Diagnosed later, Schriefer suffers concussion in Indy explosion

Justin Schriefer, independent Nitro Funny Car team owner and driver, suffered what he was told by NHRA officials was the was “the worst Funny Car starting line explosion since 1992” during first round eliminations on Monday at the U.S. Nationals. There was a huge explosion at the hit of the throttle that lifted the car off the ground.


The explosion was so severe that Schriefer suffered a concussion, which he didn’t discover until the following Wednesday. After suffering headaches, fatigue, and some disorientation, he saw his doctor at Riverside Hospital in Kankakee, IL, who immediately ordered a cat scan that revealed Schriefer has a concussion. The doctor recommended a couple of weeks off work.


Immediately after the explosion and after exiting the car Schriefer said a Safety Safari member asked him if he was OK and he replied yes. “I had so much adrenaline going at that point I didn’t feel anything,” Schriefer told DRO editor Jeff Burk. “I started feeling the symptoms pretty quickly after but I didn’t know what was causing it.”


According to Schriefer that was the extent of the medical attention he received at the race track. “The only other time anyone from NHRA came to see me after the explosion was to have me sign the paperwork to pay my oil-down fines.”  [Note: He lost 15 points and was fined $4,000. The car will cost about $125,000 to repair.]


He then drove the team’s transporter from Indy to his home in the Chicago area not knowing he was suffering from a concussion.


In NASCAR, the only comparable auto racing series with the NHRA, if a driver is involved in an accident on track that causes their car to stop on track they must go to the emergency medical center for a doctor to examine them on the spot.


Evidently, either the NHRA has no similar medical protocol for its drivers or it just wasn’t implemented in this instance. The NHRA had put in place a program that provided a trauma-qualified doctor and an emergency medical center at the U.S. Nationals and is generally acknowledged as a driver-safety driven sanctioning body. 

It was Doug Kalitta’s day

Doug and his uncle, Connie Kalitta, both had plenty to celebrate at the U.S. Nationals. The win was the 46th in Doug Kalitta’s career. The race was also Kalitta’s 500th to start and the victory marked the 25th anniversary of team owner Connie Kalitta’s last Top Fuel victory at the U.S. Nationals. 


Doug Kalitta and the Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster turned on the most notable win light of the veteran driver’s career on Labor Day when the four-time Indy finalist became a first-time winner at the NHRA U.S. Nationals.


“I just can’t say enough about everyone that’s been working on my Mac Tools Toyota. They were busting their butts – and Connie was right there with them,” said Doug Kalitta. “Having him in our corner is awesome. What a day. It feels great to win a big race that Connie won.”


In the first round Kalitta took the win over fellow Countdown contender and veteran driver Clay Millican. It was Kalitta’s stellar reaction time that got the win when both dragsters lit up the scoreboard with identical 3.721-second elapsed times. Kalitta went on to oust No. 1 qualifier Brittany Force and Austin Prock before meeting surprise finalist, Billy Torrence.


In a dramatic final round Kalitta and Torrence launched together with Kalitta holding a slight starting line advantage. As both dragsters barreled down the track they were neck and neck before both race cars hazed the tires and lost power just before the finish line. It was Kalitta who had the edge and momentum to get to the stripe for the win, his second of the season. Kalitta starts the Countdown in second place, just 20 points behind Steve Torrence as the points reset for the final six events of the NHRA season.

John Force tied Ed “Ace” McCulloch for the most Funny Car wins in Indy history, powering his PEAK Chevrolet Performance Accessories Chevrolet Camaro SS to a run of 3.919 seconds at 324.44 mph to beat Jack Beckman’s 3.940 at 325.92 in the Funny Car final round. It is Force’s second win in 2019, 151st in his career and first at Indy since 2002. The legendary driver beat Jonnie Lindberg, points leader Robert Hight and Matt Hagan to reach his first Indy final in five years.  

Erica Enders was off the line with a .007 RT to Laughlin’s .120, but it was just past this point when Enders’ car shook and she had to pedal it allowing Laughlin (near lane) to zip ahead to take the win by about 4 feet.


In Pro Stock, Alex Laughlin won for the first time in 2019 and at the U.S. Nationals, beating Elite Motorsports teammate Erica Enders in the final round with a 6.648 at 207.43 in his Havoline Camaro. Laughlin picked up wins against Steve Graham, Val Smeland and Deric Kramer to reach the final round, chasing down Enders to become the 25th different driver to win in Pro Stock at Indy. It’s also Laughlin’s first win in the class in more than two years. 

Hold the phone! Here we go again?

We’re not sure what the final say on the deal was, but reports from the track say that there were other issues with the tree in the right lane as Top Dragster had a similar issue, when video showed the car didn't move.


