Nitro Funny Car, but wasn’t in attendance when Johan took home his TAFC victory in Charlotte earlier this season. She’s also taken in plenty of racing back overseas, where the couple lives. 

Jonnie enjoyed a lot of success running this TAFC car before getting his Nitro Funny Car license and eventually getting a full-time job driving for Head. So, does Johan have similar aspirations?

“Of course,” Johan said with a grin. 

His goal for this weekend? Kicking off his honeymoon with a Wally. 

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Minnesota’s own Brian Stewart and Dale “Peanut” Creasy Jr. both had an anxious moment in the first qualifying session when Stewart’s Mustang crossed abruptly in front of Creasy’s entry. Creasy was able to take evasive action to avoid rear-ending his qualifying mate. (animated gif)

“I don’t even know what to say,” said Stewart. “It didn’t shake; it just went left and crossed into ‘Peanut’s’ lane. It happened so fast I don’t know what happened. That’s the first time in 100 runs I’ve had anything like that happen to me.”

“This is my 20th year driving Funny Cars and I’ve seen a lot of stuff but I’ve never seen that,” said Creasy, who made his NHRA national event debut 20 years ago at this event. “I saw him coming over and figured he was going to come off the wall, so I turned my car right and stayed on the gas because I wanted to get away from him. That was pretty hairy.”

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Today’s first qualifying session will offer a big moment for Jeg Coughlin Jr. and the Elite Motorsports team as their hopes and dreams for the rest of the season. After struggling significantly since early summer and losing in the first round at three of the previous four events, Elite team boss Richard Freeman ordered a stem to stern, fine-tooth-comb look at the yellow JEGS Chevy. They finally uncovered a binding issue in the front suspension that had been severely affecting the car’s performance for months, and seemingly getting worse with every race – “it felt like I was towing an anchor,” Coughlin colorfully commented.

“We had some mechanical issues that shouldn’t have taken us as long to find as they did, but we found it,” said Freeman. “We put three different engines in the car and it should have shown us something, and we were stunned, but that’s how we knew it was a car problem and not an engine problem.

“We found it, fixed it, went to Tulsa [Raceway Park] and tested and were four-hundredths and two and half mile-per-hour quicker than out last test session there.”

Brian “Lump” Self, crew chief for teammate Vincent Nobile and himself a former driver, made the initial test runs in the car, and teammate Erica Enders wrapped up the testing.

“Q1 will be a real moment of truth,” said Coughlin. “I should know by third gear if it’s fixed. I’m excited.”

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Whenever the tour returns to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, it’s always a special weekend for native Minnesotans Jason Line and Greg Anderson.

Line, who grew up in Wright, Minn., first competed in a national event at Brainerd Int’l Raceway in his Stocker, and even won the event twice, in 1992 and ’97, and finally won it in Pro Stock in 2014; he has been in the last three final rounds here, with runner-ups in 2015 (to Erica Enders and 2016(to Drew Skillman) 
 
line.jpg"The first time I raced [a national event] was at Brainerd in probably 1989 in an R/SA '66 Bel Air wagon,” he recalled. “That's the very first Stocker I ever raced, and I struggled hard with it – I was not good. But it was exciting to race a national event as a Sportsman racer. We weren't traveling Sportsman racers – we went to one national event a year, and our whole year revolved around preparing for that one weekend. Heck, I'm not sure back in the day that any of us even expected to win. We wanted to, of course, and we always hoped we would do well enough to race on Sunday and have a chance to win, but we just wanted to be part of it. Brainerd was a huge event for our family and friends back then, and it still is. No matter what, it's fun to go home and watch those folks I grew up with race."

Anderson, who hails from Duluth, Minn., is a three-time Brainerd Pro Stock champ (2003, ’09, and ’11), first raced in Pro Stock at BIR 15 years ago
 
anderson.jpg"Back in 2002, I did the full tour for the first time as a driver,” he reminisced. “I think that had to be my first time racing [on Sunday] at Brainerd. Before that, I'd always just been a crew guy and never had the opportunity to drive. It's difficult to remember what that felt like, but it had to be surreal. I had never even planned on being able to drive at Brainerd, let alone run a Pro Stock car there. I'm sure I was scared to death of embarrassing myself in front of friends and family, but that place is very, very special to me for a lot of reasons. If it wasn't for BIR, I wouldn't be doing this for a career. That's where it all started, where it got in my blood as a 12- or 13-year-old punk kid. Being able to race there, to drive a Pro Stock car down Brainerd International Raceway, was beyond anything I had ever imagined."

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gaydosh.jpgJohn Gaydosh, whose season almost ended in Bristol where he mortally wounded his engine on his first burnout of the event, is competing at this event for the first time as he continues to run an “experimental” engine for Gray Motorsports that he ran previously in Norwalk, where he reached the semifinals. The engine combines the best design feature of the two previous General Motors blocks.

