Three drivers had a shot at their first career NHRA Full Throttle Series win on Sunday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway and Funny Car veteran Bob Bode was the lucky one who struck pay dirt.
The other winners at the 17th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Series season – and final race in the regular season – were Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Also on Sunday, the final five spots in the Countdown to 1 NHRA Playoffs were determined as Dave Grubnic (Top Fuel), Tony Pedregon (Funny Car), Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer and Craig Treble (Pro Stock Motorcycle) clinched berths.
And the final two No. 1 seeds were settled as well with John Force (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) joining Dixon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) as top seeds.
Bode defeated Cruz Pedregon, Bob Tasca and Tim Wilkerson to reach the final where he proceeded to celebrate a surprisingly easy win when Jack Beckman struck the wheels on his Freightliner Dodge Charger R/T early and slowed to a 8.338 at 86.32. Bode's official winning run in the Alard Machine Chevy Impala was a 4.248 at 253.66.
“All of this is kind of like a dream I'm afraid I'm gonna wake up from,” Bode said. “I didn't know if it would ever happen, but now that it did, I can't believe it happened. It's the best thing that ever happened to me in my entire life in the racing world. I have a wife and kid, wonderful things there, but the racing world, this is it.”
Dixon improved to 9-0 in final rounds in the Al-Anabi dragster and 4-0 vs. second-place Cory McClenathan this season with a blistering 3.786-second pass at 312.28mph to McClenathan's 3.810 at 314.17.
“I feel fortunate,” said Dixon, whose engine suffered damage as he crossed the finish line. “When I lifted (off the throttle), it popped…I got heat-treated a little bit…but I saw the win light.”
In Pro Stock, the red-hot Coughlin (6.614 at 208.04) was appearing in his third straight final round in the JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt and he celebrated victory for the second time in that stretch when Auto Club Road to the Future candidate Shane Gray red-lighted in the Tire Kingdom Pontiac GXP to end his bid for his first career win before he got out of first gear.
“This is as close as we've been to the points leader all year,” said Coughlin, who will trail Mike Edwards by 40 points when the points reset for the Countdown to 1. “That's the way the playoff and the Countdown to 1 works. We've had that work to our advantage for a couple of years and had that work against us last year. This year, we were probably no way shape or form going to contend for our sixth world title, but we are.”
It was Coughlin's 52nd career win, which tied him with Joe Amato for eighth place on the all-time NHRA Full Throttle Series wins list.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines (6.941 at 191.00) completed an impressive weekend hat trick aboard the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with his win over first-time finalist Jim Underdahl (7.012 at 188.52) – he was the No. 1 qualifier, he won the race, and he moved around season-long points leader Hector Arana to clinch the No. 1 seed entering the Countdown to 1 playoffs.
“Big win,” Hines said. “I've never been No. 1 going into the playoffs so it's nice to be in this position. Three or four races ago we were looking at the point and Hector had something like a 160-point lead and we just wrote it off that we wouldn't make it there. Luck turned to our side, the motorcycle started performing better and Hector faltered a little bit and we capitalized on it.”
The six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs begin in two weeks with the Labor Day weekend running of the world's most prestigious drag race, the 56th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.