Nearly 900 racers hit the ground running on Thursday morning as the 66th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals kicked off at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, with the start of qualifying and time trials for sportsman racers in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. Thursday’s packed schedule including the opening qualifying runs for competitors in Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Comp, Top Dragster and Top Sportsman. Also on the docket was qualifying and class eliminations for Super Stock and Stock racers and time trial runs for heads-up competitors in Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street. The field was also set for Friday’s Dodge Hemi Challenge event.
World champs Megan Meyer and Sean Bellemeur led the way in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car respectively. Meyer, who recently announced she’d be stepping away from the Top Alcohol Dragster class following the 2020 season, used a 5.231 to take the top spot by just nine-thousandths of a second over Josh Hart, who is second at 5.239. After one run, the bump in TAD is 5.654. Bellemeur also maintains a slim edge over the rest of the field with a 5.491 while Chris Marshall is second at 5.500. Two-time world champ Jonnie Lindberg is currently on the bump spot in TAFC.
Frank Affronti took the early lead in Comp Eliminator when he drove his E/AA Cobalt to a 7.419 on his 8.15 index. Bruno Massel, known to most NHRA fans as a commentator on the Fox NHRA television coverage of NHRA events and his work as a host of the popular Garage Squad and TruckU television shows, drove his turbocharge Chevy Cobalt to the seocnd spot in Comp with a run of 7.180-seconds which is -.650-second under the index. World champs Frank Aragaona Jr. and Craig Bourgeois, are third and fourth respectively.
Ernie Neal II, of Columbus Ind., wheeled his SS/PA '96 Caprice to the top spot in Super Stock qualifying with a run of 10.953 seconds, 12.65 (-1.697-second under his index). Neal was the quickest of the 134-cars that made runs on Friday, holding off Ron Terrell, Jeff Niceswanger, and Logan Belanger. The Super Stock field includes many of the sport’s best racers including world champions Ricky Decker, Byon Worner, Justin Lamb, David Rampy, Joe Santangelo, Amy Faulk, Anthony Bertozzi, John Calvert, and Dan Fletcher.
Likewise, the Stock field has 134-cars, and no one was quicker than Marty Buth of Freeport, Ill., who drove his O/SA Mustang to a (-.1.517) 11.633 to earn the top spot over Eddie Chin, Jeff Taylor, and Ron Seibenick. Taylor is one of nine world champions in the field and he’s also a three-time U.S. Nationals winner. The Stock field also includes reigning world champ Allison Doll and defending U.S. Nationals winner Austin Williams.
The Vortech Superchargers Top Dragster and Top Sportsman classes held their first of their two qualifying runs on Thursday night with Afton Swanson and Lester Johnson holding down the top spots, respectively. After one session, the 32-car bump spot in Top Dragster is a swift 6.33 while all 32 Top Sportsman qualifiers are in the field at 7.141 or quicker.
Friday’s hectic schedule will include the first round of eliminations in all categories as well as the popular Dodge Hemi Challenge event and the JEGS Allstars race which features 80 of the best sportsman racers from all over North America.