Heat and rain in the Indianapolis area did not make for a pleasant second day of qualifying at the Lucas Oil Raceway for the prestigious U.S. Nationals.
BROWNSBURG, Ind. – NHRA Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan shattered both ends of the track record and took over the qualifying lead Saturday at the 59th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders at the world’s most prestigious drag race, the 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Series.
Rain wiped away Saturday’s second qualifying session as competitors made one qualifying run for the second straight day. The final two qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Eliminations are set for Monday at 11 a.m.
Rain showers also moved the final two rounds of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel to Sunday and they will now take place at the start of Top Fuel’s regularly scheduled qualifying times. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car will take place during its regularly scheduled time on Sunday.
After the three-hour rain delay, Hagan powered his 8,000-horsepower Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger to a leading performance of 4.007 seconds at 319.22 mph in considerably cooler conditions. Hagan, who has four wins in 2013, would gain his fourth No. 1 qualifier of 2013 and 14th of his career if the run holds. The 2011 Funny Car world champion is also seeking his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory.
“It was an incredible run and it was an awesome deal to be able to do that at Indy,” Hagan said. “It was worth the wait for us. It’s just been a phenomenal year and it was cool to see the fans so pumped after that. My team does an amazing job and I’m so glad we could set the track record here.”
Johnny Gray went 4.012 at 312.13 in his Pitch Energy Dodge Charger to take over the second spot while Del Worsham jumped to third after he powered his DHL Toyota Camry to a 4.045 at 313.15. Worsham is currently 11th in the points standings and trails Robert Hight by 30 points for the 10th and final spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
Hagan will meet Tim Wilkerson in the first round of the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout on Sunday.
“What an awesome car Dickie (Venables, crew chief) gave us and we’re really fired up for the Traxxas Shootout (Sunday),” Hagan said. “It’s going to take a really good car to beat us right now.”
In the first round of the Top Fuel Traxxas Nitro Shootout, top seed Shawn Langdon squeezed out a holeshot victory over Brittany Force, running 3.874 at 316.60 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster. He will meet Antron Brown in the semifinals after the defending world champion knocked off Langdon’s Al-Anabi teammate Khalid alBalooshi with a 3.985 at 301.67 in his Matco Tools dragster.
Spencer Massey went 3.931 at 311.77 in his Battery Extender/Schumacher Electric to set up a semifinal matchup with Steve Torrence in a rematch of the 2012 Traxxas Nitro Shootout final. Torrence powered his Capco Contractors dragster past Tony Schumacher dragster with a run of 3.878 at 316.82.
“To run that 3.87, that’s exactly what we were trying to do,” Langdon said. “We knew we couldn’t take Brittany lightly. We had to race our race but also know we were going up against a fast car. I heard her the entire way down the track and it was a great first-round race, so we were fortunate to get the win. We’re going to be in pressure situations from here on out, so we have to have our ‘A’ game.”
Despite the razor-thin first-round loss in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, Force remained the No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel with her performance of 3.820 at 313.44 in her Castrol Edge dragster from Friday. If it holds through Sunday, rookie driver Force, the daughter of NHRA Funny Car icon John Force, would gain the first No. 1 qualifying position of her career.
Doug Kalitta and his Mac Tools dragster jumped to the second position after powering his way to a 3.829 at 320.81. Massey is third with a 3.837 at 316.38.
Nobody could match Johnson’s top qualifying time of 661 at 207.02 from Friday in Pro Stock, keeping the defending world champion in the No. 1 position in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger. Johnson, who is looking for his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win, would claim his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and 31st of his career if it holds on Sunday.
Shane Gray stayed qualified second in his Gray Motorsports Chevy Camaro after going 6.665 at 207.78 on Friday. Points leader and five-time 2013 winner Mike Edwards remained third in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Camaro with his run of 6.669 at 206.70.
Arana was the only Pro Stock Motorcycle rider to reach the 6-second zone, going 6.968 at 192.80 on his Lucas Oil Products Buell. If it holds, it would be the first No. 1 qualifier of the season for Arana and 23rd of his career.
“We didn’t know what to expect because of the heat and we didn’t think it would be that fast,” Arana said. “But we stayed calm and made a great run. I was happy and jumping up and down. I’ve been struggling for a little bit and I needed a run like that to get my confidence back.”
Matt Smith, who ran a 7.010 at 192 on his Viper Motorcycle Company Racing Buell on Friday, was bumped to second. Steve Johnson is currently third with a 7.017 at 190.65 on his Suzuki while Shawn Gann moved to fourth after going 7.020 at 189.71 on his Pirana Z Racing Buell.