“We had a great weekend in Norwalk, and we’re hoping for more of the same this weekend,” said Gaydosh, who recently assisted Deric Kramer’s crew in Denver, where the American Ethanol team ran two cars. “The Grays are getting some good data on it and we’re getting a great engine to run. We were eager to run it again and this was the next best place for us.

“We’ve wanted to compete at the races in Brainerd for so long; it’s really been on our bucket list,” said Gaydosh, whose operation is based out of Maryland. “This year we were able to get some extra help from our sponsors so we could finally make the trip.”

Gaydosh is carrying the colors of new associate sponsor MB Auto and Truck Accessories on his Gaydosh Performance/Pypes Camaro for this event and the remainder of the 2017 season, which will include Indy, Charlotte, Reading, and perhaps even Las Vegas. MB Auto sells high performance accessories for cars and trucks on its website, MBAutoOnline.com.

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hines.jpgThere will be a familiar face missing this weekend from the Vance & Hines/Screamin’ Eagle Harley team as crew chief Matt Hines will miss his first event in more than 20 years while he waits at home in Avon, Ind., with his wife, Hillary (former Top Fuel racer Hillary Will), on the birth of their first child. (Update: The new baby, a boy, six-pound, two-ounce Brenden Matthew Hines, arrived Friday at 5:08 p.m. Eastern.)

Hines, a three-time world champ and 30-time national event winner, had been to every race on the tour since he was a rookie rider in 1996, and even attended the ’95 Finals as a spectator – a total of 329 straight events.

Even though Hines will be relegated to talking to his riders – younger brother Andrew and Eddie Krawiec – via phone and receiving copies of the data from their runs, the team feels confident they can get by for one race without him.

“I do all of the engine tuning and we’ve always worked together on the cutch, so it isn’t like we’re flying blind,” said Andrew.

The team – which considers itself 60 percent satisfied with the new bikes’ progress -- continues to struggle with its 60-foot times (they’re as much as four-hundredths slower than their opponent) and recently backhalved their chassis in search of improved performances. All work is done in-house at the team’s Brownsburg shop, where they build their own chassis as well as some for their Suzuki counterparts.

“The bikes are really good after 60 feet; they ride better and the chassis don’t twist like they used to and runs the last 300 feet better than the old bike – it doesn’t lay over from aero drag like the old ones did -- so once we get the first part of the run figured out, they should be really good,” said Hines.

The new Street Rod design has its advantages, too; the windscreen area is significant taller, meaning that the riders can get their entire helmet out of the wind where before it would contact the helmet above the visor. “My neck muscles aren’t sore after four or five runs anymore,” joked Andrew.

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arana.jpgHis dad’s done it, former teammates Morgan Lucas and Richie Crampton have done it, and now Hector Arana Jr. thinks it his turn to step up to the plate and win the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, his primary sponsor’s event.

 "I'm so ready to add myself to the list of Lucas Oil-sponsored racers that have won this race in the past," Arana said. "Morgan (Lucas, son of Lucas Oil founders Forrest and Charlotte Lucas) won it three times, Richie won it two years ago, even my dad won it (in 2009). Now it's my turn. It's time to win."

Arana Jr. has come close, scoring Brainerd runner-ups in 2011 and 2012, and with two runner-ups and two semifinal finishes in his last five outings this season, he certainly seems poised to accomplish his goal. He's also qualified No. 2 overall four times, and jumped from ninth to third in the Mello Yello championship points.
 
"This race is one we all love to come to, and not just because Forrest and Charlotte have made it their own," Arana said. "It's almost like a vacation coming up here. The fans are so passionate and downright crazy about everything they do, from supporting the racing itself to partying out there in the Zoo. It's just a lot of fun."

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liberty.jpgPSE/Team Liberty teammates Angelle Sampey (12th, 272 points) and Cory Reed (13th, with 252 points) are both still chasing a spot in the top 10 for a berth in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, with their sights set on Angie’s Smith No. 10 spot (337 points) and No. 9 Karen Stoffer (376), but they’re keeping their heads down and working rather than looking around. 
 
“I know Angelle and I are on the outside looking in to the top 10 right now but I’m not necessarily paying attention to what other racers ahead of me in the points are doing,” Reed said. “I know where I’m at in points and if things turn around, there is a chance for us to get into the Countdown to the Championship. I can’t concern myself with what other racers are doing, I just need to worry about my performance and hopefully we can start turning on some win lights this weekend.”

Brainerd is one of four racetracks three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Sampey at which has yet to win . The other three racetracks are Charlotte, Norwalk, and Dallas.

“Brainerd is one race that I want to check off my list so bad," said Sampey, a three-time runner-up here. "I’ve made it to the finals many times and I would sure love to make that win happen this weekend.”

PHOTOS

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A collection of nostalgic racecars are in display outside the pit area.

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Pro Stock Motorcycle newcomer Andie Rawlings had her hands full in Q1.

