Indianapolis, Ind. (Pre Race) - For the past 46 years Indianapolis has been the home of the biggest, most prestigious race on the NHRA Drag Racing circuit; the US Nationals. This year as the drivers and crews of the Pro Stock Truck class arrive at...
Indianapolis, Ind. (Pre Race) - For the past 46 years Indianapolis has been the home of the biggest, most prestigious race on the NHRA Drag Racing circuit; the US Nationals. This year as the drivers and crews of the Pro Stock Truck class arrive at Indianapolis Raceway Park for the running of the 46th Annual US Nationals they all have one common goal in mind; to be standing in the winner circle come Monday night.
Brian "Lump" Self, driver of the Roof-Tec Chevrolet S-10, summed up the feelings of every racer when he made the following statement.
"If you can't win the championship, then Indy is the race you want to win. The US Nationals is the big one. That is the race that everyone wants to win. It is as old as drag racing itself, and without a doubt the most prestigious 'Wally' you can take home. Some racers try their whole life to win the US Nationals and never get close. Winning the US Nationals would be a real milestone in any racers career."
The Pro Stock Trucks come to the US Nationals fresh from a six week break in their schedules. But it seems that no one within the class took a vacation during their six weeks hiatus, and for many of the teams the break afforded them the time needed to try to bring up their performance levels.
"In the last six weeks I have spent most of my time working on our trucks, and getting ready for Indy," said Greg Stanfield, driver of the DBP Enterprises Chevrolet S-10. "We have gone through the trucks from the front bumper to the back bumper. We have looked at, and worked on everything in-between. Then we went to the racetrack, and have done lots and lots of testing.
"We started out pretty good in the beginning of the season, but then trailed off toward the end. We really struggled right before the break. That is why we have been working so hard on my truck and Bart's (Bart Price, team owner and second driver for DBP Enterprises). We want to get back to where we were at the beginning of the season. That will help us in Indy and the rest of the season."
The first half of the Pro Stock Truck season saw two teams dominate the class. Winston Champion Bob Panella, Jr., driver of the Panella Trucking Chevrolet S-10, and Randy Daniels, driver of the Bailey Trucking Chevy S-10, ran away from the rest of the field.
Many within in the class feel that Panella and Daniels performance in the first half of the year is the benchmark they need to reach to stay competitive in the class. Some feel that the hard work of the summer will show in a tighter more competitive field at Indy.
"When you are fast like those guys are you have to expect everyone to be gunning for you," said Brain "Lump" Self. "I know here at this shop, we have spent a lot of time trying to catch up, and close the gap between them and us. I have to expect that everyone else has been doing the same. It is very easy to fall behind in this class, so we have to assume that all the other teams out there have been working and testing as hard as we have."
Winston Champion Bob Panella has been Number 1 in the points standings all year. He talked about how if feels to have every driver in the class trying to catch him
"It feels good to have everyone trying to catch us," said Panella. "We have had six weeks off and I am sure that everyone in the class has been working hard to improve, so have we. Right now, any of the top seven or eight guys can catch us. They are all right there in striking distance. I know that all the fast guys have the same pieces and parts as us. It is just what they do with what they got. That is what will make the difference. It can be a little nerve racking at times, but it is still pretty cool to have them all chasing us."
There is an overwhelming curiosity in the pit area about who has picked up since the break and who has not.
"What is going to make the difference," said Rob Slavinski, driver of the Castrol Super Clean Chevrolet S-10, "is the people who tested and the people who didn't. I think the teams that have spent any significant time at the track are going to be the ones with the advantage at Indy. For me as a driver, I feel more comfortable if I test prior to the biggest race of the year."
This year the US Nationals will see the largest field ever of Pro Stock Trucks trying to qualify. There will be 45 to 50 trucks trying for one of the 16 qualifying berths. With more teams going home than racing, everyone is coming to Indy with a plan.
"My plan for Indy?" said Greg Stanfield. "With 50 trucks there, I will just be happy to qualify. Our only plan is to make the most of the first two qualifying sessions. I feel like that is when the track will be the best. After we get qualified then come ask me for the rest of the plan. Just getting in is going to be a victory all by itself."
The first round of Pro Stock Truck qualifying begins on Friday Sept. 1. Rounds 2 and 3 will take place on Saturday Sept. 2, and finishing with Rounds 4 and 5 on Sunday Sept. 3. Eliminations at the 46th Annual NHRA US Nationals take place on Monday Sept. 4, at 11:00 AM EST.