race reports

NHRA Pros at U.S. Nationals


Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Ron Lewis and Chris Haverly

Vincent Nobile does a burnout in front of the Indy tower.


Steve Torrence piloted his Capco Contractors dragster to the Top Fuel victory Monday, Sept. 4, at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the world’s biggest drag race, at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.


J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also victorious at the 18th event of 24 on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Series Drag Racing Series schedule.




Texan Steve Torrence left Lucas Oil Raceway with everything but the gate receipts Monday after adding a victory in the 63rd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals to his Saturday triumph in the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout.


His Monday win in the world’s biggest drag race, the one known as “The Big Go,” also insured that he will begin the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Mello Yello Championship from the No. 1 starting position, 30 points ahead of close friend Antron Brown, whom he caught and passed for the top spot Monday in a tension-filled second round showdown. Torrence ran 3.730/327.59 to Brown’s 3.745/322.50.


If there was a disappointment for the 34-year-old cancer survivor, it was that he didn’t have the opportunity to beat all three Don Schumacher Racing dragsters for his seventh win of the season. He missed that opportunity when fellow Texan Kebin Kinsley upset 10-time Indy winner Tony Schumacher in one semifinal while Torrence was driving his Capco Contractors entry past the Papa John’s Pizza car of Leah Pritchett in the other.


The U.S. Nationals runner-up three of the previous four years, Torrence left no doubt this time, winning handily in 3.757 seconds at 322.96 miles per hour as Kinsley, a virtual unknown outside his home state and a first time Top Fuel finalist, lost traction in the other lane.

Torrence’s first win came against Ashley Sanford, Fullerton, CA, who was participating in her first U.S. Nationals in a Top Fuel dragster. Torrence ran 3.738 at 329.75 mph to Miss Sanford’s 3.785/323.27. 

In the semifinal Torrence took the win with a 3.765/324.05 while Leah Pritchett’s dragster was up in tire smoke. 


Torrence’s overall performance ranks among the most impressive in Indy history. In addition to becoming just the sixth Top Fuel driver to win a bonus race and an NHRA tour event in the same weekend (along with Schumacher, Shawn Langdon, Gary Scelzi, Joe Amato at Rod Fuller) Torrence earned an event-high 12 qualifying bonus points. For the weekend, he was just three points shy of winning every point possible.


If anyone had almost as good a weekend as Steve Torrence, it had to have been Kebin Kinsley. The Arlington, TX, racer qualified in the 16th spot and made it all the way to the final round.


Kinsley’s 3.813/318.02 was combined with a 0.013 light to get the first-round holeshot win over Clay Millican’s quicker and faster 3.756/323.97 but coupled with a 0.071 RT.


In the semifinal, which was only the eighth time in U.S. Nationals history and the third time in the last 20 years that the No. 16 qualifier made it to the semi, Kiinsley met Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher. Schumacher had a 55-10 record at Indy and had bested Kinsley in the two previous times they faced one another.


Kinsley got a slight 0.001 advantage off the line and their incrementals show how close the battle was:

Schumacher's incremental times: 60ft-0.858 sec., 330ft-2.169, 660ft-3.059/286.25 mph.

Kinsley's incremental times: 60ft-0.869 sec., 330ft-2.157, 660ft-3.027/289.01 mph.


Eddie Krawiec (far lane) got the win over Hector Arana Jr.


Eddie Krawiec rode to the Pro Stock Motorcycle win with his 6.858 pass at 196.90 on his Screamin’ Eagle / Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to defeat Hector Arana Jr. and his Lucas Oil Buell’s 6.886 pass at 195.48. This was Krawiec’s second Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory, his third win of the season and 39th of his career.


“We had a great motorcycle all weekend long,” said Krawiec, who was the No. 1 qualifier. “We just needed to keep finessing it and get it better and better and better. I couldn’t be prouder of my crew that I got right now; everybody that puts forth the effort in our program. It’s been nonstop the last two weeks at our shop and for it all to come together and to celebrate here having half of our shop here, it’s just something special.”

Krawiec advanced when Matt Smith’s bike broke. 


Krawiec took down Jim Underdahl, points leader LE Tonglet and Matt Smith before seeing Arana Jr. in the finals.


For the second consecutive year, Hector Arana Jr., the 28-year-old rider of the Lucas Oil Racing TV Buell Pro Stock Motorcycle, raced to the final round of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, the world's biggest and most prestigious drag racing event.

Hector Arana Jr. (near lane) knocked out PSM champion Jerry Savoie with a 6.920 at 194.20 mph to Savoie’s 7.043/190.57. 


Arana, the No. 3 qualifier for Labor Day Monday's eliminations on NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series' biggest stage, defeated Cory Reed, Scott Pollacheck, and Jerry Savoie respectively to reach the 11th final of his career. His vanquishing of Savoie in the semi-finals vaulted him up from fourth to third in Mello Yello championship points.


