No one enjoyed the rains that washed away almost all of Saturday’s scheduled on-track activities at the Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis but there is a bright side; the sun is out on Sunday at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis and we’re going to crown 17 individual champions today. More accurately, there’s 17 lives that will be permanently changed as they join an exclusive list of drag racing legends that have won the sport’s oldest and most prestigious event.
The impact of winning a single U.S. Nationals cannot be understated and it’s a given that tears will be shed as coveted NHRA Wally trophies are awarded to the champions at the end of what has been a long and grueling, yet ultimately satisfying week at Indy.
Between the rain and the compacted 2021 schedule, the professional fields were set with just one qualifying session, which resulted in more than a few surprises. In Top Fuel, Mike Salinas and Clay Millican were among the non-qualifiers while the Funny Car field does not include Tommy Johnson Jr. who is pinch-hitting for world champion Matt Hagan while he recovers from a bout with COVID-19.
The abbreviated qualifying also means there will be several intriguing match-ups during Sunday’s opening round. Low qualifier Brittany Force will take on former world champ Shawn Langdon, who has a special Bounty Hunter paint scheme on his DHL dragster honoring team owner Connie Kalitta.
World champ Steve Torrance will also take on his friend and rival Antron Brown in another battle that is usually reserved for the late rounds.
In Funny Car, 16 time world champion John Force is the qualifying leader and he’ll take on Dave Richards in round one. No. 2 qualifier Bob Tasca III has a tough draw in Paul Lee while Alexis DeJoria also has her work cut out for her as she takes her RoKit/Bandero Tequila Toyota up against Blake Alexander in the Mustang owned by past Indy winner Jim Head.
Second-year Pro Stock racer Kyle Koretsky earned the top spot on Friday in his Lucas Oil/Nitro Fish Camaro and he’s paired with veteran Larry Morgan in round one. Erica Enders, the reigning world champ and defending Indy winner, will begin her Indy title defense against two-time Comp champ Bruno Massel while Matt Hartford will take on Aaron Stanfield in a battle of two of the class’ best drivers.
Perhaps the most talked about race of the opening round involves Pro Stock Motorcycle teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines. Krawiec put his Vance & Hines Buell on the pole Friday night while Hines struggled and landed on the bump spot. Both riders are clinging to their spots in the Countdown with Hines in the most precarious position in tenth so needled to say this isn’t an ideal match for the team that has more championships and more Indy wins than anyone else.
Defending Indy winner Scotty Pollacheck is paired with Ron Tornow to kick off eliminations while points leader Matt Smith takes on Ryan Oehler, who won his first race last summer at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Sunday’s busy schedule will also include final eliminations in the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod series, the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown, Top Fuel Harley, and ten separate Lucas Oil Drag Racing series eliminators.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
You can follow NHRA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get a closer look at the action.
Qualifying: Sunday, Sept. 5, 9 a.m., Eastern, FS1
Eliminations: Sunday, Sept. 5, 11 a.m., Eastern, FS1
Eliminations, Sunday, Sept. 5, 1 p.m., Eastern FOX