Shawn Langdon and Jack Beckman raced to thrilling $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout victories in their respective categories Sunday at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and both drivers will carry that momentum into Monday's 11 a.m. eliminations as they are each chasing their first victories in the world's most prestigious drag race.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their categories as No. 1 qualifiers at the world's most prestigious drag race, the 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Top Fuel Points leader Langdon won the rain-delayed Traxxas Nitro Shootout in Top Fuel, knocking off Steve Torrence in the final round. Langdon beat Brown to reach the championship round, furthering the momentum for his Al-Anabi Racing team, which has claimed four victories this season.
“This was eight of the best cars battling it out for $100,000 and to win it here at Indy, it's just a great feeling,” Langdon said. “The only way you could top this is to win (Monday) and then win a world championship. The team is working hard, having a good team and the car is running excellent, so it's all good vibes right now.”
Defending world champion Beckman won the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout prize in Funny Car with an explosive final round victory against Cruz Pedregon. Beckman used a holeshot start in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger and powered to a performance of 4.086 at 310.77 before a spectacular engine explosion launched the body off Beckman's car at the finish line. Beckman, who defeated Ron Capps and Courtney Force to reach the final round of the eight-car field, was uninjured and he talked about the magnitude of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout victory.
“We're the only car with the chance of doubling up at Indy and you have to like that,” Beckman said. “It's a fairly surreal experience and the fact that we haven't won anything this year makes it that much bigger. This just feels fantastic and truly is amazing. It's one of those events that years from now you will always remember.”
The final qualifying fields were set for the Big Go, and defending NHRA Top Fuel world champion Brown went from the last qualifying spot to the No. 1 position with a thrilling run on his final attempt.
Brown, who was the No. 16 qualifier just moments before his final qualifying run, powered his Matco Tools dragster to a leading performance of 3.811 seconds at 320.58 mph. Brown, the 2011 winner here, earned his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 34th of his career. He will match up against Morgan Lucas in the first round of eliminations.
“It was a struggle for everybody on our team and we really had nothing to lose going into that run,” Brown said. “We weren't scared, we got after it and we stepped up to the plate. This class has some big-name players and you can't be afraid to go after things. We had been tip-toeing it and you can't do that. Racing Morgan in the first round is like a final round matchup and we have to be ready and prepared to get the job done.”
Nine-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner Tony Schumacher, who wasn't qualified before his final run, jumped all the way to No. 1 with a 3.814 at 319.82 in his U.S. Army dragster on his final pass before his teammate unseated him. Schumacher will start from the No. 2 position and Torrence will start third in his Capco Contractors dragster after posting a 3.815 at 325.61.
Hagan stayed atop the field in Funny Car in his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger with his track-record run of 4.007 at 319.22 mph from Friday. That gives Hagan, the Funny Car points leader, his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 14th of his career. Hagan also clinched the No. 1 position for the Countdown to the Championship.
“We missed out on winning that Traxxas Shootout so I guess you can't have it all, but it's up to us to go out and try to win (Monday),” said Hagan, who is also seeking his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win. “We've got a consistent car that's doing down the track and that's where you want to be this time of year. We want to make sure we do that again (Monday).”
Johnny Gray claimed the No. 2 qualifying position with a run of 4.012 at 312.13 in his Pitch Energy Dodge Charger. Del Worsham, who is currently 11th in the points standings and 27 points behind 10th place Robert Hight, qualified third with a 4.045 at 313.15 in his DHL Toyota Camry.
Pro Stock points leader Edwards jumped to the No. 1 qualifying position on Saturday by taking his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro to the top of the order with a run of 6.621 at 208.20. It is Edwards' 13th No. 1 qualifier this season, putting him closer to the class record of 16 he shares with Greg Anderson, and 54th of his career. Edwards will face off with Chris McGaha in the opening round of eliminations.
“We made a really good run at the right time, and the conditions were the best we had all weekend,” Edwards said. “The car was just phenomenal today and we were low both sessions. It was just a really good day and hopefully it carries over to (Monday). I don't care what class it is, winning here is the ultimate goal for everybody.”
V. Gaines also made a big jump in his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger, moving to second after a pass of 6.637 at 208.59. Jeg Coughlin qualified third after powering his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger to a time of 6.637 at 206.99.
Arana maintained the top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle, going 6.938 at 193.88 on his Lucas Oil Products Buell. It gives Arana his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and 23rd of his career, and also his first No. 1 qualifier at Indy. He will meet his son, rookie Adam Arana, in the first round of eliminations, but remains focused on his second career Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory.
“It's definitely a little bittersweet racing your own son in the first round, but by the same I token I want to win just like he wants to win,” Arana said. “We'll see what happens. I'm going out there to win and that's how I'll always play. I just need to stay consistent like I have been during qualifying. My only focus is doing my job and doing everything I can to win.”
Ten other riders joined Arana in the six-second zone, as defending world champion Eddie Krawiec qualified second on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson after going 6.948 at 190.89. L.E. Tonglet took his Nitro Fish Suzuki to the third spot with a pass of 6.966 at 191.38. Tonglet currently trails Steve Johnson by 30 points for the 10th and final spot in the Countdown to the Championship.