As it has since 1961, the thunder of NHRA horsepower roared to life Friday at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, and more history is in the making.
The daughter-father duo of Brittany and John Force, who won together in Topeka three weeks ago, are the leaders in Top Fuel and Funny Car, respectively, while Kyle Koretsky, and Eddie Krawiec are the opening-day qualifying leaders in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle at the Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals.
Brittany, who has been the qualifying leader at each of the previous five events and seven other times this season, powered her David Grubnic-tuned Monster Energy dragster to a 3.684 to stay just ahead of points leader Steve Torrence’s 3.688. 2019 U.S. Nationals champ Doug Kalitta had the No 1 spot for most of the session before surrendering it to Force but still remains in the No. 3 spot.
"Eight number one qualifiers, that says a lot about this team, and David Grubnic and MaC Savage and all these guys," said Force. "We want No. 1 qualifiers, but we also want to win on raceday. We had some luck in Topeka a few weeks back, but we want to do it here, the biggest race of the season.
"I've been coming here since I was a baby. I love this place. And we want to get the win here. It's the one race that every team wants to win. I've heard people say 100 times, you know, you can't retire until you do that. So I've been chasing the Indy win. It's the big one and we want to come out here and do it this week. We haven't had luck here in the past but hoping to turn things around."
John Hart and Leah Pruett both ran 3.755 but Hart got the No. 4 spot thanks to a superior speed, 325.22 to 322.88. Billy Torrence sits sixth with a 3.756 and Greg Carillo No. 7 with a career-best 3.769. Pro Stock driver turned Top Fuel pilot Alex Laughlin rounds out the top eight with a 3.771.
Five-time U.S. Nationals champ John Force is looking for his first No. 1 qualifier since the Charlotte Four-Wide Nationals in mid-May, seized the No. 1 spot in a competitive qualifying session in which his 3.871 stole the top spot from teammate Robert Hight, who had earlier run 3.889. Bob Tasca III also ran 3.889 but his faster speed, 332.67 to Hight’s 329.67 wedged him between the stablemates in the No. 2 spot.
"I come from the old match race school and to go out here at night and go down that racetrack with header fire on both sides and drive around weaving, yeah it's a turn-on. When I go down there in the dark, I get so pumped up in the car."
And with five Indy Funny Car wins, Force is tied with Ed "the Ace" McCulloch and has a chance to take the No, 1 spot in another meaningful category.
"It would be big for anybody," he said. "That's what it's really all about. And Ed McCulloch is my hero. People don't understand that I'm still chasing [Kenny] Bernstein and [Raymond] Beadle and [Don] Prudhomme and [Connie] Kalitta. That's where I came from, and that's still how I think."
Seven other cars found the three-second zone under the lights including Cruz Pedregon (3.896), J.R. Todd (3.905), Alexis DeJoria (3.915), Tim Wilkerson (3.949), Bobby Bode III (3.952), Blake Alexander (3.970).
Bode didn’t lead the field but the second-generation Funny Car pilot’s impressive, career-best run of 3.952 came despite shutting off early as his car moved to the guardwall downtrack and crossed the finish line at just 259.08 mph after hitting a speed of more than 282 mph at half-track.
Tommy Johnson Jr., subbing for DSR teammate Matt Hagan after the points leader tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the day, was shut off on the starting line after the crew discovered a broken wheelie bar pin. Rookie Tony Jurado also attempted to make a qualifying run but was shut off on the starting line with a fuel leak. Neither Chad Green nor Dave Richards received elapsed times from their pairing as Green rode across the centerline all the way to the finish line, invalidating both runs.
In his second year of Pro Stock competition, Koretsky is still seeking his first win, but the second-generation driver appears to be inching closer based on his recent performances. On Friday at Indy, Koretsky wheeled his Lucas Oil Products/Nitro Fish Camaro to a 6.572 to pace the stout field.
“This is the Big Go. It’s the race we all look forward to,” said Koretsky. “My dad [Kenny] was a runner-up here so for me to be on top is huge. It shows that the KB team has the best power out here.
"I do think there is a lot left in the Lucas Oil/Nitro Fish Camaro. The KB [Racing] guys make the calls on that because it’s way above my pay grade. I just get in the car and try to hit all my shift points. I feel like we have an advantage at every event we go to."
With one of three sessions in the books, Koretsky enjoys a slim edge over the rest of the field including Troy Coughlin Jr. (6.584) and defending world champ and U.S. Nationals winner Erica Enders (6.588).
Recent Topeka winner Dallas Glenn also found the 6.5s with a 6.592 in his RAD Torque Systems Camaro and veteran Kenny Delco is ranked No. 6 following a 6.598 run on Friday.
Current points leader Greg Anderson figured to be one of the top qualifiers with his HendrickCars.com Camaro but he missed the set-up slightly and finished the evening as the No. 8 seed.
Krawiec took the provisional pole in Pro Stock Motorcycle but the real story is his teammate, Andrew Hines, who narrowly escaped a potential disaster on his Vance & Hines Buell.
Krawiec ran a 6.824 to lead the field after Friday’s lone session. Hines figured to be capable of making a similar run, but his bike bogged and he could manage just a 7.138 that is the current bump spot in the 16-bike field.
"For the first run, it was good and we have data to look at,” said Krawiec. “I’m not even going to question the weather tomorrow. It’s going to be sunny and we’re going to get two runs and the field is going to shuffle. I just hope I don’t get shuffled the wrong way because when you’re No. 1 there’s only one way to go and that’s down.
“The air was humid and that’s a challenge but thankfully our shop is just a couple of miles down the road and we dyno in this weather all the time. In fact, Andrew and I were on the dyno last night until about 10 p.m. We made a bunch of changes to our bikes lately and we’re just learning what they want.”
With the possibility of rain on Saturday, Hines’ spot in the field is precarious at best. Hines missed the opening two races of the season so he’s not automatically seeded in the Countdown to the Championship. Hines came into Indy as the No. 10 driver in the class and he’s just seven points ahead of 11th place Cory Reed.
After Krawiec, the field includes Steve Johnson’s Suzuki (6.860), defending Indy champ Scotty Pollacheck (6.866), and Hector Arana Jr. (6.871). Matt Smith is sixth with a 6.892 on his Denso Buell and the reigning world champ and current points leader also made the day’s only 200-mph run at 200.17 mph.