“Let’s play two” may be a fairly common refrain in baseball, but it’s much more of a rarity in drag racing. The upcoming weekend’s doubleheader at Bristol Dragway — completion of all four rounds of Top Fuel and Funny Car from the rained-out NHRA New England Nationals during qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals — will mark the first time in nearly a decade where that much unfinished business was concluded at the same event, and fans at the famed Tennessee drag racing landmark are in for a thrill.
The last time anything close to this level of spectacle occurred was in late 2014 when the bulk of final eliminations from the NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway was completed at the Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.
Rounds one of Top Fuel and Funny Car had been completed in Charlotte, as had half a round of Pro Stock, but the bulk of eliminations had to be wedged into qualifying during the Dallas event.
Charlotte Pro Stock completed its first round (four pairs) and Pro Stock Motorcycle its entire round (eight pairs) Friday afternoon at the Metroplex. The final three rounds in all four classes from Charlotte were run Saturday — a total of 28 rounds — during and, in the case of the finals, after Dallas qualifying.
In a testament to the skill and professionalism of the racers and NHRA officials, it went off without a hitch, which is quite an accomplishment, especially considering that the events marked the crucial start to the 2014 Countdown to the Championship.
It was a spectacle to behold and one that won’t soon be forgotten by those who attended — especially Tony Schumacher, who won both events on the same weekend.
Schumacher and the Mike Green-led Army team were scorching hot on a brutally warm weekend at Texas Motorplex. After nabbing milestone career win No. 75 Saturday by stopping Khalid alBalooshi in the Charlotte final round, it didn’t take Schumacher long to add No. 76, taking down No. 1 qualifier J.R. Todd in the FallNationals final the following day to race out to a huge Countdown points lead of 106 markers over second-place Steve Torrence.
“It’s an unbelievable situation,” said Schumacher. “We won two races in less than 24 hours. My family drove up, I won a race, we went to dinner, went to bed, came back, and won another race in under 24 hours.”
The Gray Motorsports Pro Stock team and the Vance & Hines/Screaming Eagle Harley-Davidson Pro Stock Motorcycle squad also doubled in a fashion in Dallas in 2014. After Jonathan Gray scored the first win of his rookie season in the Charlotte conclusion, teammate Dave Connolly won Sunday’s FallNationals, and Eddie Krawiec won Saturday’s Charlotte two-wheel completion before teammate Andrew Hines won Sunday’s main event. In Funny Car, Matt Hagan (Charlotte) and Courtney Force (Dallas) split the honors.
Schumacher’s single-weekend double haul was rare but not unprecedented. Eddie Krawiec won the final-round completion of the 2012 Reading event in Las Vegas, then also won that event, but Schumacher’s double was the first time a driver did it needing to win seven straight rounds.
In May 1982, the NHRA SPORTSnationals — held then at Houston Int’l Dragway — was rained out and completed a few weeks later at the Cajun Nationals. It was on that weekend that history was made when Katy, Texas’ Ray Martel not only won the SPORTSnationals Super Gas title but then Sunday’s Cajun Nationals, too. *
To further confuse or inflate the Bristol weekend, drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car would walk away with three big wins as the final two rounds of the New England Nationals are also the final two rounds of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge. The drivers who win Top Fuel and Funny Car for the New England Nationals will also be the Mission Challenge winners with a chance for a third trophy by winning Sunday’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
(*Pat Austin was the first to accomplish the feat of winning two eliminators at the same event in Topeka in 1991, where he won in both Top Fuel and Top Alcohol Funny Car. Since then, it’s been accomplished 42 other times by 28 drivers, most recently by Anthony Bertozzi at this year’s Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.)