Ten years ago, I wrote this column with a slew of trivia about the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. In the decade since, a lot has changed and some of it hasn’t, so in honor of this year’s 65th edition of the “Big Go” I crunched the numbers and came up with a dizzying array of stats for a big feature, The Big Book of Indy Lists, that will appear in the next edition of National Dragster. To whet your appetite for its arrival in your mailbox, I thought I’d share some of the cool stuff here.
First, the most obvious stats:
|MOST WINS BY CLASS|
|Top Fuel||Tony Schumacher||10|
|Funny Car||Ed McCulloch||5|
|Pro Stock||Bob Glidden||9|
|Pro Stock Motorcycle||Dave Schultz||6|
|Sportsman||Frank Manzo (TAFC)||11|
In addition to his class-leading nine Indy Pro Stock wins, Bob Glidden also had six runner-ups and appeared in 13 straight Indy finals, 1977-1989. Amazing.
Winning Indy one is one thing, but would you believe that 96 different drivers have won it more than once, which includes 54 two-time winners, 19 three-time winners, five four-time winners, seven six-time winners, and one winner each for seven, eight, nine, 10, and 11 times.
Five drivers have dominated Indy for four-year spans: Pat Austin (Top Alcohol Funny Car, 1988-91); Greg Anderson (Pro Stock, 2003-06); Bob Glidden (Pro Stock, 1985-88); Warren Johnson (Pro Stock, 1992-95); and Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel, 2006-09).
Noticeably absent from that list is Funny Car, where no driver has even won three years in a row, a feat that is within reach this year for J.R. Todd, winner the last two years. Ed McCulloch, Don Prudhomme, Cruz Pedregon, Ashley Force Hood, and Mike Neff all won back to back, but no one has ever three-peated in Funny Car.
Three drivers -– Al Corda, Gary Stinnett, and Iggie Boicesco -– are among the multi-time Indy winners who are significant in that each of them went 22 years between Indy victories: Corda (1971-1993); Stinnett (1994-2016); Boicesco (1994-2006).
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Marvin Graham’s stunning 1974 Indy Top Fuel win, but he’s far from being the first Pro driver to get their first (and, in some cases, only) national event win at Indy. That list also includes Top Fuel pilots Gary Beck (1972), Dennis Baca (1977), Terry Capp (1980), and Johnny Abbott (1981); Funny Car racers Doug Thorley (1967), Don Schumacher (1970), Ed McCulloch (1971) Raymond Beadle (1975), Gary Burgin (1976), Jim Head (1984); and, of course, Bob Glidden in Pro Stock (1973).
Tony Schumacher reached his first Indy Top Fuel final in 1996, it what was not just his first Indy but his first race period in Top Fuel, driving for the Peek Bros. He barely qualified (16th) but got a bye in round one following the death of low qualifier Blaine Johnson in qualifying then Larry Dixon and Mike Dunn both smoked the tires against him. Cory McClenathan and the McDonald's dragster ended his Cinderella run in the final. His first Indy win would come four years later.
First female Indy winners by class: Top Fuel, Shirley Muldowney (1982); Funny Car, Ashley Force (2009), Pro Stock, Erica Enders (2015), Pro Stock Motorcycle, Angelle Sampey (2001); Sportsman, Ashley Force (Top Alcohol Dragster, 2004); Factory Stock Showdown, Leah Pritchett (2018).
The following Pro drivers, each with 20 or more other wins, did not/have not won Indy: Ron Capps (64 other wins); Jason Line (51), Doug Kalitta (45), Tony Pedregon (43), Allen Johnson (27), Jim Yates (25), Mark Oswald (20).
Peter Biondo is one of four drivers to win Indy in thee different classes, with two wins each in Super Stock, Stock, and Super Comp. George Montgomery, Brad Plourd, and Scotty Richardson also have won in three classes.
Ed McCulloch, Don Prudhomme Kenny Bernstein, and Jim Head are the only drivers to have won Indy in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Antron Brown is the only driver to have won in Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle at the event.
No driver has doubled at Indy, i.e., winning in two classes in the same year, although Pat Austin, who won Top Alcohol Funny Car and runner-upped in Top Fuel in 1991; Scotty Richardson, who won Stock and was runner-up in Super Comp in 1996; and David Rampy (pictured), who won Super Comp and was runner-up in Comp in 1998, have come close.
With 11 No. 1 qualifiers, John Force has the most pole positions at Indy, with Bob Glidden (9) and Warren Johnson (8), behind him on the list. Among active drivers, Matt Hagan, Greg Anderson, and Angelle Sampey are next with five each.
FIVE UNFORGETTABLE FINALS
1955 Top Eliminator: Calvin Rice vs. Fritz Voight
Twenty-five-year-old Southern California racer Rice became NHRA’s first national champion defeating Voight in Phoenix two months after the final rounds were washed out in Great Bend, Kan. After two no-go starts due to early leaves, Rice, near lane, ran 10.30 to get the win.
1973 Pro Stock: Bob Glidden vs. Wayne Gapp
Homestate favorite Glidden won his first of nine U.S. Nationals crowns and his first of 85 career NHRA victories, beating Gapp by just .0001-second. The 29-year-old Glidden qualified No. 1, had low e.t., and set the national speed record during the event.
1975 Top Fuel: Don Garlits vs. Shirley Muldowney
Muldowney became the first female driver to reach a final round at the sport’s biggest event, but the second-year dragster driver was no match for wily “Big Daddy,” who won the U.S. Nationals for the fourth time, 5.93 to 6.44
1976 Funny Car: Gary Burgin vs. Don Prudhomme
Prudhomme, at this point already a five-time Indy winner and, with 19 victories, the all-time wins leader, had won all five 1976 events (and seven straight back into 1975) but fell to first-time winner Burgin. It’s was Prudhomme’s only round loss that season (30-1), winning seven of eight events.
1978 Funny Car: Tom McEwen vs. Don Prudhomme
Prudhomme was heavily favored thanks to a lopsided lifetime record (0-4 in previous finals) against his former teammate, but McEwen, whose young son Jamie had died just before the event, had fate on his side as he beat “the Snake,” 6.05 to 6.33, in one of the all-time great Indy moments.
That’s all just the tip of the iceberg of an extensive, six-page feature that you can read online this Thursday or leaf through in your mailbox a few days after that. Indy is an amazing race, and the heroes of “the Big Go” -– whether they won it once or 11 times –- are part of that rich history.
For everything you need to know about this year's event, including how to buy tickets, check out this page. Maybe I'll see you there, and maybe we'll see more history together.
Phil Burgess can reached at [email protected]
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