event: NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals
when: September 2-5, 2016
where: Lucas Oil Raceway, Brownsburg, Indiana, USA
Lurker Hines Scores 2nd US Nationals
story and photos by Tim Hailey with a lil' help from the NHRA and team reports
I woke up this morning thinking that Andrew Hines would be dangerous today (you can scroll down and see that it's true). My reasoning was that Hines had been operating all weekend as a "lurker"—never in the spotlight, never at the top of the charts, yet seeming confident. Even at the test session a week and a half before the event, Hines' bike was always slower than teammate Eddie Krawiec's. I decided that the Vance&Hines/Screamin' Eagle had a tune-up in the bank for Andrew's V-Rod and were playing around with variations. True enough, his bike ran flawlessly all through raceday.
"That's kind of been my MO lately," said Hines. "For years, Eddie (teammate Eddie Krawiec) has had the better bike every single round and we've done a lot of experimenting with my motorcycle. I kind of meander out of the box and come back around. We try to reign it in for Sunday (raceday) and as the race goes on, we try and get better.
"Last week when you saw us testing, we had a different engine and it wasn't workin' out for us—3,4, 5/100ths slower than Eddie's. We changed a few things—we actually brought that same engine out here, we changed a few things inside of it and brought it back out. It's the same engine I won the championship in 2014. It was a good piece. The heads on it are good, we just had to get the whole combination right, and that's what we did.
"This weekend, I got a little confidence back in that engine than the other engine I've been running most of the year."
Asked about his confidnce level this morning, Andrew said "It was about a 3. It's tough when you qualify midpack.
"In the final I turned on my prestage bulb, I saw Hector Jr had staged. I started rollin' and I thought 'This is it, this is the US Nationals!' I thought 'What am I doing thinking about that when I'm rolling in to stage?!' Obviously my head wasn't too much in the game.
Andrew Hines took over the Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead by riding his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.682 at 194.63 in the final round of the NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals to beat Hector Arana Jr., who redlighted on his Lucas Oil Buell. He earned his 47th career win, fifth of the 2016 season and second at Brownsburg, Indiana's Lucas Oil Raceway with the effort. The winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle racer in NHRA history beat rookie Melissa Surber, alligator farmer Jerry Savoie and Sonoma winner LE Tonglet in the earlier rounds.
“I’ve had a good motorcycle as of late, but it hasn’t been qualifying well,” said Hines, a five-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. “I knew the potential of my Harley. I knew I had a bike that could go rounds and we just had to pick on it here and there. We’re getting closer to something that will work for us in the heat. We got to the final round and figured out the tune-up that needed to be in there. I’m happy I made my best run of the weekend in the final round.”
Arana Jr. made his first final round appearance of the season by riding past Michael Ray, Chip Ellis and rookie Cory Reed in the first three rounds. The 2011 Indianapolis winner will head into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed.
LE Tonglet, Chip Ellis, Hector Arana Sr., Matt Smith and Reed all clinched spots into the Countdown to the Championship.
"After we ran that .84 in qualifying Saturday, I really thought we had something for them today," Chip Ellis said about his Junior Pippin Buell. "The clutch was a little loose in the first round today (an .86 to .92 win over Jimmy Underdahl), but I told Lon (crew chief/tuner Lon Moyer) to just leave it alone, it'll come to us in the next round. But then the bike bogged." And Ellis lost to eventual runner-up Hector Arana Jr.
File photo of Von Smith courtesy of NHRA
Von Smith raced to victory Monday in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
Smith coasted his Frank Manzo-tuned Al-Anabi Racing Chevy Corvette to an 11.726-second pass at 73.67 mph after Troy Coughlin redlit in his late model JEGS.com Chevy Corvette. Smith tallied his first victory of 2016 and seventh of his career. He outlasted Danny Rowe, 2011 champ Khalid alBalooshi and Doug Winters in the earlier rounds.
"My hat's off to the whole crew because this car has been up and down for us all season,” said Smith, won the Pro Mod championship in 2010. “The best thing about everything is I didn't know that I had won. I'm coasting down through there and not liking it, going ‘We almost did it, we'll get another shot in a couple weeks.’ I come around the corner and the guy's pointing me to the left and I'm like ‘What? Are you kidding me?’ I threw my hands up like ‘Did I win?’ He threw up the number one and I was like, ‘How about that. Praise the Lord.’"
