UPDATED THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Alex Laughlin made a little Indy history by becoming just the fourth driver in Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals history to have qualified in both Top Fuel and Pro Stock.
Laughlin, who won the U.S. Nationals Pro Stock crown in 2019, qualified Scott Palmer’s dragster eighth in this year’s Top Fuel field with a one-shot 3.77 on Friday.
The other three are Bruce Larson, Paul Longenecker, and Dave Connolly.
Larson qualified for TF in 1992 in Don Garlits’ dragster and in Pro Stock in 1973. Longenecker qualified for Top Fuel in 1974, ‘76, ’77, and ‘78 and in Pro Stock in 1970. Connolly qualified for Pro Stock from 2003-08 and in 2012 and 2014 (winning in 2007, ’08, and ’12) and qualified in Top Fuel in 2015.
Laughlin added to that by winning the first round, coming from behind to beat Justin Ashley to join Longenecker and Connolly as Indy rounds winners in both classes.
“It is absolutely the most special thing in the world; you never forget your first round win,” said Laughlin. ” I remember exactly where my first was in Pro Stock, in Gainesville [in 2016]
“Indy … what a place. I’m fighting back tears right now. I don’t deserve any of this. The team I’m with, the sponsors, this is unbelievable. It’s so damn cool.”
The Kalitta Motorsports team had a surprise for their venerable team owner Connie Kalitta Friday night at Indy as they did a surprise reveal in their pit area of Bounty Hunter tribute Top Fuel dragster that s being driven this weekend by defending event champion Shawn Langdon.
The entire organization also celebrated Kalitta with commemorative t-shirts.
“We wanted to do something special at the U.S. Nationals to celebrate Connie and what better way than to run this tribute Bounty Hunter Top Fuel dragster,” said Chad Head, Kalitta Motorsports General Manager. “We have to thank DHL, Kalitta Air, and all our sponsors for supporting this effort and working to give this race car a truly retro look. Connie is an amazing driver, crew chief, team owner, and person. This is just a small gesture to celebrate one of his historic race cars.”
The retro-look design celebrates the first car to break 200 mph at an NHRA national event while qualifying at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1964 and the first major win of Connie’s career, the 1964 Smokers Fuel & Gas Championship in Bakersfield, Calif., when he defeated Don Garlits in the final.
Langdon qualified the gold charger on the bump with a 4.55 but lost traction immediately in his first-round race with low qualifier Brittany Force.
Matt Hagan entered the event with a slim 15-point edge on Bob Tasca III but, after having to withdraw from the event after testing positive for COVID-19 and the failure of his car, driven by replacement Tommy Johnson Jr., to qualify, the former world champ dropped to fifth and could fall as far as eighth depending on how the day goes for his pursuers.
Mike Salinas, who was fourth in Top Fuel points entering the event, and Clay Millican, who was eighth, also both failed to qualify and could drop down to ninth and 10th but cannot be bumped from the Countdown.
After the first round of Top Fuel, the top four Countdown spots have been locked in with Steve Torrence, Brittany Force, Antron Brown, and Leah Pruett assured to finish in those positions. Billy Torrence (currently ninth) and Doug Kalitta (10th) could end up as high as fifth if either wins the race.
Blake Alexander’s first-round loss left him vulnerable to being bumped out of the Countdown field by 11th-place Jim Campbell had Campbell reached the semifinals. Alexander’s anxiety didn’t last long as Campbell was defeated in the next pair by J.R. Todd in the wild pairing shown above. According to team manager Jon Dunn, Campbell's engine safety system shut off after the engine built too much pan pressure due to tire shake.
The good news for Campbell is that he will still make the Countdown field, having completed the required minimum number of qualifying passes at every event this year.
Low qualifier John Force also had some anxious moments as his Peak/Blue Def Camaro darted towards and rode down the centerline against Dave Richards in round one. Richards, who lost his qualifying e.t. when Chad Green crossed the centerline alongside him in the lone qualifying session, almost benefitted this time.
NHRA officials went out and inspected the track and determined the while Force’s rear tire touched the centerline, he did not cross it.
“I knew it got over there sideways and usually if you get over there you’ll hot some cones, but I knew I didn’t hit them because you can see the red, but you really don’t know,” said Force. “I came off the track and they said I touched the line but didn’t go over it. I feel bad for the other guys because they thought they had it; Paul Smith and that kid [Richards] are really good.”
More so than any other class, the battle for Countdown spots was wide open entering Indy with just three drivers officially locked into the field. That being said, the field was set during Friday’s lone qualifying run when Kenny Delco officially locked up his place in the field.
Kenny Delco red-lighted against Mason McGaha in round one but he will make the playoffs as the 11th driver because he’s competed in every Pro Stock event this season. Either way, he’ll contend for the 2021 Camping World championship.
