The 63rd annual NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals featured some strong performances in all the professional categories, including some track records and first time Indy Nationals winners.
In Top Fuel, Clay Millican and his Parts Plus/Great Clips team captured the number one qualifier spot again this year with a track record 3.663 at 329.10 mph. Unfortunately for Millican, his opening round opponent was newcomer Kebin Kinsley in his Road Rage dragster. Kinsley, a part-time racer on the NHRA circuit, took a 0.013 to 0.077 starting line advantage and held on for a 3.813 at 318.02 mph to 3.756 at 323.97 mph win. Kinsley wasn’t done, as he kept up his performance magic and advanced into his first career final round at the biggest drag race of the year. On the other side of the ladder, it was Steve Torrence and his Capco team dispatching popular rookie Ashley Sanford, in her first Top Fuel appearance in competition. Torrence collected the win 3.738 at 329.75 to 3.785 at 323.27 mph. Sanford definitely showed she has what it takes to be competitive. Torrence then took out Antron Brown and Leah Pritchett to reach the final round. In the final, Torrence ended the magical day for Kinsley, to capture his first career Indy Nationals win with a strong 3.757 at 322.96 mph. In addition, he also collected a “double up bonus” for also winning the Traxxas Shootout on Saturday of the busy Labor Day weekend competition, giving him a $200,000 pay day.
In Funny Car, two drivers advanced to their first ever final round appearance at the prestigious event, also known as “the Big Go.” Ron Capps and his Napa/Dodge team utilized very consistent performances to advance to the final round, getting by Alexis DeJoria, Jim Campbell and Jack Beckman. JR Todd and his DHL Team needed some luck, as well as good performances. The luck came in the semi-final round against Tim Wilkerson. Todd left first, but when he lost traction, Wilkerson drove away to what seemed to be a sure win. Unfortunately for Wilkerson, sure wasn’t good enough, as his car suddenly drifted to the centerline. He desperately tried to recover, but could not, as his car took out two timing system cones near the finish line. With this infraction, Wilkerson was automatically disqualified, giving the win to Todd. In the final round Capps and Todd squared off, each hoping to collect their first Indy Nationals trophy. It was Todd who got away first, 0.054 to 0.057, and drove away for an emotional 3.923 at 325.61 mph to 3.949 at 325.53 mph victory.
Pro Stock was highlighted by a burnout contest. Goodyear posted free tires for the winner each round of qualifying and $5000 for the overall winner. The driver that performed the largest, longest and smokiest burnout each round was declared the winner by fan vote. Deric Kramer literally “smoked the place in” for the grand prize. It had the fans on their feet cheering them all on.
Greg Anderson and Drew Skillman outdueled the competition to reach the final round of eliminations for the U.S. Nationals Pro Stock title. In the final, Skillman got away first, 0.022 to 0.0.50, and held on for a 6.766 at 206.61 mph to 6.660 at 208.01 mph hole shot victory and his first career Indy Nationals win. The Pro Stock category also had other news, as Mopar fan favorite, Allen Johnson, announced that he would be retiring from full time competition at the end of the season.
The Harleys showed they were back, as they dominated qualifying, taking the first and second positions in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Eddie Krawiec rode his Vance and Hines Street Rod Harley into the final found to face off against Hector Arana Jr. and his Lucas Oil/Buell XB9R. Andrew Hines, who qualified number two, stumbled in the second round and was taken out by 2016 Champion Jerry Savoie. Krawiec would not be denied his second career Indy win, as he took out Arana Jr. with a 6.858 at 196.90 mph to 6.886 at 195.48 mph performance.
The next event is in Charlotte, where the six-event “Countdown to the Championship” starts for the top 10 drivers in each of the NHRA Mello Yello professional categories.