Coughlin beat Steven Whiteley, Bob Rahaim and Billy Glidden in the earlier rounds before leaving the starting line early in the final. Coughlin, the reigning and two-time world champion, won earlier this year in Englishtown, N.J.
Top Fuel final
Tony Schumacher claimed his 82nd career Top Fuel win when he powered his U.S. Army dragster to a 3.806-second pass at 317.64 mph to beat Steve Torrence’s 3.803 at 325.06 in his Capco Contractors / Torrence Racing dragster during the final round on Monday. The winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA Top Fuel history also became the winningest driver in Lucas Oil Raceway history by tallying his 10th career victory at the venerable track. Schumacher outran Tripp Tatum, reigning world champ Antron Brown and Sonoma, Calif., event winner J.R. Todd in the earlier rounds before facing Torrence.
“I didn’t see (Steve Torrence) for one second but I heard him,” said Schumacher. “It was a great final round, live on FOX and I had my chance to win my 10th at Indy. The fans got a close race. It’s been such a great career and it’s been so much fun. I’ve had great teams, one after another, and it’s a blessing to be a part of this and have a chance. I love my job and I love drag racing cars.”
Schumacher, who also won the Top Fuel portion of the lucrative NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout this weekend, will enter the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship six-race playoff as the No. 4 seed.
Torrence, competing in his sixth final round of the season, beat Bruce Litton, Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta in the earlier rounds. He is a three-time runner-up at Indianapolis and has two wins so far this season, which came at Pomona, Calif., and Englishtown, N.J. Torrence will enter the Countdown as the third seed.
Leah Pritchett, driver of the Papa John’s dragster, clinched the 10th and final spot in the Countdown to the Championship after Terry McMillen redlighted in the first round in his Amalie Motor Oil dragster. Pritchett, who also lost in the first round, had a one-point lead over McMillen entering eliminations.
Funny Car final
Matt Hagan pushed his Mopar / Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to a 3.964 at 327.43 to better reigning world champion Del Worsham’s 3.958 at 324.20 in his DHL / Mello Yello Toyota Camry. This is Hagan’s 21st career win and first at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. The two-time world champ has three wins so far this season and enters the playoffs as the third seed. Hagan sprinted past John Bojec, Robert Hight and Tommy Johnson Jr. en route to making his fifth final round appearance of the season.
“It’s incredible,” said Hagan. “This is something for the last nine years that I’ve been driving for Don Schumacher Racing we have been trying to accomplish and it’s not an easy task. I have the parts and pieces and people around me, especially (crew chief) Dickie Venables. I’m just proud to be a part of it. The fans got what they paid for today. I’m tickled to death to be up here right now. This is something that I’ve wanted to check off for a long time.”
Worsham, who won four of the six Countdown races last year en route to his first Funny Car world championship, beat Alexis DeJoria, Dave Richards and points leader Ron Capps in the earlier rounds. Worsham has one win this season and enters the Countdown in the No. 2 slot.
Alexis DeJoria, driver of the Tequila Patron Toyota Camry, clinched the final Funny Car spot when Chad Head lost to Capps in the second round.
The KB Racing stranglehold on nu-look Pro Stock is officially over, with none of their cars making it to the final. Chris McGaha took the win over Allen Johnson
In Pro Stock, McGaha tallied his first win in 2016 by racing his Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevy Camaro to a 6.688 at 207.15 to defeat Allen Johnson’s 6.715 at 207.09 in his Marathon Petroleum Dodge Dart. McGaha, who was the runner-up at Phoenix earlier this year, has four wins in his career. This was his first final round appearance at Indianapolis. The Texan will enter the Countdown as the No. 7 seed. He outlasted Matt Hartford, Curt Steinbach and two-time 2016 runner-up Vincent Nobile en route to the final round.