When DRO’s Chris Haverly checked with the PSM riders he was told that NHRA told them they didn't have time to run it over. Gotta keep to the TV schedule, don’t you know...


The Agent recalls a similar incident back in 2005 when Steve Johnson was finally announced as the U.S. Nationals PSM winner after a timing system malfunction. DRO’s Chris Martin (//archive/raceresults/2005/vii_8-usn-johnson-1.html) and fans joined in taking NHRA to task for the scoring error.   

Hurricane Dorian cancels PDRA event in North Carolina

PDRA Drag Wars presented by Pro Line Racing, Sept. 5-7 at GALOT Motorsports Park in Benson, NC, has been canceled, race officials announced today (Sept. 4). The path of Hurricane Dorian changed since the PDRA’s original decision to move forward with the event, with the storm now expected to directly hit the Benson area.


Drag Wars, the sixth of eight races on the 2019 PDRA schedule, will not be rescheduled or made up at a future event because of schedule conflicts. Championships points will not be awarded for the event.


The 2019 PDRA Road to the Finals will pick up again next month at the PDRA Fall Nationals, Oct. 2-4 at Darlington Dragway in Hartsville, SC.


Both GALOT and Virginia Motorsports Park facilities are open for housing any race rigs that need to get away from the storm. 

Castellana gets first win at U.S. Nationals


Pro Mod veteran Mike Castellana scored his first career victory at the U.S. Nationals, slipping past Rickie Smith on a .049 to .063 holeshot in the final round of E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service action on Monday.


It was Castellana’s first Indy triumph after finishing as the runner-up two previous times (2011, 2012). He went 5.758 seconds at 248.43 mph in the finals in his blown Al-Anabi Performance Camaro, beating Smith’s 5.747 at 250.83 by a mere 17 inches. It is Castellana’s second win in 2019 and 10th in his E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series career.


Castellana, who qualified second with a 5.751 at 248.93, picked up round wins against Sidnei Frigo (5.765/248.89 to 5.790/253.66), Doug Winters (5.801/248.39 to 5.873/227/23) and AAP teammate Brandon Snider (car would not start) to reach the final round.

Smith, a three-time world champ and the No. 1 qualifier this weekend, advanced to his 23rd career final round thanks to round wins against Eric Latino (5.740/251.02 to 5.779/246.89), Khalid alBalooshi (5.774/251.58 to 5.785/255.19) and defending world champ Mike Janis (5.769/251.58 to 5.865/246.17). 

Points leader “Stevie Fast” Jackson went red in the first round against Todd Tutterow.    

Skillman takes Factory Stock Showdown victory

Although Arthur Kohn’s COPO Camaro was off the line first, Bill Skillman’s Cobra Jet Mustang powered on to a 7.888 lap at 172.39 mph to get the final-round win over Kohn’s 7.918/172.98 in the Factory Stock Showdown at the U.S. Nationals. Skillman had qualified No. 20 in the 29-car field, while Kohn came from the No. 12 spot.

Skillman overtook David Barton in the first round to take the win 7.984/169.61 to 8.017/170.95, winning by .0085 seconds. Leonard Libersher had a .012 to .053 RT advantage, but Skillman’s 7.958/169.64 overtook Libersher’s 8.107/168.24. Skillman (.061 RT, 7.956, 169.89) defeated David Janac (.103 RT, 8.017, 169.83) and then a red-lighting Doug Hamp to reach the final.

Kohn began his day with a bye run when Richard Bierie did not make the first-round call. In the second his .023 to .072 RT gave the holeshot win with a 7.970/171.58 over Holbrook’s quicker and faster 7.952/172.61. Kohn (.016 RT, 7.957, 171.90) knocked out Mark Pawuk (.047 RT, 7.949, 171.95) and then beat Stephen Bell by about 4 inches (.049 RT, 7.936, 172.34 to .045 RT, 7.941, 171.60) in the semi. 

Bo Butner dispatched defending Factory Stock champion Leah Pritchett in the first round. Pritchett left first with a .024 light, but Butner ran her down after his .040 start with his 8.040/168.07 besting Pritchett’s 8.077/169.42. In the second round Butner had the starting line advantage but lost with a 7.996/168.96 to Stephen Bell’s 7.955/171.03.   

Allen Johnson got the first-round win even though he red-lighted after opponent Robert Falcone crossed the center line and then over-corrected, hitting the guardwall. Johnson then lost to Mark Pawuk, both men driving Drag Pak Challengers.  

If you can’t be great, be memorable

Luigi Novelli’s dragster had a pretty good fireball in the fourth qualifying session for Top Fuel while in the other lane Chris Karamesines’ engine shut off after he ran through the water box. But Novelli kept his foot in it and was done. Although “The Greek” made another attempt, he did not make the show either. 

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