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Brainerd crowd favorite Ron Capps acknowledged his loyal fan base after his opening pass.

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Menacing skies threatened during the first Funny Car session ...

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... then delivered midway through the opening stanza of Top Fuel.

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Shane Gray has really been cracking the whip on his burnouts. Funny Car-style stuff ...

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Bob Bode, who experienced one of the greatest days of his racing career with a victory at this event in 2010, is having a lot tougher time this weekend, as evidenced by this massive Q2 blower explosion that actually lifted the front end of the car off the ground.

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Robert Hight, first Funny Car driver in the 3.70s.

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Leah Pritchett had some pretty good people watching her set the Top Fuel national record as team boss Don Schumacher, left, played host to restaurateurs Jimmy John Liautaud, center, and "Papa John" Schnatter.

PREVIEW

Only two races remain before the Countdown to the Championship begins, and just nine spots remain in the three NHRA Drag Racing car classes. Those spots, along with the positions in Pro Stock Motorcycle, will fill up quickly starting at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minn. That playoff excitement, in addition to the potential for new national records, has become tradition for fans who make the trek to the Minnesota track year after year.

A_Brown.JPGBrainerd played host to the first 3.6-second pass in history when Antron Brown hit the gas in the first round of elimination in August of 2015. Shawn Langdon bested that pass with a 3.662-second hit later the same day. Both drivers enter Brainerd on opposite spectrums of the standings, as Brown looks to tighten his grip on the points lead, while Langdon is barely on the outside looking in.

Brown holds a 13-point lead on first place, while Langdon sits in 11th, 24 points behind teammate Troy Coughlin Jr. Terry McMillen and Scott Palmer are the other two Top Fuel pilots looking to book spots in the Countdown for the Championship with two races to go. With points and a half on the table at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, picking up points in Brainerd becomes all too important.

C_Pedregon.JPGThe playoff battle is even tighter in Funny Car, where four drivers outside of the Countdown have a legitimate shot of getting into the top 10. Cruz Pedregon holds the bump spot with 601 points, but he is closely trailed by Jim Campbell (593), Jonnie Lindberg (579), Del Worsham (573), and Alexis DeJoria (552). John Force, Tim Wilkerson and J.R. Todd have yet to clinch spots in the Countdown, but look likely to do so, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

Don’t expect anything to be decided for the rest of the flopper crew until the dust has settled at the U.S. Nationals. With just 49 points separating 10th from 14th, all five drivers have a shot at making the dance. Pedregon has the upper hand, but the slightest slip up will open the door for the racers chasing him to get right back into the thick of things.

D_Skillman.JPGWhen the NHRA circuit arrived at Brainerd International Raceway a year ago, three different Pro Stock drivers owned Wallys. It’s a different story this year. Nine drivers have taken home little gold statues in the first 16 races this season, though lately Drew Skillman has been hogging the spotlight. The racer, who’s a teammate of rookie phenom Tanner Gray, has won three of the last four during his midseason surge.

His teammate status is notable because the one contest he didn’t win, in Sonoma two races ago, was won by 18-year-old Gray. So, Gray Motorsports has won the last four races, and seven of 16 this season. That includes three won by Tanner, three by Skillman, and one by Shane Gray. Oh, and Shane is going to be racing this weekend for the first time since Tanner beat him on Father’s Day in Bristol six races ago.

L_Tonglet.JPGWhile Pro Stock has been a class dominated by parity, at least until recently, Pro Stock Motorcycle has been absolutely dominated by one rider: LE Tonglet. The Louisiana rider joined forces with defending champion Jerry Savoie this season and the results speak for themselves: Five Wallys in eight races, plus the one picked up by Savoie. Oh, and Tonglet won the Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle in Sonoma.

That’s just about a perfect start to the season for Tonglet and Savoie, which comes at a time when the Harley-Davidson team is still trying to master their new bikes. The performance is coming around for those Street Rods (see: Eddie Krawiec’s win in Denver), while Hector Arana Jr. is having a very nice season. Still, it’s going to take something special to slow down Tonglet. We’ll see if anyone can take the 2010 champion down in Brainerd.

TRACK RECORDS

Top Fuel

3.662 sec. by Shawn Langdon, Aug. ’15; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15

Funny Car

3.822 sec. and 333.82 mph by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16

Pro Stock

6.541 sec. by Erica Enders, Aug. ’15; 211.39 mph by Shane Gray, Aug. ’15

Pro Stock Motorcycle

6.788 sec. and 197.39 by Eddie Krawiec, Aug. ’15

NATIONAL RECORDS

Top Fuel

3.658 sec. by Leah Pritchett, Feb ‘17, Phoenix; 333.66 mph by Brittany Force, May ‘17, Topeka, Kan

Funny Car

3.802 sec. by Matt Hagan, May '17 Topeka; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.

Pro Stock

6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March '15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J

Pro Stock Motorcycle

6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.