“We got to keep doing what we were doing today,” said McGaha about his chances of winning the championship. “If we keep doing what we were doing today, we’ll definitely have a shot. I botched a lot of runs along the way. We shouldn’t even be in seventh. Between tire shaking and making bad calls and flat getting our butt kicked, we should be a lot higher. It’s not impossible at this point. Just got to keep winning.”
Johnson, making his third final round appearance of the season, raced past Brainerd winner Drew Skillman, seven-time 2016 event winner Greg Anderson and Shane Gray in the earlier rounds.
Gray, McGaha, back-to-back world champ Erica Enders and five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin penciled their names into the final four Countdown to the Championship spots in Pro Stock.
The 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will continue with the NHRA Carolina Nationals, Sept. 16-18, at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C. The event is the first race of the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Top Alcohol Dragster -- Dan Page, 5.352, 270.32 def. Shawn Cowie, 5.369, 270.27.
Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Jonnie Lindberg, Chevy Camaro, 5.673, 263.00 def. Annie Whiteley, Camaro, 10.210, 92.40.
Competition Eliminator -- Kevin Self, Bantam Roadster, 7.796, 168.58 def. Jason Coan, Bantam, 8.224, 158.52.
Super Stock -- Ryan Haag, Chevy Camaro, 9.821, 126.16 def. Sean Cour, Chevy Cobalt, 9.497, 138.96.
Stock Eliminator -- Jeff Lopez, Chevy Camaro, 9.395, 141.03 def. Charlie Downing, Ford Mustang, 10.383, 127.74.
Super Comp -- Gary Stinnett, Dragster, 8.888, 186.05 def. Greg Kamplain, Dragster, Foul - Red Light.
Super Gas -- Tommy Phillips, Chevy Corvette, 9.973, 149.55 def. Ray Miller III, Chevy Camaro, 10.071, 145.36.
Factory Stock Showdown -- Chris Holbrook, Ford Mustang, 8.314, 163.00 def. Stephen Bell, Chevy Camaro, 8.442, 161.67.
An Indy highlight is the Hemi Challenge. Jim Daniels won in Ray Barton's Dart
I heard Kelly Clontz was interested in the blue Gary Stoffer bike that Mark Paquette rode this weekend at Indy if Paquette didn't buy it—which he didn't. I can report that instead of going back into the Stoffer/Underdahl trailer, it was loaded into the back of a white pick-up truck, but not going to Kelly's. Damn, I should have checked the plates!
Paquette was satisfied with his NHRA endeavor despite not qualifying. "Gary's a good guy," said Paquette. "The bike was exactly what he said it would be."
Note the "eatmyink" sticker in the aerodynamically optimised location. Extensive wind tunnel testing has shown that this particular sticker acts like the dimples on a golf ball.
EARLIER: US Nats PSM Field is Set
Incrementals for the final PSM qualifying session.
Mark Paquette picked 2/100ths on his 60 foot time, but the heat of the day wouldn't deliver the ET he needed to make the field.
Joey Gladstone's San Marino Excavating team completed his tranny swap but the tune-up just wasn't there to make the cut.
Trim-Tex Joe Koenig, Angelle Sampey, and Star Racing's George Bryce celebrate the team's #1 qualifier
Angelle Sampey rode her Star Racing/Precision Service Equipment/Trim-Tex Buell to the 48th Pro Stock Motorcycle No. 1 qualifier of her career with a 6.812 at 196.62 for the 62nd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. She set the elapsed time track record with the pass. This is her third No. 1 qualifier of 2016 and fifth ever at Lucas Oil Raceway. Sampey won this race back-to-back in 2001 and 2002. She will go up against 2009 event winner Hector Arana in the first round.
“When they told me I ran an .81 I lost it down there like I had won the race,” said Sampey, who won earlier this year in Englishtown, N.J., to claim her first victory since 2007. “I was hootin’ and hollerin’ because I didn’t expect it. I was very proud of my team and very proud of myself because I did a very good job of driving it that run, which usually doesn’t happen every single run.”
Alligator farmer Jerry Savoie qualified second with a 6.841 at 195.19 on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki. The defending Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals champion is paired with Scott Pollacheck in the opening round. You can find out alot more about Savoie's race weekend here.
