J.R. Todd becomes 19th driver to secure No. 1 in both Nitro categories; Gray, Smith top U.S. Nationals field
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Defending Funny Car event champion J.R. Todd secured his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season Sunday evening at the 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) secured the No. 1 qualifying position in their respective categories at the 18th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.
Todd powered his DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car to a 3.910-second pass at 325.45 mph on Friday evening for his first career Funny Car No. 1 qualifier. He is the 19th individual in NHRA history to have a No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel and Funny Car; first since 2011.
“Today was a productive day on getting our setup for tomorrow,” Todd stated. “I was confident coming into here after the way we tested out here last week. It picked right up Friday night qualifying and had a little hiccup during Q2 on Saturday but other than that the car is competitive.”
Todd will race Jim Campbell in the first round. In the No. 2 spot is Bob Tasca III who ran a 3.928 at 322.65 to square off with Bob Bode in round one. 16-time world champion John Force clinched his spot in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship and will face teammate Robert Hight.
Salinas piloted his Scrappers Metal Racing dragster to his first career Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier with his pass of 3.756 at 321.04 that held strong from Friday evening.
“This is my first race at Indy and it is amazing,” Salinas said. “Its surreal to be No. 1 qualifier but we have a game plan to do this more often. All the guys out there are great and there are a lot of fast cars. Being a part of Indy, which is a throw down race, is awesome.”
Salinas will lineup against Wayne Newby for first round eliminations. Following Salinas is Clay Millican who qualified second with a 3.762 at 323.81. He will see Richie Crampton in the first round. Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence is fifth and races Pat Dakin in round one.
Gray secured his fifth No. 1 qualifier of his career with his pass of 6.603 at 208.68 in his Gray Motorsports / Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro from Friday.
“I feel like we’ve struggled with qualifying all year,” Gray stated. “So, it’s pretty cool to come out to Indy of all places and be able to unload off the trailer like that and have a pretty fast car. I’m looking forward to racing tomorrow and it’s going to be a tough day.”
Tanner Gray faces John Gaydosh Jr. in the first round. Veteran Greg Anderson is in second with his 6.619 pass at 207.15 in his Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro. He will race Steve Graham while defending world champion Bo Butner is third and will see Kenny Delco in eliminations.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith secured his third No. 1 qualifier of the season, 29th of his career and fourth at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals with his 6.814 pass at 199.14 on his Victory Magnum during the final round of qualifying.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in our motorcycle,” Smith stated. “Ever since we debuted this bike it has been the fastest thing on the property and it showed it again today. I’ve just got to do my job and we must have no failures of any kind.”
Smith will face-off against Jim Underdahl in the first round of eliminations. Hector Arana Jr. qualified second with his 6.817 pass at 198.58 on Sunday, he will race Karen Stoffer in the first round. Scotty Pollacheck secured his spot in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship and will face Chip Ellis first round.
Eliminations at the 64th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will begin at 11 a.m.
Here are the brackets and first-round matchups for the Mello Yello Professional classes: