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Emotions Flow At 61st Annual NHRA U.S. Nationals
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Shown, from left, winners at the NHRA U.S. Nationals: Terry McMillen, JR Todd, LE Tonglet and Tanner Gray.Photos By Mike Burghardt

Over the past year, the NHRA Drag Racing community lost two of its premier racers. Indiana’s Bob Glidden, the most prolific and winningest driver in the Pro Stock category, passed in mid-December of 2017. In his career he won the Indy Nationals nine times and was a 10-time NHRA Season Champion (only John Force has more titles with 16). Bob Tasca paid tribute to Bob Glidden by utilizing one of the famous Motorcraft schemes that he made famous.

On June 10, 2018, the sport lost another icon, Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen. McEwen was famous for helping to create the infamous “Hot Wheels deal” with rival (friend and competitor) Don “the Snake” Prudhomme. This year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals event celebrated the 40th anniversary of McEwen’s historic win over Prudhomme in 1978. Two racers created tribute cars to honor the driver, utilizing paint schemes that matched the car that he won in 1978. Mike Salinas and Shawn Langdon both paid tribute to McEwen by utilizing the silver and black “Mongoose” scheme.

In Top Fuel, Salinas put his “Mongoose” tribute dragster in the top spot, capturing his first ever #1 qualifier in his young NHRA career. He would advance to the second round, where he lost to Blake Alexander. But, the emotions in this category kept growing, as two drivers both advanced to the final round. Neither Doug Kalitta and his MAC Tools dragster team, or Terry McMillen and his Amalie Oil dragster team, had ever won the U.S. Nationals. Both cars lost traction during the run, but McMillen was able to recover first, to score his first NHRA U.S. Nationals Top Fuel title. McMillen took the win with a “pedaling” 4.037 at 300.66 mph to 4.067 at 303.57 mph effort. When his car came to a stop, he jumped out with high emotions of joy in scoring the big win.

In Funny Car, J.R. Todd and his DHL/Toyota team had the field covered. He qualified #1 with at 3.910 elapse time. Todd marched through eliminations and into the final round with consistent quick performances. On the other side of the elimination ladder was Bob Tasca, who qualified #2 in his “Glidden Motorcraft Tribute car.” Unfortunately, his engine expired in the opening round of eliminations, ending his chances early against #15 qualifier, Bob Bode. Shawn Langdon and the “Mongoose” car then took out Bode to advance to the semi-final round. The chance of the ”Mongoose” car going to the final round and (possibly) repeating that 1978 result was ended by Matt Hagan in a close 4.129 at 298.60 mph to 4.148 at 307.16 mph battle. In the final round, Todd showed Hagan who had the ‘baddest’ hot rod, as drove away to a 4.062 at 311.70 mph to 4.141 at 300.60 mph victory, to claim his second consecutive U.S. Nationals title.

In Pro Stock, Tanner Gray qualified #1 and marched to the final round, where he would face off against #7 qualifier Jeg Coughlin. Coughlin is well known as having the best average reaction times in the category. But, it would be Gray with the better reaction time in the final. Gray left first (0.003 to 0.023) to take a hole shot 6.641 at 208.42 mph to 6.639 at 206.80 mph victory.

Pro Stock Motorcycle was won by LE Tonglet, who left first (0.022 to 0.028) and rode away to a 6.864 at 197.10 mph to 6.884 at 197.02 mph victory over Eddie Krawiec.

The U.S. Nationals was the final event of the regular season. The top 10 racers in each professional category have now been locked in to the six-race “Countdown to the Championship.”


Top Ten List:

Top Fuel

Steve Torrence, Clay Millican, Tony Schumacher, Leah Pritchett, Doug Kalitta, Antron Brown, Terry McMillen, Brittany Force, Mike Salinas, Scott Palmer.

Funny Car

Courtney Force, Matt Hagan, Robert Hight, Ron Capps, J.R. Todd, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Shawn Langdon, John Force, Tim Wilkerson.

Pro Stock

Tanner Gray, Greg Anderson, Erica Enders, Jeg Coughlin, Vincent Nobile, Deric Kramer, Drew Skillman, Jason Line, Bo Butner, Chris McGaha.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

Eddie Krawiec, Andrew Hines, LE Tonglet, Hector Arana Jr., Jerry Savoie, Matt Smith, Scotty Pollacheck, Steve Johnson, Angelle Sampey and Jim Underdahl.