Larry Dixon raced to the qualifying lead Saturday at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, capping a record-setting day of performances at the NHRA's most prestigious drag race.
Matt Hagan, Jeg Coughlin and Andrew Hines also were qualifying leaders in their categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event, the first of six championship playoff races.
Dixon, winner of nine races and the top seed in Top Fuel entering the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, covered historic O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis with a track record run of 3.776 seconds at 324.36 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster.
"It's like Houston air got imported into Indianapolis," said Dixon. "The weather is great, and I'm glad the car stuck. It hooked up and wasn't moving left or right. I could see the .77 on the board, and I thought, 'Wow. That's nice.' I love having two night sessions, especially since we missed it last night. Running in these conditions again was like getting a 'get out of jail free' card. We needed that run to get out of the middle of the field. That was a clutch run by Alan [Johnson, team manager], Jason [McCulloch, crew chief], and the team."
Don Schumacher Racing drivers held down the second and third spots as Cory McClenathan posted a 4.784 at 323.66 in his FRAM dragster and eight-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner Tony Schumacher ran 4.790 at 324.83 in his U.S. Army dragster.
Hagan powered his DieHard Dodge Charger to the top of the Funny Car order with a track record time of 4.039 at 277.89. Ron Capps moved to second in the lineup with a 4.049 at 309.77 in his NAPA Charger and Robert Hight dropped to third overall with his performance of 4.055 at 310.98 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang.
“Wow, what a run,” Hagan said. “You know, [crew chief] Tommy DeLago, he really knows how to tune these race cars up. He said, ‘If it makes it past 60 foot, it's going to haul the mail.' It really left hard. I got somewhat of a vibration in there. I was like, ‘Man, it's really running,' because it blurred my vision a little bit. I could see the groove pretty good, but it got out there and it felt like it was getting a little bit towards the wall to me, and I would just as soon click it off a little early. To look at the numbers and what Tommy DeLago thinks, he thinks it may have been on a 4-flat lap.”
Three-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner Coughlin moved to the front of the Pro Stock field with a track record time of 6.580 at 209.39 in his JEGS.com Chevy Cobalt. Defending world champ and playoff top seed Mike Edwards was second with a 6.585 at 209.26 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP, while Ron Krisher was third in his Valvoline Chevy Cobalt with a 6.586 at 209.56.
“The fight for the No. 1 spot is always a challenge, especially here at the U.S. Nationals,” Coughlin said. “It feels fantastic to bring it back to the JEGS pit, even if it's just for one night. Tomorrow's going to be another battle because the conditions are supposed to be similar to what we saw today. Pro Stock cars love it when it's cool and dry like this.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines set a national record with a 6.815 second time at a track record speed of 195.17 mph on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Hines teammate Eddie Krawiec held down the second spot on his V-Rod with a 6.867 at 194.94 while defending world champ and event winner Hector Arana was third in his Lucas Oil Buell with a 6.900 at 192.66.
“That 20 points [for the record] is huge when you only have a 30-point lead to start the Countdown," said Hines, who enters the playoffs as the top seed in the two-wheel category. "On the 6.81, I didn't know what to expect. I saw Eddie run 6.86 and my bike had same tune-up, so I thought it would be good. We ran 4.34 at the eighth-mile and we've never seen that before. The air got dry and bikes like that. This afternoon, it had more moisture and we slowed down. I have a motorcycle that is capable of going rounds on Monday. I haven't had one this good in a long time. I've also been good on the lights; I'm happy with the way I'm riding. This is my best chance to bring home an Indy Wally."
Qualifying continues Sunday with sessions at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday's eliminations start at 11 a.m.