"I felt so good today, " Arana said. "I felt good yesterday. I'm finally back on my game riding this bike and she's bad to the bone. We did everything we could. We picked up from the semi-finals, and cut an .010 light in the final round - I wouldn't have wanted any better of a light for Indy. We did everything

we could."


With his final-round ride at "the Big Go", Arana secured the No. 3 position in the NHRA playoffs, the Countdown to the Championship.

Angelle Sampey (near lane) was just happy to make the motorcycle field where she lost to Andrew Hines in the first round, 6.882/197.22 to Sampey’s 6.933/193.35. Hines lost in the next round to Jerry Savoie, 6.901/193.65 to 6.929/195.96. 




Top Fuel: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,667; 2. Antron Brown, 1,599; 3. Leah Pritchett, 1,563; 4. Tony Schumacher, 1,220; 5. Doug Kalitta, 1,126; 6. Brittany Force, 1,105; 7. Clay Millican, 1,080; 8. Terry McMillen, 770; 9. Scott Palmer, 698; 10. Shawn Langdon, 647.


Funny Car: 1. Ron Capps, 1,530; 2. Robert Hight, 1,344; 3. Matt Hagan, 1,280; 4. Jack Beckman, 1,275; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,229; 6. Courtney Force, 1,072; 7. John Force, 1,007; 8. J.R. Todd, 959; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 902; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 730.


Pro Stock: 1. Bo Butner, 1,616; 2. (tie) Greg Anderson, 1,423; Tanner Gray, 1,423; 4. Drew Skillman, 1,270; 5. Jason Line, 1,206; 6. Erica Enders, 1,093; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 1,054; 8. Vincent Nobile, 947; 9. Allen Johnson, 736; 10. Chris McGaha, 728.


Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. LE Tonglet, 958; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 884; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 781; 4. Jerry Savoie, 768; 5. Matt Smith, 696; 6. Andrew Hines, 620; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 611; 8. Joey Gladstone, 475; 9. Karen Stoffer, 457; 10. Angie Smith, 443.

This probably was the last time these two racers will compete against each other. Allen Johnson (near lane) has announced he will retire from Pro Stock racing at the end of this season. Johnny Gray came out of retirement to race with son Shane and grandson Tanner at the U.S. Nationals. Johnson got the win over Gray, 6.662/207.05 to 6.688/207.18, but then lost to Tanner in the next round. 

Alex Laughlin (far lane) ran 6.669/206.86 to defeat Shane Gray’s 6.692/206.23. Bo Butner gave Laughlin the second-round win with a red light, but Greg Anderson stopped his day with a 6.664/206.89 to Laughlin’s 6.691/207.46.

Larry Morgan returned to NHRA competition at Indy. The newly named ADRL President did not make the 16-car field. Also on the outside were Shane Tucker, John Gaydosh Jr. and Alan Prusiensky.

Deric Kramer was the winner of the first Pro Stock burnout contest at the U.S. Nationals. With Goodyear awarding replacement tires for the winner of each round during qualifying, Kramer decided he would give the fans a real show. Kramer won the $5,000 Grand Prize of the “Pro Stock Battle of the Burnouts: Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em” -- and a well-deserved standing ovation from the fans as he came back the return road.

Beckman then defeated a smoking Del Worsham to match up with teammate Capps, where his day came to an end.


Don Schumacher Racing was able to complete a successful 63rd annual NHRA U.S. Nationals but snapped its run of leaving the year's biggest event with at least one nitro event trophy.


But the seven-team squad won't be leaving the track near Indianapolis empty handed. Reigning Funny Car world champion Ron Capps advanced to the first final round of his 22-year career with the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil team led by crew chief Rahn Tobler and assistant Eric Lane and also won the regular-season title to earn the No. 1 seed for the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Matt Hagan qualified his Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T from DSR No. 1 with both ends of the track record, but was upset by Campbell in round one. Hagan's car shook as he struggled off the line and could never rebound, ending his bid to go back-to-back in the event. 

Dropped cylinders – often called “putting a hole out” – ended the day early for the three JFR Funny Cars: Robert Hight in the second round and John Force and Courtney Force in the first round. John qualified No. 4 and was off the line first in his race with Del Worsham. But the PEAK Chevy put a hole out at the hit of the throttle and slowed to a pass of 4.068 seconds at 318.17 mph, while Worsham survived with a 4.010-second run at 320.97 mph.



Drew Skillman got the Pro Stock win over Greg Anderson. 


The Wally, courtesy of Drew Skillman, will proudly be on display at an Indianapolis-area Ray Skillman Auto Group dealership this week.


The Indianapolis native and resident claimed the biggest prize of his three-year Pro Stock career by winning the 63rd Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals with a .012-second holeshot win over No. 1 qualifier and six-time “Big Go” champion Greg Anderson in an all-Chevrolet final.


“There is a small list of things I want to do in life and this was one of them,” said Skillman, driver of the Ray Skillman Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro SS who lost on a holeshot to Erica Enders in the final of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals during his 2015 rookie Pro Stock season. “This was huge for us in many ways. For me, personally, and we’re a Chevy dealer, we’re sponsored by Chevrolet, we drive a Chevrolet race car, and we won at their race. It couldn’t be any better.


