The 59th Annual NHRA Chevrolet Performance US Nationals at Indianapolis witnessed some hot and humid weather on Friday, but it didn’t deter much from the on-track action or spectator attendance.
In Top Fuel, Brittany Force (daughter of 15-time Funny Car series champion, John Force) took the provisional day one top qualifier spot with her Castrol Edge dragster. Brittany Force led all comers with a strong 3.820 second elapse time at 313.44 mph opening qualifying effort. This is young Force’s rookie season as a driver in NHRA’s premier nitro category and her best qualifying effort, to date. With Oakdale’s John Medlen acting as co-crew chief and Jimmy Prock (her father’s crew chief) consulting, her car has been steadily improving at each event. Her younger sister, Courtney, qualified on the pole in Funny Car last season.
Spencer Massey of Don Schumacher racing and his Battery Extender team turned in a very strong 3.837 at 316.38 mph effort to take the early qualifying No. 2 position.
In Funny Car, it was a Ford Mustang show as Bob Tasca III, John Force and Courtney Force took the opening day provisional top three qualifying spots. Tasca took the top honors with a very stout 4.085 at 312.28 mph opening salvo. But the father vs. daughter qualifying match up between the 15-time category series champion, John Force and his youngest (and highly popular) daughter, Courtney, really got the fans going. The elder Force out qualified his daughter by 1/1000 of a second going 4.087 at 309.70 mph to 4.088 at 316.30 mph with his Castrol GTX Mustang. Father may have gone quicker than his young daughter and her Traxxas Ford Mustang, but her 316.30 mph speed was the tops for the class at the end of the first day of qualifying.
In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson put his Mopar Express Lube Dodge Avenger on the provisional pole with a 6.661 at 207.02 mph, a mere 4 thousandths of a second of the No. 2 qualifier, Shane Gray. Gray turned in a strong 6.665 at 207.78 mph opening round of qualifying effort.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle class was led by Matt Smith (2007 season series class champion) on his Buell XB9R as he turned in a 7.010 at 192.00 mph. Steve Johnson, a two time Indy US Nationals event winner, grabbed the opening day of qualifying No. 2 position with a 7.017 at 190.65 mph.
Qualifying resumes tomorrow (Saturday) in all categories, featuring a special “race within a race for a hundred grand” in the Top Fuel category as part of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout contested in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. The Funny Car shootout will be run in conjunction with the 3rd and 4th qualifying rounds on Sunday. The winner in each class collects $100,000.
The Chevrolet Performance US Nationals is the oldest and longest running of all the national events on the NHRA season schedule. It features the most qualifying rounds and (more importantly) is the last race on the regular season schedule where drivers in each of the four professional categories (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle) can earn their way into the ‘Countdown to the Championship’. Only the top ten drivers in each category are eligible to race for the championship during the last 6 events of the season.
A special exhibition race between two flame-spewing jet-powered dragsters closed the show amongst a crowd pleasing fireworks show put on by NHRA. Mother Nature also added in some fireworks of her own, lighting the nearby night sky with lightning bolts and crack thunder.
Oakdale Leader correspondents Mike and Jeff Burghardt contributed to this report.