INDIANAPOLIS – John Force put an end to one winless drought this season, snapping a 31-race streak without a victory in June at Bristol Dragway. Now the 15-time Funny Car world champion hopes to put another drought behind him when he takes his 8,000-horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
It’s been 11 years since Force won the world’s most prestigious drag race, with his last victory coming in 2002. That has left him stuck on four wins at Indy for more than a decade, but coming off a strong testing session and a solid summer has Force excited about his chances at the 2013 edition of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
The defending winners from the iconic event in 2012 include Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle). The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the final race of the regular season in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, will be contested Aug. 28-Sept. 2 at the multi-purpose motorsports facility located just west of downtown Indianapolis. Once again, the race will be showcased nationwide on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD during more than 10 hours of coverage.
Force hopes one of the lasting images of this year’s race will be him celebrating a fifth Funny Car win at Indy, which would tie him with Ed McCulloch for the most in class history.
“Indy is the biggest race of the year and it always has been,” Force said. “Every time you roll through the gates you think of Big Daddy (Don Garlits), (Don “The Snake”) Prudhomme and all the greats. It has been a while since I won Indy but we have a hot rod that is running well. (Crew chief) Jimmy Prock has the Castrol GTX Mustang flying and we ran well in testing last week. You have to be ready for anything and I am excited to be racing there with my whole family.”
During last week’s test session at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Force, who is currently fifth in the points standings and has clinched a spot in the Countdown to the Championship, powered his car to a time of 4.021 seconds at 318.24 mph, the best time of any Funny Car over a two-day stretch.
It’s a further sign that things continue to move in the right direction for Force, who has advanced to three more finals since winning at Bristol. He’s still searching for that second win in 2013 and Indy would be the perfect spot in his mind. Force is also well aware of what a fifth Funny Car win at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals would mean and he is readily embracing that challenge.
“I think getting a fifth win at Indy would be huge,” Force said. “You want to see your name up there with the greats, but more important is being ready for the Countdown. I have so many great memories of Indy. I just love going there because everybody is there.
“I think we have been running well the past couple of races. I am ready and we have my Mustang ready. We found a couple things that are going to make me more comfortable in this hot rod. The key is to be confident and our teams are confident. We need to make sure Robert (Hight) stays in the top ten and we would all like to move up. I am ready to get into the fight.”
To put it mildly, the John Force Racing team will have plenty going on and plenty at stake in Indy. Hight is currently 10th in points and needs to ward off Del Worsham to secure his spot in the Countdown. Meanwhile, John and daughter Courtney are both qualified for the Traxxas Nitro Shootout while Hight and daughter Brittany in Top Fuel are both vying for the final fan vote-lottery drawing spot in their respective classes.
It will certainly add up to a hectic weekend, but Force, the 2012 Traxxas Nitro Shootout winner in Funny Car, has repeatedly shown a spectacular ability to take care of business throughout his impressive career.
“Having the Traxxas Shootout at Indy is huge,” Force said. “It makes the event that much bigger. It will be a busy weekend and you have to stay focused. That is what I tell all my drivers. You have to be mentally ready all the time. Qualifying will also be the Traxxas Shootout so you have to approach it a little different. The key will be making good runs early in the race so you can race all out in the Traxxas Shootout and not have to worry about qualifying. You want to get that $100,000 prize but you also have to be qualified to race on Monday. I want to win that Traxxas Shootout again but it will be tough with all these great Funny Cars out there.”
Force’s top challengers at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals include Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan, who is seeking his fifth victory of the season. Ron Capps has won two of the last three races and will be a force in his NAPA Dodge Charger. Those two drivers lead a strong group who are trying to win the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for the first time, including four-time season winner Johnny Gray, Courtney Force and defending world champ Jack Beckman. Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson also will be trying to return to Indy’s winner’s circle. Ninth place Bob Tasca, Hight and Worsham will be battling for the final two spots in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher will be looking to make history as the first 10-time winner in the history of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. To do so he will need to hold off series points leader Shawn Langdon, a four-time season winner, along with another four-time season winner, teammate Spencer Massey. Defending world champion Antron Brown, ultra-quick Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican, Morgan Lucas and Khalid alBalooshi are also among those to watch in the 8,000-horsepower category. Steve Torrence, Bob Vandergriff and David Grubnic will not only be looking for a race victory, but the trio also will be in the hunt to secure a post-season playoff position.