The honor is especially sweet for Delco who many might remember that Delco was bumped from playoff contention last year at Indy by his own teammate, Val Smeland.
Larry Morgan hasn’t raced in Pro Stock since the end of the 2017 season in Las Vegas but he couldn’t say no when he got the opportunity to drive the Beaver Motorsports Vita-C Shot Camaro at Indy. The team’s regular driver is Richie Stevens Jr., who had to withdraw due to the effects of Hurricane Ida on his hometown of Metairie, La.
Although he got just one qualifying run, Morgan performed well with a 6.791 to sneak into the 16-car field. Morgan, who also raced in Comp at Indy, grabbed a small lead against low qualifier Kyle Koretsky in round one, but couldn’t make it stand up. Koretsky advanced with a 6.591, the second-best run of the round.
Cory Reed got into the playoffs because he's entered every Pro Stock Motorcycle event this seaosn, but his chances to move into the Top 10 ended with his round one loss against Angelle Sampey. Reed came into the U.S. Nationals as the 11th ranked rider in the class but mathematically, he had a chance to finish as high as fourth.
Reed came up on the short end of Angelle Sampey’s solid 6.83-second run in round one and his loss means that Vance & Hines teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines are both locked into their Countdown spots. Hines lost to Krawiec in their opening round match-up, will have an opportunity to win a seventh Pro Stock championship while Krawiec can win title No. 5 this season.
The opening round was not kind to the MSR team as Matt Smith and his wife, Angie, both took rare opening-round losses. Angie, the No. 5 qualifier, red-lighted by five-thousandths of a second against Joey Gladstone, who didn’t make it to the finish line under power.
Matt’s day also ended early when his Denso Buell bogged off the starting line, allowing Ryan Oehler to ride to the victory. In qualifying, Smith was the only rider to run in over 200-mph on his Denso Buell. Despite the loss, he will enter the Countdown as the top seed in the class as he takes aim at a fifth championship.
The Smith team still has one bullet left as defending Indy winner Scotty Pollacheck won his opening race against Ron Tornow and will take on Ryan Oehler in the quarterfinals.
We already know who the busiest man at Lucas Oil Raceway is; Hands down, it’s Aaron Stanfield.
The reigning champion in the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown and a rising star in Pro Stock, Stanfield accomplished an almost unheard of feat this week when he raced in three different eliminators. A championship contender in Pro Stock and Factory Stock, Stanfield also got a chance to race in the Top Dragster class during Friday’s JEGS Allstars competition.
While NHRA rules limit each competitor to two entries per event, the JEGS Allstars provides an exemption to that rule. The only catch is that Stanfield could not race in the U.S. Nationals Top Dragster eliminator.
Stanfield’s first shot at a victory ended with a red-light in the JEGS Allstars but he’s solidly qualified for both the Pro Stock and Factory Stock fields.
There are a number of Camping World NHRA pro racers who are also moonlighting in the Lucas Oil Series sportsman classes this week and they include Billy Torrence (Top Fuel and Super Comp), Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel and Super Comp), Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock and Super Gas), Kyle Korestky (Pro Stock and Super Comp), Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock and Comp), Larry Morgan (Pro Stock and Comp), Leah Pruett (Top Fuel and Factory Stock), and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock and Factory Stock).
Prior to the start of Sunday’s professional eliminations, Coughlin, Stanfield, Pruett, and Torrence are still in the running for the elusive double. For the record, there have been double winners at 20 different NHRA venues, but Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis isn’t one of them. In addition to Indy there has never been a double at Reading, Bristol, or Richmond.
Billy Torrence and Doug Kalitta locked horns in an entertaining pedalfest in the second round. Kalitta grabbed a two-hundredths advantage at the green but both his Mac Tools car and Torrence’s Capco Contractors machine soon both broke traction and worked the throttle pedals like madmen trying to get to the finish line first.
Torrence got the win light, 6.64 to 6.84, and breathed a sigh of relief.
“My heart is still beating fast; I’ve got a round of Super Comp, so I know which lane not to pick,” Torrence joked. “I guess I need to run in the middle.”
Torrence will race his son, Steve, in the semifinals while a chagrined Kalitta will head to the trailer.
“I thought I could feather it and get by him and I should have pedaled it, but it was just one of those races where you’re trying to get to the finish line first,” said Kalitta. “It was fun, other than the win light not coming on.”
Ron Capps jumped into the points lead and cannot be passed after a tumultuous second round of Funny Car in which points leader John Force, second-place Bob Tasca III, and fellow top-fivers J.R. Todd and Robert Hight all lost. Capps started the day in fourth and will enter the Countdown to the Championship as the points leader.
When Hall of Famer Bob Glidden retired with nine U.S. Nationals Pro Stock wins, most thought it was a record that will never be bettered and it is entirely possible that it will stand the test of time but Greg Anderson is currently making inroads towards his seventh Indy title.
