John Hall enters the biggest race of the year as the defending event winner.
INDIANAPOLIS – John Hall always knew the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals was big, but it wasn’t until the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standout won the world’s most prestigious drag race a year ago in Pro Stock Motorcycle that he realized just how significant it was.
“It’s a race everyone wants to win and I’m lucky enough to do it, but I didn’t really get how big it was until after I won,” Hall said. “If you win at Indy, you will be remembered for that. When people introduce you they will say you won at Indy. That’s pretty cool and not something I knew was going to happen until after I won.”
Now Hall enters the biggest race of the year as the defending event winner hoping to add a second straight victory on his Matt Smith Racing Buell during the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also were last year’s winners of the event that will once again be televised on ESPN2 in more than 10 hours of coverage. It is the 10th of 16 Pro Stock Motorcycle events during the 2014 season and the final race of the regular season for the two-wheel category before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins.
Indy is bigger to me now than it was before and it’s something where you don’t truly understand the magnitude of it until after you win,
As Hall quickly found out after beating teammate and reigning world champion Matt Smith in the final round a year ago in Indy, the significance of a Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory is something that cannot be fully comprehended until it is experienced.
“Indy is bigger to me now than it was before and it’s something where you don’t truly understand the magnitude of it until after you win,” Hall said. “When I saw that win light come on last year I couldn’t believe it. I’m honored to have won there.”
As much pressure as entering this year’s event as the defending champ might provide, Hall calmly said he doesn’t feel any of that. In fact, he expects that last year’s win at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis will provide a calming effect heading into the 2014 edition of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
Hall is currently fifth in the series standings and in the midst of a solid and consistent season, but the two-time event winner is also looking for his first final round of the season. He posted one of four semifinal appearances at the most recent event in Sonoma and Hall knows that another strong performance in Indy would be the ideal scenario heading into the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“I’m confident in our chances but I don’t really feel any more pressure,” Hall said. “I’ve got a trophy from Indy and I’m very grateful for that. That’s the trophy you really want and a lot of people don’t have it, so I feel like there’s more pressure on them to try and get it.”
Finding a good set-up during testing leading up to this weekend might have Hall confident, but he will face off against a talented field that includes points leader Andrew Hines, who earned the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory in 2012. Hines’ teammate Eddie Krawiec has yet to win in Indy but sits second in points while other standout competitors in the category include reigning champion Smith, Epping winner Angie Smith, Michael Ray, Scotty Pollacheck, Hector Arana Jr., Hector Arana and two-time Indy winner Steve Johnson.
Hall barely qualified a year ago at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, squeaking in at No. 15. But he turned it on during eliminations, knocking off Krawiec, Ray and LE Tonglet before reaching the final round. That performance proved to Hall he was capable of winning any race no matter the circumstance. Having it happen during the world’s biggest drag race simply made it that much sweeter.
“I wasn’t even sure I was going to be in the race a year ago,” Hall said. “You just never know because this class is so tight. No matter where someone qualifies they are capable of winning. You need luck, consistency and you have to be good. But everybody is good in this class, so you need all three to get one of these wins.”
Top Fuel and Funny Car
In Top Fuel, everybody is chasing points leader Doug Kalitta, who went to his ninth final round of the season at the most recent event in Brainerd. Other marquee challengers include Tony Schumacher, who is seeking his 10th Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory, Antron Brown, reigning world champion Langdon, who also won the Traxxas Shootout at Indy last year, Spencer Massey, Khalid alBalooshi, J.R. Todd, Brittany Force, Steve Torrence and Richie Crampton.
In Funny Car the current points leader is John Force, who will look to tie Ed McCulloch’s Funny Car record of five wins at the event. Hight, who qualified for the Countdown a year ago with his thrilling third Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win, is one of the top stars in the class while others include Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Courtney Force, Cruz Pedregon, Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Four-time world champion Greg Anderson is a six-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner in Pro Stock, trailing only Bob Glidden’s remarkable nine wins at the race. Anderson will face a talented field that features top drivers Dave Connolly and Jeg Coughlin, who each have three Indy wins, points leader and teammate Jason Line, Erica Enders-Stevens, Allen Johnson, Shane Gray, Vincent Nobile, V Gaines and Chris McGaha.
Bonus bucks and bragging rights will be on the line for qualified drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car as they battle in the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be held on Saturday evening, while the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car is contested Sunday afternoon. The winners in each Traxxas Nitro Shootout will earn $100,000.
The Brainerd Pro Stock semifinals
Another Mello Yello Series event also will be completed during the Big Go: the rain-delayed Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals from Brainerd, Minn. John Force and Ron Capps will decide the Funny Car final round during the third qualifying session on Saturday evening at approximately 8:15 p.m. The Brainerd Pro Stock semifinals will be run during Saturday's third qualifying session at approximately 6:30 p.m. Line will take on Dave River and Vincent Nobile will face Jeg Coughlin. The two semi winners will decide the Brainerd Pro Stock final on Sunday during the event's fourth pro qualifying session at 11:30 a.m.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Series will look to become winners of the prestigious event during the weekend. The fastest Super Stock cars will challenge for the ultimate bragging rights and a bonus purse during the popular Mopar HEMI Challenge as well.
NHRA will also conduct official presentations to honor six of the most iconic moments in the history of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in the Hot Rod Junction Friday-Sunday of the weekend. On Sunday of race weekend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits will reenact his famous beard shaving scene that followed his triumphant 1967 victory and the “Indy’s Winningest Drivers” presentation, a ceremony honoring Schumacher, Bob Glidden and Garlits, also will take place; on Saturday Kenny Bernstein will be honored for becoming the first double-up winner at Indy, Shirley Muldowney will look back at her Indy memories including her 1982 victory, one she called the greatest victory of her outstanding Top Fuel career, and the 1978 Funny Car final where Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen defeated Don “The Snake” Prudhomme will be remembered; on Friday the harrowing 1970 Top Fuel final between Jim Nicoll and Prudhomme will be revisited.
A special Monday edition of the SealMaster NHRA Track Walk also will take place prior to final eliminations, where many of the sport’s most celebrated drivers will walk alongside fans down the historic dragstrip. Fan-favorite Cacklefests and vintage racecars on display in the Hot Rod Junction, along with several autograph sessions featuring the legends of the sport as well as today’s biggest stars will be featured throughout each day of the event. On Friday, a special fireworks show will close out the day’s racing.
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29. Two more sessions will take to the track on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Aug. 31 at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 1.
The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be contested Saturday, Aug. 30 with rounds at 4 p.m., 5:25 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car takes place on Sunday, Aug. 31 for the eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:30 p.m., 1:55 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.
ESPN2 will televise more than 11 hours of coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Five hours of qualifying coverage and coverage of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout will air on ESPN2 at 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (ET) and 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 31. Monday’s (Sept. 1) eliminations for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be featured in six hours of coverage starting at noon (ET).