Pro Stock points leader Mike Edwards only has one victory at Indy, but is riding the season momentum from five victories in his I Am Second Chevy Camaro. Defending world champ Allen Johnson, three-time Indy winner Jeg Coughlin, Vincent Nobile, six-time Indy winner Greg Anderson and fellow Chevy Camaro driver Shane Gray are also among the pre-race favorites.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. has been in front of the standings all season on his Lucas Oil Buell, but he will be challenged by past Indy winners Matt Smith and Hector Arana Sr. Newcomer Michael Ray, sitting third in points with two victories this season, will also be one of the pre-race favorites, along with John Hall, Scotty Pollacheck and defending world champ Eddie Krawiec. Six Countdown spots are open in the bike class, and four riders – Shawn Gann, Steve Johnson, LE Tonglet and Andrew Hines – will compete for the final two positions in the top 10.
Teams in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Series also will compete during the weekend. In addition, the world’s fastest Super Stock cars will race for bonus bucks and bragging rights during the intense Mopar HEMI Challenge.
Fans can get a taste of the excitement on Wednesday, Aug. 28th by attending the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Fan Fest, which will feature a display of race cars, live music, a huge jumbotron and plenty of giveaways at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. The Fan Fest, which starts at 11 a.m., also will feature a premier autograph session with many of the top professional drivers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. In addition, a press conference will be held during the Fan Fest, where several news announcements will be made and the random lottery drawings for the No. 8 spots in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout will be held.
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30, which will be finished off with a thrilling fireworks display. Two sessions will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and will also be capped with a fireworks show. The final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 1 at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 2. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be contested Saturday, Aug. 31 with rounds at 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car will be held on Sunday, Sept. 1 for the eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise more than 10 hours of coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Five hours of qualifying coverage and coverage of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout will air on ESPN2 HD at 1 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 1. Eliminations for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be featured during six hours of coverage on Monday, Sept. 2, starting at noon (ET).
Tickets are available for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Tickets are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or online at www.NHRATIX.com.
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CHEVROLET PERFORMANCE U.S. NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 59th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the last race in the NHRA Mello Yello Series regular season. At the conclusion of this event, the top 10 drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – will be locked in to begin the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Brownsburg, Ind. From I-465, exit Crawfordsville Road (Hwy. 136). Head west for four miles past downtown Clermont. The facility’s main entrance is on the left, one-half mile past Raceway Road. From I-74 go south on Ronald Reagan Parkway, exit 68 and turn south. Turn east on U.S. 136 and entrance on the track will be on the right.
COURSE: Championship dragstrip; Track elevation is 700 feet above sea level; Track direction is south to north.
WHEN: Wednesday, Aug. 28 through Monday, Sept. 2.
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 28 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
THURSDAY, Aug. 29 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations
FRIDAY, Aug. 30 - LUCAS OIL SERIES (featuring Mopar HEMI Challenge)
PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 5:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 6 p.m.
SATURDAY, Aug. 31 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations
PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2 and 5:30 p.m.
TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT (Top Fuel) rounds at 4, 7 and 8:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:30 and 6 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 1 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 5 p.m.
TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT (Funny Car) rounds at 12:30, 3:30 and 4:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
MONDAY, Sept. 2 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Sunday, Sept. 1, ESPN2 HD will televise five hours of qualifying coverage at 1 p.m. (ET).
Monday, Sept. 2, ESPN2 HD will televise six hours of eliminations coverage at noon (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Aug. 30, 8:30 - 9 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 14C
Saturday, Aug. 31, 9 - 9:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 14C
Sunday, Sept. 1, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 14C
Monday, Sept. 2, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 14C
(3980 MHz, vertical; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Monday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Mike Neff, Funny Car; Dave Connolly, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle;
MOST VICTORIES: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel, 9; Bob Glidden, Pro Stock, 9; Don Garlits, Top Fuel, 8; Don Prudhomme, Top Fuel and Funny Car, 7; Warren Johnson, Pro Stock, 6; Dave Schultz, Pro Stock Motorcycle, 6; Ed McCulloch, Funny Car and Top Fuel, 6; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, 6; John Force, Funny Car, 4; Larry Dixon, Top Fuel, 4.