Eddie Krawiec is third on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson and will race Karen Stoffer Monday morning. Chip Ellis is fourth and matched with Jim Underdahl while Hector Arana Jr. is fifth and will battle Michael Ray.
Chip Ellis qualified 4th with a 6.849 on Junior Pippin's Buell. Chip faces Jimmy Underdahl (6.897) in E1
Scott McKinney's "Granny Goose" Camaro was invited back to the Nats again this year, a gig that McKinney finds more relaxing and less financially taxing than PXM racing
Andrew Hines sure has been quiet...that's been known to make him deadly on raceday. He's qualified 7th with a 6.864 and faces Melissa Surber in the first round.
Trim-Tex sponsored former champ Geno Scali kicking back on his Star Racing massaged bagger
Courtney Force won the lucrative Funny Car portion of the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout and Matt Hagan secured the No. 1 Funny Car qualifier. Force sprinted to a $100,000 payday in her Traxxas Chevy Camaro SS by posting a 4.018-second pass at 266.04 mph to defeat teammate Robert Hight’s 4.596 at 180.09 at the controls of his Auto Club of Southern California Chevy Camaro SS during the final round of the specialty event.
This is Force’s first final round appearance at the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout and her fifth time in the event. She entered as the No. 2 seed with her Houston victory. She outlasted Alexis DeJoria and Matt Hagan in the earlier rounds before facing Hight.
“I went out today with the mindset of calm and relaxed,” said Force, daughter of 16-time Funny Car world champ John Force. “We got that run in last night and that was huge. It qualified us for fourth so my guys got me into today not thinking about a qualifying run which is huge for a race like this. To win an event like this in front of all these fans in Indiana is huge for our team. To be able to outrun Robert and get that win is a big one for our Traxxas team.”
Robert Hight's big Saturday night explosion. I was drinking Scotch on the fence with Areodyne's Mikey Carlisle when this happened right in front of us
Hight, who experienced a massive engine explosion that destroyed the body of his Chevy Camaro during Saturday’s second qualifying session, made his third consecutive runner-up finish at the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout. He beat Tommy Johnson Jr. in the opening round and was then set to race Ron Capps in the second, but Capps’ parachutes failed to release in the shutoff area during his first round sprint. Capps’ Napa Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T went into the sandpit and flipped upside down before being caught by the safety net. He exited the racecar unharmed but was unable to race Hight in the second round.
Hagan’s Friday night performance of 3.858 at 330.80 in his Mopar / Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T propelled him to the No. 1 spot in Funny Car qualifying for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. His time was a Lucas Oil Raceway track record. Hagan earned the 25th No. 1 qualifier of his career and fourth of the season with the effort. He will meet John Bojec in the opening round of eliminations.
“I didn’t think it was going to stick, but I’m glad it did,” said Hagan, who is chasing his first win at the Big Go. “I was surprised to see that .85-second pass was still it. That’s racing. Everybody is swinging for the fence and digging deep and sometimes you miss it. We’ll get focused for tomorrow. Woke up this morning with a sore throat and running a fever but whether you got a cold or not, you got to get in the racecar focused.”
Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T pilot Jack Beckman is third with a 3.859 at a track record speed of 333.08. The 2012 Funny Car world champion will race Dave Richards in the opening round. Points leader Capps is third with a 3.861 at 325.30 in his Napa Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T and is matched with Bob Bode. In fourth is Courtney Force, who will go heads up with Jim Campbell in the first round.
In Top Fuel, Clay Millican was able to stay in the No. 1 spot through Sunday with his Saturday night performance of 3.692 at 316.82 in his Parts Plus / Great Clips dragster. His time is a track record. This is Millican’s fourth career No. 1 qualifier and first of the season. He is pursuing his first career victory. Millican will race Terry McMillen Monday morning.
“This is an incredible group that we have together that makes this thing go,” said Millican. “I’m the one everyone talks to but the truth is it is all those young men that work on the car. It is really a proud moment for this small team to be able to go out here and be the No. 1 qualifier at the U.S. Nationals. This is my fourth No. 1 qualifier with the NHRA but this is certainly the biggest one, no doubt about it.”