“This has been a long time coming. I finally got a win at home.”


Skillman defeated Jeg Coughlin Jr. (6.669/206.20 to 6.713/205.66) and Chris McGaha (6.680/206.61 to 6.697/206.54) and

Skillman’s 6.692/206.04 with a holeshot 0.044 to 0.061 got the best of Tanner Gray’s 6.689/206.70 to get to the finals. 


Greg Anderson, driver of the red Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, has done it six times before, and he nearly scored the victory again for KB Racing on Monday at the 63rd annual rendition of the event. But in the final moments of the last round of the day, Anderson forfeited the trophy in what he would call one of the toughest losses of his career.


"I really thought I was going to win this race today," said Anderson, who has more Indy wins on his scorecard than any other currently competing Pro Stock driver. "It meant so much to me. I had all the confidence in the world and the best racecar out here, and everything all weekend was perfect, but I lost the race. This one hurts."


The four-time Pro Stock world champion had the car to beat nearly all weekend long at Lucas Oil Raceway. He had the quickest car on the property in three of five qualifying rounds and earned the 90th No. 1 qualifier award of his career.


Anderson knocked out first-round opponent Kenny Delco with a 6.630-second pass at 208.04 mph to a troubled 11.441. The lap would stand as quickest of the day, and with lane choice over Summit Racing counterpart Jason Line, Anderson came in with guns blazing. The duo launched from the starting line just .002-second apart, but Anderson socked away the round win with a 6.633, 208.23 to a 6.664, 207.34. Again, Anderson had low elapsed time of the round, and his speed was the fastest all day long.


In the semifinals, Anderson was first to leave the starting line and first to the finish, sending Alex Laughlin home with a 6.664, 207.82 to a 6.691, 207.46. Anderson came away with lane choice in the final, and his confidence was rightfully elevated as he pulled up next to Drew Skillman to charge for the title. The two drivers put on a great race for the spectators, but at the finish line stripe, it was Skillman by just .012-second. Anderson's .050 reaction time was the decider as his opponent left first and parlayed the holeshot into a 6.676, 206.61 to 6.660, 208.01 win.


"We were too conservative there in the final, but there is no excuse for me to have a .050 light," said Anderson. "I have no earthly idea where it came from. That was my toughest loss, right there.


"I go into the Countdown with a lot of confidence in my Summit Racing Chevy Camaro, but this was a chink in my armor that bugs me to no end. You can't have any hiccups in this class. One hiccup and you're done."

Bob Vandergriff returned to NHRA competition, but not for long. He qualified No. 7 but his 0.092 RT and 3.762/325.22 was not enough for No. 10 qualifier, Pat Dakin’s 3.757/315.64 with a 0.074 RT. 

Shawn Langdon will have renewed sponsorship from Global Electronic Technology. Langdon’s 3.756/325.69 defeated Brittany Force’s 3.724/329.02 in the first round, but Cinderella Man, Kebin Kinsley, got the second-round win 3.757/322.96 when Langdon lost traction.



A little cloud cover as J.R. Todd (near lane) and Jim Campbell run in evening qualifying. 


In the Funny Car final J.R. Todd, an Indianapolis native, powered past Funny Car reigning world champion Ron Capps with a 3.949 pass at 325.53 in his DHL Toyota Camry to better Capps’ 3.923 at 325.61 in his NAPA Dodge Charger. It is Todd’s first career win at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, his second of the season and of his Funny Car Career.


“This was where it all started for me in Jr. Dragsters,” Todd said. “I remember watching Capps as a kid and now I raced him in the final round of Indy. It’s too surreal. Like Torrence said, you win Indy and you know you’ve beaten the best in the sport. Ron Capps and those guys out there are the best in the sport.”

Just before it went bad. Todd (near lane) and Wilkerson leave the line, but then Todd lost power…then Wilkerson’s car moved left across the center line, giving the win to Todd.


Todd picked up wins against Brian Stewart, veteran Cruz Pedregon and, Tim Wilkerson who crossed the center line in the semifinals before taking home the Wally. He’s secured the No. 9 spot heading into the Countdown to the Championship.



Ron Capps came as close as he ever had to winning the NHRA U.S. Nationals on Monday afternoon. Capps put his Mopar HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car in the final round for the first time in the ultra-prestigious event at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, but in the end he finished just shy of checking off the biggest item remaining on the to-do-list in his storied career.


Capps first drove his Dodge Charger R/T from DSR past Alexis DeJoria, then powered past fellow Dodge competitor Jim Campbell in the second round as Campbell smoked his tires. Capps next took down Mopar DSR teammate Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T team in a clean, side-by-side race to reach the final round.

Beckman had narrowly bested teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.'s Mopar-powered Riley Hospital for Children team in the first round, ending Johnson's bid to go to his third straight final. 




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