EVENT HISTORY: The most historic and prestigious event in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals has been contested annually since 1955. Originally known as “The Nationals” and first held at an abandoned airstrip in Great Bend, Kan., the event made stops at Kansas City, Mo., Oklahoma City and Detroit before eventually moving to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961. Past winners include “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, an eight-time winner in Top Fuel; Shirley Muldowney, 1982 Top Fuel winner; Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, a seven-time winner and one of a handful of drivers to win the event in both Top Fuel and Funny Car; and Bob Glidden, the legendary Pro Stock driver who dominated the race by advancing to the final round in 13 consecutive seasons from 1977-’89. The Indiana native won the event a record nine times, a mark he shares with current Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher. It is the only major motorsports event to be contested on Labor Day.
FAST FACTS: The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals is the final of 18 regular season Mello Yello Series races. Following conclusion of this event the top 10 drivers in each Mello Yello Series category will qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs that begin Sept. 13-15 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C.… The Traxxas Nitro Shootout will offer $100,000 to the winners in special bonus events for qualified Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers… Tony Schumacher is an 11-time U.S. Nationals finalist in Top Fuel (winning nine)… Schumacher’s first career NHRA start came at the U.S. Nationals in 1996 and the then rookie posted a runner-up finish to Cory McClenathan… Four-time Pro Stock world champ Greg Anderson has won the race six times in the past 12 seasons… John Force, 15-time NHRA Mello Yello Series world champion and winner of a record 135 events, has won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals four times, his last coming in 2002… Three women have earned Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victories, including Shirley Muldowney once in Top Fuel, Ashley Force Hood twice in Funny Car and Angelle Sampey twice in Pro Stock Motorcycle… Pro Stock’s Bob Glidden and Top Fuel’s Tony Schumacher are the winningest drivers in the history of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, with nine victories each… Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme, Jim Head and Ed McCulloch have won the race in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, while Antron Brown has also won the race in multiple classes, Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle… The event also will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, featuring high-horsepower machines that accelerate to more than 250 mph.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Traxxas Nitro Shootout will offer $100,000 to the winners in special bonus events for qualified Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers… Tony Schumacher is seeking a record 10th Top Fuel victory at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals… A victory by Schumacher would break a tie with Pro Stock’s Bob Glidden for most Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victories… Four-time Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson is seeking his seventh Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory… Two-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner Cory McClenathan is expected to compete in the event this season in a dragster fielded by Mike Dakin… A driver from John Force Racing has earned the Funny Car victory at this event each season since 2008, including Robert Hight in ’08, Ashley Force Hood in ’09 and ’10 and Mike Neff in ’11 and ’12… Seven female drivers representing all four Mello Yello Series categories are pre-entered for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals… Several high-profile drivers are looking for their first victory in the world’s most prestigious drag race, including points leader Shawn Langdon, Morgan Lucas and two-time Indy runner-up Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel, points leader Matt Hagan, Ron Capps and Tony Pedregon in Funny Car, defending world champ Allen Johnson in Pro Stock, and three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Eddie Krawiec… Drivers in several Mello Yello Series categories who are on the bubble to make it into the top 10 in points will be trying to earn every point possible to secure their berths into the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race postseason playoffs.
TRACK HISTORY: In 1958, led by Tom Binford, Frank Dickie, Rodger Ward and Howard Fieber, 15 Indianapolis-area businessmen and racing professionals invested $5,000 each to fund the development of what would become Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. The group purchased a 267-acre farm about seven miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and developed a multipurpose auto racing facility. The original intention in creating Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis was to design a 15-turn, 2.5-mile road course. Nearly as an afterthought, and as an insurance measure against economic problems, the investment group decided to incorporate a quarter-mile drag strip into the long straightaway of the 2.5-mile road course design. Constructed with assistance from the NHRA, the drag strip was the first of the three courses to be completed, with the facility’s first event held on the strip in the fall of 1960. During the 1960 U.S. Nationals in Detroit, a handshake agreement between Binford and NHRA founder Wally Parks promised that the event would move to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961. The historic three-year pact was signed and sealed under a tree in Detroit Dragway’s pits, and Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis eventually became the home of NHRA’s biggest annual event. The NHRA purchased the entire facility in 1979. The first major improvement came in 1983 with the construction and dedication of Parks Tower, the four-story drag strip tower. In 1998, new grandstands, suites and a tower complex on the front straightaway were completed at the oval track at a cost of nearly $2.5 million, which included the repaving of the entire oval surface as part of a three-phase facility improvement project. In 2001, NHRA and Lucas Oil Raceway constructed a new drag strip racing surface, replacing the strip with a 660-foot concrete pad and laying new asphalt on the remainder of the track and shutdown area. Prior to the 2003 race, eight new luxury suites were added along the top of the west-side grandstands of the drag strip, giving fans a unique perspective of the action on the famed track. In 2006, new soft barrier walls were added to the oval. In 2007, the track announced its first track entitlement with O’Reilly Auto Parts. In 2011, the track announced a new track entitlement with Lucas Oil Products. The track – formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park – is now known as Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. During the winter of 2008, a new main track office building was constructed near the track entrance.
