Returning to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, the site of this weekend’s 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, a number of memories come flooding back for Drew Skillman. Before last year, they were about growing up less than an hour from the track and taking in the world’s biggest drag race. Now, it immediately shifts to Skillman’s Pro Stock win a year ago.
Skillman won the event every competitor longs to do, knocking off six-time Indy winner Greg Anderson in the finals to wrap up a thrilling weekend in his Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro. Coming back to the prestigious event as the defending champ, Skillman can’t help but smile at all the incredible moments he created last year as he goes for a second straight win.
“It really is exciting to come back,” said Skillman, a Greenwood, Ind. native. “Winning Indy is definitely on the bucket list for a racer. If you win Indy, that’s something you don’t forget about. It meant a lot to everyone on the team and our family. Everyone wants to win their home race. We weren’t really supposed to win. We hurt our good motor going into (the semifinals) and weren’t sure how to tune the other one. We just had a little luck on our side.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Skillman (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of a race that will be broadcasted on the FOX national broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including a live broadcast of Monday’s finals on both FOX and FS1 on Monday, Sept. 3. It is the 18th of 24 races during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and Skillman hopes it can also provide a jumpstart to his year.
He clinched his spot in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, but sitting ninth in points Skillman is far from satisfied. After winning four times a year ago, Skillman is still looking for his first in 2018. It’s been a frustrating up and down campaign for the 2015 NHRA rookie of the year, but a solid test session leading into Indy has Skillman hopeful he can end his season on a good note.
“We’re coming in refreshed, the car is running better and we’re going to try to win Indy again,” said Skillman, who has seven career wins. “We’ve tested the past two days and things are looking a lot better. The test session was great and I think it’s going to help. We’re going to take a swing at it, but Indy’s a different beast. A lot of things can change over the course of the weekend.”
Skillman hopes it’s a change in the right direction and with the points-and-a-half system in play (150 points to the winner) at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the rising star could make a considerable jump heading into the playoffs. He’s just 27 points back of seventh-place Jason Line, but Skillman will have to deal with a loaded Pro Stock class that has featured nine different winners in 2018. Skillman will try to become the 10th against the likes of points leader Anderson, teammate Tanner Gray, who has four wins in 2018, Brainerd winner Deric Kramer, Jeg Coughlin Jr., two-time world champ Erica Enders, Vincent Nobile and 2016 Indy winner Chris McGaha.
“It’s a tough class and it’s pretty easy to get lost,” Skillman said. “We just got a little off track. The car wasn’t set up well and I wasn’t driving well, so we need to step way, way up. We need a good result at all the (remaining) races. We know we have to do the best we can. The car is not always going to be great and the driver is not always going to be great. Hopefully if one is struggling the other is shining and it all comes together.”
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31. Two more sessions will take to the track on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 4:15 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 12:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 3.
FOX national broadcast and FS1 will televise coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, starting with qualifying on Sunday, Sept. 2 on FS1 at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. EST. The broadcasts continue on FS1 with two hours of live coverage of eliminations on Monday, Sept. 3 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.