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Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Sportsman Highlights

Jay Payne joined the short list of three-time Indy winners when he drove his Peak Camaro to the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Top Alcohol Funny Car title. Lynn Ellison also became a two-time U.S. Nationals champ when he drove to the Super Comp title.
16 Sep 2019
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
News
Jay Payne

Jay Payne joined the short list of three-time Indy winners when he drove his Peak Camaro to the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Top Alcohol Funny Car title. Lynn Ellison also became a two-time U.S. Nationals champ when he drove to the Super Comp title. Payne and Ellison, were joined in the Lucas Oil Raceway winner’s circle by a host of first-time Indy winners including Megan Meyer (Top Alcohol Dragster), Frank Aragona Jr, (Comp), Tyler Cassil (Super Stock), Austin Williams (Stock), Nathan Vrooman (Super Gas), Larry Demers (Top Sportsman), and Rusty Baxter (Top Dragster).

Meyer gave her Top Alcohol Dragster title hopes a boost when she stopped Troy Coughlin Jr. in the final round. The race was decided on the starting line after Coughlin fouled by three-thousandths of a second, putting a premature end to what would have been a thrilling race with both drivers running 5.25. [video]

Payne, an Indy winner in 2010 and 2014, narrowly beat Chris Marshall in a close 5.563 to 5.565 Top Alcohol Funny Car final round. Payne was first off the starting line by a thousandth of a second in one of the closest races of the weekend. Payne has now won 46 national event titles since his first win at the 1988 Finals in Pomona. [video]

Aragona Jr. has already won a pair of national championships in Comp and he’s in line for a possible third title this season, but he’d never won the U.S. Nationals until this year when he defeated David Billingsley to win the title. Aragona gave up .14-hundredths in index before the final round but still had enough left to take his J/AA Bantam to the victory with a (-.568) 7.602 that held off Billinsley’s (-.519) 8.061. [video]

Cassil honored the memory of his late grandfather, Bill, in the best way possible, by winning the Indy Super Stock title in a Monday evening final round. Cassil wasn’t planning to enter the “Big Go” until he realized this was the 50th anniversary of his grandfather’s first Indy. Cassil raced Dave Dupps Jr. in the final round and won in a double-breakout with a 9.346 on his 9.35 dial. [video]

In one of the most talked-about final rounds of the season,  Williams captured the Indy Stock title following a heads-up final round against Matt Antrobius. Coming off another heads-up H/SA run in the semifinals against Eric Brooks, Williams capped off the biggest win of his career with a perfect .000 light, and he needed most of it to take a holeshot victory, 11.058 to 11.043. [video]

It took eight rounds to decide a winner in Super Comp and it was not the least bit surprising to see veterans Ellison and Rock Haas square off for the title. Ellison, the 2012 U.S. Nationals Super Comp champ and the 2017 Top Dragster national champ, finished off his second Indy win with a .008 light and an 8.923 to edge Haas’ 8.922. With the win, Ellison has now claimed nine national event victories across four different classes, Super Comp, Super Gas, Top Dragster, and Super Stock. [video]

Vrooman has won both Chicago and Indy this year following his final round win against Steve Hoyt in Super Gas. Vrooman, in his ’91 Beretta, closed the deal with a 9.919 and a .010 light while Hoyt trailed with a 9.920. The win was Vrooman’s third in national event competition including the 2012 Norwalk event. Vrooman had his work cut out for himself every step of the way in the eight-round race including the semifinals where he defeated reigning national champ and Defending Indy winner Devin Isenhower. [video]

Two weeks after winning the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Demers struck again when he became the first driver to win Indy in Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs.com. In a bizarre twist of fate, Demers did not qualify for the tough 32-car field, but got in as an alternate and made his way to the final where he stopped Belva “Badeye” Brinegar with a perfect 6.752 on his 6.75 dial. Demers also topped national event winner Glenn Butcher and Paul Pittman to make the final round. [video]

In many ways, Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs.com stole the show at Indy with a record 32-car field qualified between a 6.100 (the quickest allowable elapsed time) and a 6.234 by past Super Comp world champion Al Kenny. All but two of the qualifiers were over 220-mph and it took a 6.132 to make the top half of the show. The final round featured six-time Indy winner and seven-time world champ Peter Biondo and Rusty Baxter, who was appearing in his first national event final. Biondo, looking to join Jeg Coughlin Jr. with a win in a seventh-different class, crossed the finish line first, but lost in a double-breakout. [video]