Tii Tharpe defeated Doug Vancil in a dramatic conclusion to the Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley, winning the championship in the final round of the series-ending season at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
The two had battled it out over nine previous events this season, trading wins -– Tharpe with four and Vancil with three -- that led to the showdown at Lucas Oil Raceway.
The championship was a true come-from-behind effort for Tharpe and his team owner, 2017 Top Fuel Harley champ Jay Turner, as they missed the season opener, which Vancil won. Tharpe’s hopes were on the ropes as recently as the penultimate event in Seattle, but Vancil’s early exit in Seattle, combined with Tharpe’s win there, brought them to the finale separated by less than a round’s worth of points.
Turner had the chance to help his hired gun but couldn’t beat Vancil in the opening round at Indy. Tharpe kept pace by beating Chris Smith in the opening stanza then beat Jason Pridemore in the semifinals while Vancil kept the battle alive by besting Bob Malloy to set up the winner-take-all final.
The final round showdown started with the duo cutting identical .043 reaction times, but shortly after Vancil’s Vance & Hines entry began to falter and Tharpe rode his Spevco machine to the win light and the championship with a 6.44 pass for his fifth win of the season.