DRIVER QUICK QUOTES:
Tony Schumacher, nine-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner: “I should move to Indy. I really like that town. I’ve won Indy nine times and lost in the final twice. That’s 11 times in the final in like 14 or 15 years that I’ve been one of the last two cars running there. I love going there. I find that place very special. I wish I could figure out why we win the races there, because I would bottle it up and use it at other events. It’s simply amazing. Why can’t we win at Atlanta? We’ve won the Big Go nine times and I’m glad it’s as special as it is. I tell you if you win Atlanta nine times, nice job, but if you win the Big Go nine times, you’re something.”
Jack Beckman, defending Funny Car world champion: “Before I won the Funny Car championship I guessed it would be cool to win it, but I had no idea how cool it actually was until I finally won it. It’s like being a parent for the first time. People tell you that having kids is the greatest thing in the world, but you really don’t understand that until you have kids. The same thing applies to winning Indy for me. I haven’t won it yet, so at this point it doesn’t really mean anything. I do understand that winning the race can be a career-altering experience. We’ve seen that in so many drivers over the years. There really isn’t another place where winning one race has that kind of power to totally change a career. I really hope I can win the U.S. Nationals one day to experience that and become a part of Indy’s rich history.”
Greg Anderson, six-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Pro Stock winner: “Since day one, I thought it was the greatest thing on wheels, and that is how I treat it now that I race there in my Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro. I don’t go to Indy trying to act like it’s any other race – I go there like it’s the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, where it means the world to win.”
Steve Johnson, two-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Pro Stock Motorcycle winner: “The mystique of the U.S. Nationals is such that it's a race like no other. It's the one we all want to win more than any other. Winning Indy can literally make your career, not just because it's the Nationals but because our fans, sponsors and the media pay more attention to what happens there than they do to any other race. The feeling you get when you win a Wally is like no other in your life, but I promise you, when you're holding the Wally from the U.S. Nationals it's like an out-of-body experience. Time seems to slow down, and you're aware of everything around you, from the fans congratulating you to the men and women you race against shaking your hand. You're just numb. It's hard to take it all in. I've had that feeling twice and man, I want to feel that way again and again.”
Top Fuel - 3.740 sec. by Shawn Langdon, Sept. ’12; 326.79 mph by Tony Schumacher, Sept. ’12.
Funny Car - 4.026 sec. by Cruz Pedregon, Sept. ’11; 317.27 mph by Courtney Force, Sept. ’12.
Pro Stock - 6.538 sec. by Jason Line, Sept. ’11; 211.13 mph by Mike Edwards, Sept. ’12.
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.815 sec. by Andrew Hines, Sept. ’10; 196.76 mph by Hines, Sept. ’10.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also are available online at www.NHRATIX.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 1,370; 2. Spencer Massey, 1,249; 3. Tony Schumacher, 1,199; 4. Doug Kalitta, 1,009; 5. Khalid alBalooshi, 1,002; 6. Antron Brown, 994; 7. Clay Millican, 928; 8. Morgan Lucas, 917; 9. Steve Torrence, 794; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 789.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 1,253; 2. Ron Capps, 1,129; 3. (tie) Johnny Gray, 1,066; Cruz Pedregon, 1,066; 5.John Force, 1,054; 6. Courtney Force, 1,039; 7. Jack Beckman, 1,015; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 952; 9. Bob Tasca III, 906; 10. Robert Hight, 902.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 1,540; 2. Allen Johnson, 1,390; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 1,275; 4. Vincent Nobile, 1,113; 5. Shane Gray, 1,031; 6. Jason Line, 1,008; 7. Greg Anderson, 977; 8. V. Gaines, 879; 9. Erica Enders-Stevens, 779; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 724.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 795; 2. Matt Smith, 646; 3. Michael Ray, 599; 4. Hector Arana, 553; 5. John Hall, 534; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 523; 7. Eddie Krawiec, 465; 8. Adam Arana, 462; 9. Shawn Gann, 428; 10. Steve Johnson, 424.