Anderson has already locked up the top seed in the Countdown to the Championship but that’s a secondary consideration today. He wants another Indy win.
Anderson has defeated Deric Kramer and Cristian Cuadra to reach the semifinals with his HendrickCars.com Camaro. Previously, Anderson won the sport’s marquee event in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2011. In the semifinals he’ll face his toughest challenge in reigning champ Erica Enders, who has lane choice by a thousandth of a second.
Heading into the semifinals, Angelle Sampey has established herself as the favorite in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a blistering 6.806 run on her Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki. In the final four, Sampey will have lane choice over defending Indy winner Scotty Pollacheck by a full eight-hundredths of a second.
Sampey previously won Indy in 2001-2002 and also won the summer event held at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis last July.
Nitro rookie Josh Hart, who won the U.S. Nationals Top Alcohol Dragster title back-to-back in 2017 and 2018, saw his hopes for another Indy crown disappear in midtrack tire smoke against low qualifier Brittany Force, who posted a 3.748 to reach the final round in pursuit of her first Indy crown. It was Hart’s first start since the Norwalk event earlier this summer.
“Not quick enough,” surmised Force’s crew chief Dave Grubnic. “We were shooting for lane choice.”
Grubnic proved prescient as Steve Torrence beat his father, Billy, in the other semifinal with a 3.744 to earn final-round lane choice.
Tim Wilkerson, who won Funny Car at Indy way back in 2003, will get a shot at another U.S. Nationals trophy when he takes on Ron Capps in the final. Wilkerson, who upset tire-smoking low qualifier John Force in the second round, breezed to a 3.98 to beat tire-smoking Cruz Pedregon.
For all of his Funny Car success – which encompasses 65 victories -- Capps has never won the U.S. Nationals and has only been to the final round here once, in 2017, when he lost to J.R. Todd. Capps, whose NAPA Auto Parts Dodge is tuned by Dean Antonelli and John Medlen, who wrenched Jack Beckman to the Indy win last year, will have lane choice after a 3.90 defeat of Alexis DeJoria.
Erica Enders will have a chance to win her second Indy title and third overall after a huge semifinal win over Greg Anderson. Normally, Enders gets off the starting line ahead of her opponents but this time, Anderson was nearly perfect with a .009 light but his HendrickCars.com Camaro shook the tires and he was powerless to stop the Elite Camaro as Enders drove to a 6.64.
To win a third Indy, Enders will have to beat Kyle Koretsky, who is going to his third career final round after topping recent Topeka winner Dallas Glenn. Koretsky will have lane choice in the final.
Should Koretsky win, he’ll not only move to third place in the Camping World standings, but he’ll also be able to hand a Wally to his father, Kenny, who never won a national event in his long career, but did appear in the Indy final in 2004, where he lost to current teammate Greg Anderson.
In 1985-86, Terry Vance won back-to-back U.S. Nationals title in Pro Stock Motorcycle and since then, the Vance & Hines team has won the Big Go a half dozen more times with riders Matt Hines, Andrew Hines, and Eddie Krawiec. The team, based next to Lucas Oil Raceway in the town of Brownsburg, will add another title this year as teammates Krawiec and Angelle Sampey prepare to run in the final.
Sampey, a two-time Indy winner from her days aboard a Star Racing Suzuki, has had one of the best bikes in the class this weekend. She made it to the final after Scotty Pollacheck fouled, but also ran a 6.831, the best runs of the weekend.
Krawiec joined Sampey in the final after a 6.91 to 6.96 win against Joey Gladstone, who is also racing a Vance & Hines Suzuki.
FUNNY CAR RESULTS: Tim Wilkerson's perseverance pays off with second Indy Funny Car crown
PRO STOCK RESULTS: Erica Enders goes back-to-back; claims third Indy Pro Stock title
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE RESULTS:Krawiec tops Sampey in epic all Vance & Hines Indy Pro Stock Motorcycle final
LUCAS OIL SERIES SPORTSMAN CHAMPIONS
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER
Jackie Fricke def. Matt Cummings
TOP ALCOHOL FUNNY CAR
Doug Gordon def. Shane Westerfield
Jim Greenheck def. Frank Aragona
Matt Morris def. Gary Emmons
Matt Lisa def. Todd Hoven
Nick Isenhower def. Michael Jirousek
Edmond Richardson def. Tim Gillespie
Lawrence Paden def. Trevor Larson
TOP DRAGSTER presented by Vortech Superchargers
Zach Sackman def. Bradley Johnson
TOP SPORTSMAN presented by Vortech Superchargers
Jimmy Lewis def. Allen Firestone
CONSTANT AVIATION FACTORY STOCK SHOWDOWN
Jesse Alexandra def. Aaron Stanfield