Steve Torrence is second in his Capco Contractors dragster with a 3.702 at 328.06.The two-time 2016 event winner will battle Indianapolis local Bruce Litton in the first round. Brittany Force is third in her Monster Energy dragster and will meet Pat Dakin Monday morning. Schumacher and reigning world champ Antron Brown are fourth and fifth, respectively.
McMillen and 10th place qualifier Leah Pritchett, driver of the Papa John’s dragster, are in a heated points battle for the 10th and final place in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Pritchett enters Monday’s eliminations with a one-point lead over McMillen, who drives the Amalie Motor Oil dragster.
Floyds Knobs' own Bo Butner pushed his Jim Butner Auto Chevy Camaro to the top spot in Pro Stock with a 6.571 at 210.24, claiming the third No. 1 of his career. He has notched four runner-up finishes this year, the most recent coming in Sonoma, Calif. Butner will race Curt Steinbach in the first round of eliminations.
“Hopefully we will get some of this hometown love,” said Butner, who is from Floyds Knob, Ind. “We have a very fast car and we’ve had a very fast car all year long. This is the toughest class ever and it’s hard to win. You have to have a little luck and some breaks but I feel good about this weekend so I think we’ll maybe finish it up like we need to and win.”
Greg Anderson qualified second in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro with a 6.576 at 209.92. Anderson, a six-time Indianapolis winner, has seven wins in eleven final round appearances this season and currently sits second in points. He will go head-to-head with five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin to open eliminations.
Shane Gray, the Chicago No. 1 qualifier, is third and is matched with two-time and reigning world champion Erica Enders. Enders is the defending event winner.
Vincent Nobile, a two-time 2016 runner-up, is fourth and will race Deric Kramer, while seven-time 2016 winner Jason Line is fifth and paired with Seattle winner Aaron Strong.
EARLIER: Gladstone & Paquette—1 More Shot
Skip Gladstone and Vance&Hines' Blake Ritter in a full on thrash to get San Marino Joe Riccardi's Suzuki back together for Q5. The bike sheared a couple gears in Q4, giving Joseph Gladstone one more chance at the US Nationals.
Mark Paquette sits 17th in a 16 bike field. Mark figures he needs to find 4/100ths of 60 foot time in the heat of the day.
Angie Smith, Joey Desantis, Kristen Ashby and Lance Bonham are all looking for the answer to racing on Labor Day.
George Bryce tuned Angelle Sampey's Trim-Tex sponsored Buell to a 6.812 track record and the top of the timesheets
EARLIER: Gladstone Leads PST/PSM Shootout
Jerry Savoie improved by .007 and led Q2. Joey Gladstone and Mark Paquette both improved to 6.95s, with Joey .009 quicker than Mark
My high school classmate "Papa John" Schnatter getting waxed by Don Schumacher in a charity match race
After one round, 3X MIRock/IDBL Pro Street champ Joey Gladstone (above) leads newly locked-in 2016 NHDRO PST champ Mark Paquette as both dip their boots into NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle waters. Gladstone's 7.06 at 190 mph was good enough for 16th, but his 1.11 60 foot time left plenty at the starting line.
Mark Paquette's 1.09 60 foot time was also less than stellar. He had to let out as the bike drifted towards the top end timing blocks, resulting in a 17th 7.21 at 153.
EARLIER: NHRA US Nats are Underway!
Ron Capps' Funny Car at Indy's Monument Circle
John Force and Terry McMillen won the Traxxas Shootout fan vote
Force with daughters Brittany and Courtney signing autographs
Top Fuel champ and former PSM star Antron Brown
Current PSM championship strangleholders Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines
Richie Crampton, JR Todd and Doug Kalitta
Kalitta's car pulling the wheels while sitting still....
Sweet classic split bumper Camaro in the Chevy display
How about some supercharged modern HP in your classic Camaro?
Cockpit of the Contemporary/Classic Camaro
Classic Challenger Funny Car
Copo Camaro plants its Hoosiers in the center of Hoosierdom
Ammo compartment of the Copo Camaro
"Is this one of those Funny Cars?" Maybe it's time that Indiana brings back vehicle inspection...