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The top ten most memorable moments from the Denso NHRA U.S. Nationals

There were a million memorable moments during last week’s Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals so it’s almost impossible to pick out just 10 that stand out from the rest but we’ve given it our best shot.
08 Sep 2020
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
top ten

There were a million memorable moments during last week’s Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals so it’s almost impossible to pick out just 10that stand out from the rest but we’ve given it our best shot.  

1.    Megan Meyer runs 5.09 twice in Top Alcohol Dragster

It was not a surprise to see reigning Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Megan Meyer win the U.S. Nationals for the second straight year but how she did it is why fans and fellow will long remember it. Meyer didn’t just win Indy; she dominated the event like few others. Just days after announcing her impending retirement from the class, Meyer blitzed the field by running 5.09 twice, the two quickest runs in the history of the class. Meyer is now the record holder, shattering the 5.103 mark set by Bill Reichert in Houston on April 1, 2007. Meyer qualified fourth with a 5.23 but took advantage of Saturday’s cooler conditions to run a 5.097 in round two and then a 5.090 in her semifinal win against Shawn Cowie.

2.    Scotty Pollacheck gets his first-ever Pro Stock Motorcycle victory

If nothing else, Scotty Pollacheck will never again have to answer the question, “When will you win your first national event?” After nearly 10 years in the class and 132 races, Pollacheck is finally an NHRA national event champion and his first victory was a big one. A day after a crushing -.001 red-light against Matt Smith in the final of the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle, Pollacheck made it to his seventh career final round and this time, he finished the job with a one-sided 6.79 to 6.91 win against reigning and six-time world champ Andrew Hines, who had previously won 24 of the 29 times they’d raced in eliminations. As an added bonus, Pollacehck took over the points lead with just five events remaining in the season.

3.    Erica Enders puts crushing 2019 loss behind her, wins second Indy Pro Stock title

Flashback to the 2019 U.S. Nationals Pro Stock final where Erica Enders appeared to have it in the bag against her teammate Alex Laughlin but came up empty-handed. Enders was more than a tenth better off the starting line but her Elite Camaro suffered an engine issue and slowed, and she’s since called the loss one of the most disappointing moments of her career. A year later, Enders got the job done when she beat Matt Hartford in a much more competitive 6.60 to 6.61 final round to win her second Indy title and take over the points lead as she pursues what could be her fourth Mello Yello series championship.

4.    Shawn Langdon pedals his way past Justin Ashley en route to Top Fuel win

Shawn Langdon won his second Indy Top Fuel title with a strong 3.70 in the final round against Leah Pruett, but it was his semifinal win against rookie Justin Ashley that will long be remembered as possibly one of the best races of the entire 2020 season. It’s rare that two nitro cars smoke the tires at the hit of the throttle but that’s exactly what happened. In one of the best “pedalfests” of this or any other season, both drivers did their best to get to the finish line in the shortest time possible. Langdon, with far more experience in such situations than rookie Ashley, managed to keep his DHL dragster reasonably straight as he mashed the throttle nearly a half-dozen times. The end result was an entertaining 6.92 to 7.23 win for Langdon with neither driver cracking the 200-mph mark.

5.    Brothers Jerry and Terry Emmons double-up in Stock and Super Stock

The Emmons brothers -- identical triplets Gary, Terry, and Jerry, along with their older brother, Harvey III --  have done a lot of damage in Super Stock and Stock over the last three decades but few of their wins will compare to the 2020 Denso NHRA U.S. Nationals where Jerry claimed the Super Stock title and Terry scored his second win in Stock Eliminator. It was the third time the Emmons brothers have doubled at an event, but the first at Indy. Terry and Harvey first accomplished the feat at the 1999 Memphis race and Jerry and Gary combined for a Super Stock and Stock double in Dallas in 2011. At Indy, Jerry won his 16th national event title and second Indy when he topped Parker DeVore in the Stock final. A few minutes later, Terry scored career win No. 7 when he drove his Protect the Harvest entry past Dan Fletcher, who was in pursuit of his 105th national event title.

6.    Jack Beckman rebounds from Saturday loss to earn second Indy Funny Car title

On Saturday, Jack Beckman missed out on an opportunity to become DSR’s 350th national event winner when he lost the rain-delayed final round of the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernaitonals to teammate Matt Hagan. It took less than 24 hours for Beckman to make amends when he won Sunday’s final over J.R. Todd. Beckman is now a two-time Indy champion, as well as a 33-time national event winner in Super Comp and Funny Car. The win also helped Beckman in his quest to win this year’s championship as he currently leads Hagan by 35 markers with five races remaining. DSR teammate Tommy Johnson is also in the mix, just 57 points back.

7.     Bob Malloy sets Top Fuel Harley record at 6.09

Bob Malloy’s quest to win the Mickey Thompson Top Fuel Harley class at Indy came to an end when he broke in his semifinal race against Jay Turner, but his performance a round earlier made headlines throughout the sport. Seemingly out of nowhere, Malloy powered to a 6.096-second run in his opening round win against Ryan Peery. It was the quickest run in the history of the class, eclipsing Tak Shigematsu’s record of 6.101 from the 2019 Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals.

8.     Stevie “Fast” Jackson wins second Indy in Pro Mod

Pro Mod cars are wild and unpredictable and NHRA fans saw that firsthand on Sunday at Indy when Kris Thorne and Steve Matusek were both involved in spectacular on-track incidents. Fortunately, both drivers walked away unhurt. Steve Jackson also knows what it’s like to bang up a Pro Mod car as he had to repair damage to his Bahrain1 Camaro just days before heading to Indy. The long sleepless nights spent repairing the damage were not enough to keep Jackson from winning “The Big Go” for the second time in his career. Jackson pretty much single-handedly destroyed the myth that Pro Mod cars are not consistent with two 5.77 runs and two 5.75 runs on Sunday including his final-round win over rival Todd Tutterow.

9.    Stephen Yantus ends Jimmy Daniels' five-year reign in the Dodge Hemi Challenge

For the first time since 2016, the Dodge Hemi Challenge has a new champion. Stephen Yantus won the special event that highlights the 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda factory Super Stock cars. Meanwhile, Jimmy Daniels’ four-year reign at the event came to an end. Shockingly, Daniels lost in round one, the result of a close race against Joe Teuton. Yantus was the low qualifier and used a string of low 8.4-second runs to earn the $15,000 top prize following a final-round win over Steve Comella.

10.    Tim Gillespie’s very rare perfect run in Super Gas

There were more than 3,600 runs made at this year’s Denso Spark Plugs U.S. Nationals but only one of them was perfect. During Sunday morning’s third round of Super Gas eliminations, Tim Gillespie of Xenia, Ohio threw down an unbeatable run when he left with a perfect .000 reaction time and then stopped the timers with an equally flawless 9.900 on the 9.90 Super Gas index. Ironically, Gillespie didn’t need to do either of those things after his opponent, Bill Jackson, had already left a red-light hanging on the starting line. Gillespie went on to lose a tough race against Jacob Elrod in round five, but he did return from Indy with a time slip that is suitable for framing.