Rarely is a sequel better than the original but that isn’t likely to be the case this weekend when Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis hosts its third NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing series event of the season. The Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals will take place August 6.-9, and it will feature a full slate of professional racing including Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle, as well as the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Series presented by Jerry Bickel Race Cars, the Mickey Thompson Tire Top Fuel Harley class, and a Mountain Motor Pro Stock exhibition. The event will also run in conjunction with the North Central Division Summer Spectacle, which is expected to include more than 500 Lucas Oil Series racers in ten different classes. All told, the field at Indy is poised to exceed 600 entries, which would make it the largest event of the 2020 season to date.
With the open-ended postponement of the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil in Denver and the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, NHRA elected to add another event to take place at historic Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. The event will mark the third event in five weeks at the fabled facility, which has served as a consistent launchpad for NHRA’s Return to Racing after a four-month hiatus due to COVID-19. The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series resumed at the Indy facility July 11-12 with the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals and continued the following weekend, July 18-19, with the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals.
The new event will receive extraordinary television coverage, with Saturday’s qualifying highlights airing Sunday morning on FS1 leading into the live eliminations show on the widely available and prominent Fox Broadcast Network beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern
The first Indy event held in early July, featured wins by Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and first-time winner Ryan Oehler (Pro Stock Motorcycle). A week later at the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals, the final rounds of Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Mod, and the SAM Tech.edu Factory Stock Showdown, were delayed by rain and will be run during the upcoming Denso U.S. Nationals.
In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta is the incoming points leader thanks to three final-round appearances in four races. and will have a chance to further extended his lead over reigning champ Steve Torrence and his father, Billy, who have each banked a victory this season. The Top Fuel field will also feature upstart Justin Ashley, who will appear in the rain-delayed final round of the most recent Indy event.
"I think we will continue to be consistent,” Kalitta said. “This team has been doing a great job preparing the car for every run. We had a strong finish to the season last year and I feel like we picked right back up to start this season. We just try to do everything right and race hard. Every race always matters but we are definitely not taking any race lightly. We want to hold onto this points lead all season."
Jack Beckman and his Infinite Hero team will also have a chance to increase their lead in the Funny Car standings. Beckman began the season with a win and a runner-up in Pomona and Phoenix and the 2012 NHRA champion is also in the rain-delayed final round from the Lucas Oil Summernationals. Beckman is scheduled to face off against teammate Matt Hagan, who has the potential to sweep all of the Indy events following his win at the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals in early July.
“The momentum that we have is just amazing,” Hagan said. “We’ve been carrying the momentum since the beginning of the year from the work my guys put in over the winter and kept up through the break. We started with two No. 1 qualifiers and a semifinal appearance, then added a win and another final round appearance in the last two races back. The work that my team at DSR and Mopar has put into the preparation is really paying off right now on the racetrack.”
Coming off a win in Pomona and a runner-up at the first Indy event, Jeg Coughlin Jr. has the Pro Stock points lead in what is expected to be his final season as a full-time NHRA Pro. Coughlin raced rival Jason Line in both final rounds with each multi-time class champ taking a victory. The Pro Stock field will also include Coughlin’s nephew, Troy Jr., who made his official debut in the class last month.
“Our JEGS.com team strives to continue the strong run we are on right now,” said Coughlin, who leads Line by a mere eight points heading into the event. “This run dates back to 2019 and has really carried nicely into 2020 with a win and runner-up finish to our credit in the three events we’ve had. The competition has always fueled the majority of the rivalry between the two teams.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the last two events have yielded a first-time winner with Jianna Salinas claiming a victory at the 2019 season finale in Pomona and Oehler winning the class’ 2020 debut in early July in Indy. Oehler will look to make it two-straight this weekend and will have to contend with past world champs Matt Smith, Andrew Hines, Eddie Krawiec, Angelle Sampey, and Jerry Savoie.
“This MSR/DENSO team is going to be really strong this year,” Smith said. “We qualified 2, 4, and 6 at the first race. We’re looking forward to trying to do better at the next race. I think all three bikes can be in the top five after qualifying is said and done. Me and Angie (wife) have been doing a lot of work in the shop. We’ve been doing a lot of dyno work, a lot of new parts and new pieces that come in over the winter. We only see things getting better the longer we work this year.”
The event schedule will include Lucas Oil Series sportsman qualifying and eliminations on Thursday and Friday. The Sportsman classes in competition will be Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Oakley Top Dragster, and Oakley Top Sportsman. Professional class racers will hit the track for two qualifying runs on Saturday and final eliminations, Sunday, August 9. The Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals, the biggest and richest event of any season, also will be contested, as always, at Lucas Oil Raceway on Labor Day weekend.
A limited number of tickets are on sale now to the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals. Tickets may be purchased by visiting NHRA.com or calling 800-884-NHRA