Even though it’s not Monday, the traditional final day at Indy, it’s time to crown champions at the 66th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals. As NHRA’s oldest and most historic event, the importance of a U.S. Nationals title can’t be understated and as far as most drag racers are concerned, today is the most important day of the year.
After two intense days of qualifying, the professional fields are set for today’s final eliminations. Part Super Comp and Top Fuel world champion Shawn Langdon ran a 3.72 on Friday night and leads the Top Fuel field into Sunday’s final eliminations. Langdon has won 23 national events in his career including a pair of Indy wins in 2010 (Super Gas) and 2013 (Top Fuel). Langdon isn’t the only Top Fuel racer who enters eliminations on a high note. Yesterday, rookie Justin Ashley won his first race as a pro when he defeated T.J. Zizzo in the rain-delayed final from the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals in July. Indy doubles are almost unheard of, but Ashley remains in the running for a second title.
Matt Hagan is also in the running for a Funny Car double after winning Saturday’s rain-delayed Indy II final against DSR teammate Jack Beckman. Hagan will begin his quest for a win from the No. 5 spot while his teammate, Tommy Johnson Jr. is the low qualifier after a 3.878 run in his MD Anderson Cancer Centers Dodge. Johnson has 20 national event wins in his career, but his resumé lacks a win at Indy. Johnson also enters the “Big Go” as the points leader with five events remaining.
For the 105th time in his career, Greg Anderson is the qualifying leader in Pro Stock after wheeling his Summit Camaro to a 6.549 on Friday night. Anderson has 94 national event wins including six at Indy so he knows his way to the winner’s circle at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Behind Anderson, the entire Pro Stock field is separated by just .081-second which means any of the 16 qualifiers are capable of making a deep run into eliminations.
Yesterday, Matt Smith earned $25,000 for winning the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle and now the three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion will shift his focus to earning a second Indy title. Smith last won the U.S. Nationals in 2006 but he’s got an excellent shot to win again after qualifying No. 3 with a 6.792. Smith trails his teammate, Scotty Pollacheck and Harley-Davidson rider Eddie Krawiec, who also found the 6.7s during yesterday’s qualifying. On Saturday, Pollacheck also made headlines when he became the fourth member of the Denso 200-mph Pro Stock Motorcycle Club.
In addition to the four pro classes, champions will also be crowned today in the E3 Pro Mod series, the Mickey Thompson Top Fuel Harley series, the SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown, and ten Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series sportsman categories.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX TV and NHRA.tv.
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Sunday, September 6, Fox TV will televise three hours of live finals coverage beginning at 1 p.m.