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Terry McMillen takes first career pole; Tommy Johnson Jr., Jason Line, and Matt Smith also lead their fields in Indy

Professional qualifying is complete at the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals presented by Pennzoil where Terry McMillen, Tommy Johnson Jr., Jason Line, and Matt Smith emerged as the low qualifiers in their respective Pro classes.
08 Aug 2020
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Race coverage

Following Saturday’s two qualifying runs at Lucas Oil Raceway Indianapolis, the fields are set for the Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals presented by Pennzoil. Terry McMillen and Tommy Johnson Jr. emerged as the low qualifiers in Top Fuel and Funny Car, respectively. Jason Line and Matt Smith also recorded the quickest runs of the day in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

McMillen, a past winner of the Denso U.S. Nationals, wheeled his Amalie Motor Oil dragster to a 3.807 in Q2 to knock reigning champion Steve Torrence from the top spot. McMillen, the low qualifier for the first time in his long career, has made several impressive runs since debuting his new in-house chassis last month. As the low qualifier, McMillen will be paired against former European champ Lex Joon in round one.

"It's amazing because we know we have a really good car right now,"  said McMillen. "I've watched my buddy, Clay Millican forever get these green hats. To finally get one of your own, there's nothing like it. It's like winning the Nationals. Tomorrow is race day and its a whole different day. We're No. 1 and everyone knows it."

Torrence, in the battle for a third-straight Mello Yello Top Fuel championship, opened with a 3.814 in his Richard Hogan-tuned Capco Contractors dragster and finished the day in the No. 2 spot. Torrence will be paired with Luigi Novelli in Sunday’s opening round of eliminations. Perhaps the best news for Torrence is that his father, Billy, qualified in the eight spot which means the two Capco dragsters cannot meet until the final round. At the recent Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals, Billy and Steve squared off in an epic father-son battle in round one with Billy taking the victory.

The Schumacher Racing team swept the top three spots in Funny Car qualifying with Tommy Johnson Jr. sitting atop the field with a 3.976 in his MD Anderson Cancer Center Dodge. He’s followed closely by Matt Hagan (3.982) and Ron Capps (3.987). Johnson will wear the green low qualifier hat for the second time this year and 20th time in his career. Johnson will face a tough battle in round one when he squares off against Alexis DeJoria’s ROKiT/ABK Beer Toyota.

"Anytime you are in a points championship battle with these guys [Hagan and Beckman] and they have to race each other that's good," said Johnson. "No. 1, we get extra points and now we need to see what we can do with it tomorrow."

Hagan, unbeaten in his last seven rounds at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, also faces a tough draw when he’s paired with DSR teammate Jack Beckman and his Infinite Hero team. Beckman qualified an uncharacteristically low 15th, setting up the unlikely round one draw. Hagan and Beckman are scheduled to race in the rain-delated final from the most recent Indy event. That race will take place during qualifying for the Denso U.S. Nationals next month.

KB Racing teammates Line and Greg Anderson led a 1-2 sweep of the top spots in Pro Stock with their matching Summit Racing Equipment Camaros. Line earned the top spot for the 57th time in his career and second time this season with a best of 6.574. Line was also the top qualifier and the winner most recent Pro Stock event, the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals also held at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. He will face off against Robert River in the opening round of eliminations. Anderson is nearly two-hundredths of a second behind, an eternity in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock division, with a 6.592.

"I'm pretty happy with my Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro today," said Line. "Last time we were here, we had an issue and didn't get to make two qualifying runs with my car – and today we got both runs in, so that feels like a good start. It was fun today, and I'm excited for tomorrow. We have a good opportunity, it will just be a matter of doing what we came here to do."

Current points leader Jeg Coughlin Jr. will start from the No. 3 spot after a 6.593 best in his JEGS.com Camaro while rookie Kyle Koretsky, making just his second start in the class, turned in perhaps the most surprising performance of the day with a 6.594 for fourth-place. Koretsky will be paired with fellow Pro Stock freshman Troy Coughlin Jr. in round one, a match-up that guarantees one racer their first Pro Stock round win. Another intriguing round one match features three-time world champion Erica Enders and her Elite teammate, Aaron Stanfield.

Smith held off a strong charge from the three-bike Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team to secure the top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The three-time world champ rode his Denso EBR to a 6.807 to not only take the lead but also set the new track elapsed time record. In 261-career races, Smith, who builds his own engines, has been the quickest qualifier 39 times. Smith also had the quickest pass of the second session with a 6.845, sweeping all six available qualifying points.

"I think the [two qualifying sessions] makes it better for our team," said Smith.  "We're normally pretty good for the first two runs. You give these guys four runs and a lot of people catch up to us a lot more often so I'm pretty happy with having just two runs."

The factory Harley-Davidson team occupies three of the next four spots behind Smith with Eddie Krawiec in second after a 6.817, Angelle Sampey in fourth with a 6.847, and six-time champion Andrew Hines starting from the No. 5 spot after a 6.855. Ryan Oehler, who earned his first win at the last Indy event to feature the bike class, followed his victory with another strong qualifying performance. Oehler put his EBR-bodied entry into the field with a third-quickest 6.840, giving him a round one match against David Barron.

Qualifying for the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Series presented by Jerry Bickel Race Cars was also completed on Saturday and former series champ Khalid alBalooshi earned the top spot after driving his Bahrain1 Camaro to a 5.729. alBaloohi is one of the first drivers to utilize the new ProCharger engine combination and he leads a talented field that began with 20 entries. Jason Scruggs and Chad Green, who are scheduled to meet in the rain-delayed final round from last month’s Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals, qualified second and fifth, respectively.

Reigning champion Tii Tharpe used a 6.323 to take the lead in the Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley class while J.R. Carr’s 6.267 was the quickest of the day in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock class.

Sunday’s final eliminations will kick off at 10 a.m. and the final rounds will be carried on FOX TV from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT).