TEAM OWNERSHIP AGREES WITH ANTRON BROWN AND RON CAPPS
Antron Brown and Ron Capps will both readily admit that they were a bit apprehensive about prospect of team ownership this season. In fact, there have been times this year that have tested their resolve, but after sweeping the nitro classes at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals, it would be hard to convince either one of them that they didn’t make the right decision.
Capps’ story is particularly gratifying because he’d never won Indy in more than a quarter-century as a hired driver. With last year’s championship-winning team almost completely intact, he’s had a solid season with wins in Las Vegas and Bristol. Capps also swept the weekend by winning Sunday’s Pep Boys NHRA All-Star Callout, and he was not afraid to admit that the nearly $200,000 windfall from the weekend would help the team’s budget.
As for Brown, the road to team ownership has been a bit more rocky as his Matco Tools team has struggled through the first half of the season. Longtime tuners Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald ultimately righted the ship, and Brown has now won two of the last three races and appears poised for a deep run in the Countdown to the Championship.
GREG ANDERSON MIGHT BE THE LAST MEMBER OF THE 100 WINS CLUB FOR A WHILE
Fans in Indy who got to see Greg Anderson win his milestone 100th Pro Stock race should be grateful because it might be a while before anyone else joins that exclusive club that already includes John Force, Frank Manzo, Dan Fletcher, and David Rampy.
It took Anderson more than 20 years and more than 500 starts in the Pro Stock class to achieve the historic milestone, and it's worth noting that in his most dominant years, Anderson was good for 10-15 victories.
The fact that NHRA has been around for more than 75 years and hosted more than 1,000 events should provide some perspective on the magnitude of 100 victories.
Now that Anderson is in “the club,” who else might join him?
Among active Pros, next in line is Tony Schumacher with 86 wins, while Indy winners Ron Capps and Antron Brown have 71 and 70, respectively. Robert Hight has 59 victories, while Steve Torrence has 56. No one else is even halfway there.
TOP ALCOHOL DRAGSTER WINNER JULIE NATAAS IS A STAR ON THE RISE
As usual, there were a number of great storylines at the U.S. Nationals, but not many rival the performance of Julie Nataas, who swept both the JEGS Allstars title and the U.S. Nationals Top Alcohol Dragster title and did so in dramatic fashion.
Nataas won the JEGS Allstars for the second straight year, and anyone who saw her final-round win over Joey Severance won’t soon forget it. The Norwegian native shook the tires but managed to recover quickly and got to the finish line before Severance, but that’s where things went wrong as her OTG dragster shed the body panels, damaging the rear wing. Nataas managed to keep the car off the wall and regained her composure for a memorable top end interview with FOX TV announcer Amanda Busick. Earlier, she also set low elapsed time of the weekend with a 5.15.
It's no secret that Nataas has a desire to move to the Top Fuel class. In fact, she’s been the subject of rumors among NHRA insiders for months, and her performance in Indy, and her grace under pressure, should do nothing but strengthen her case.
MATT SMITH HAS SEIZED THE REIGNS IN PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
When Matt Smith made a commitment this year to help the Scrappers team build their Suzuki program, he expected a few setbacks, particularly in regard to his own ability to defend his 2021 championship. Indeed, Smith struggled at times, including a round-one loss in Gainesville and Charlotte, but somehow, he’s entered the Countdown as the No. 1 seed following his second Indy victory.
Smith remains committed to the Suzuki program, but he hasn’t been able to resist the temptation to race the “red rocket,” his pet name for the Denso Buell that won last year’s title. Smith has often switched brands during the event and did so again in Indy when he parked the Suzuki after Q1. Once again, that proved to be a winning strategy as he picked up career win No. 35, forging a tie with “Big Daddy” Don Garlits on NHRA’s all-time wins list.
Smith made it known that he plans to race his Buell at the upcoming events in Reading and St. Louis and then re-evaluate his choice before Dallas, but it's hard to imagine he won’t still be in the thick of the championship battle at that point.
THE DODGE POWER BROKERS U.S. NATIONALS IS STILL THE GREATEST RACE ON EARTH
For the first time in about three years, at least since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indy once again felt like Indy, and that sentiment was shared often by racers, fans, crewmembers, and just about everyone else who made the annual trek to Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
For starters, the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals attracted a field of nearly 950 racers, an increase of more than 100 cars from the 2021 event. The most impressive showing was in Top Fuel, where 25 racers combined to produce the sport’s quickest 16-car field.
The return of the Pep Boys NHRA All-Star Callout events for Top Fuel and Funny Car racers also added significant value to any fan who purchased a ticket on Saturday or Sunday.
Overall, there were 19 race winners crowned during the weekend, and that doesn’t include the many class winners in Super Stock and Stock. It's safe to say many of the fought back tears of joy as they received the Wally branded with the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals logo.
Obviously, Indy is about more than just numbers, and much if its allure and mystique is hard to put into words. You don’t attend a race in Indy as much as you experience it.