Top Fuel standout Shawn Langdon wasn't far off his track-record pace during Thursday's second day of testing for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, as the Top Fuel points leader and 15-time Funny Car world champion John Force recorded the quickest passes at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
NHRA teams utilized the second day of the two-day open test to prepare for the world's most prestigious drag race, which will be held Aug. 28-Sept. 2 at the NHRA-owned multi-purpose motorsports facility that sits just west of downtown Indianapolis. The event, which will also feature the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout, is the final race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season and will be televised by ESPN2HD with more than 10 hours of coverage on Labor Day weekend.
Langdon, who set the track record at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis a year ago with a 3.740-second performance, laid down a standout run of 3.748 seconds at 325.77 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster, a day after running a solid 3.802 on Wednesday. It's an ideal situation for Langdon, who has four wins in 2013 and is seeking not only his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory but his first world championship as well.
“The car has been strong lately and we're just going to kind of take it from there and look at a couple of tweaks,” Langdon said. “We want to win the (Chevrolet Performance) U.S. Nationals as much as any race in the Countdown so we're treating it all the same. They're all big races and we're treating all of them like that.”
Tony Schumacher also improved on his session from Wednesday, powering his 8,000-horsepower U.S. Army dragster to a run of 3.755 at 323.04. A nine-time winner at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the seven-time world champion is embracing the challenge that awaits next weekend when he will try to become the first driver to record 10 victories at drag racing's most prestigious event.
“To have the chance, I think that plays into our benefit,” Schumacher said. “We're better with the pressure on. That's what our team has been great at. Right now we've got a good handle on the car and we're making good calls.”
Antron Brown was third in his Matco Tools dragster with a time of 3.756 at 323.35, while Morgan Lucas posted the fourth-quickest time on Thursday with a run of 3.765 at 321.42 in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster. Khalid alBalooshi was the fifth driver to reach the 3.70s, taking his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to the finish line in 3.769 at 321.65 and Spencer Massey, the most recent event winner, recorded a 3.802 at 318.09.
“We wanted to try a couple different things that aren't big moves,” Lucas said. “The car is a lot closer to where we want it than at the beginning of the year, so we're just trying to find different ways to run it in different conditions. For us, the most important thing is getting this GEICO car down the track as much as possible to give ourselves the best chances to try to pursue a championship.”
Massey takes plenty of momentum into the biggest race of the season, winning in Brainerd for his fourth win in 2013 and jumping to second in the points standings in his Battery Extender/Schumacher Electric dragster. But his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory would also be a massive boost heading into the Countdown to the Championship.
“We're just making sure the car stays consistent,” Massey said. “We're not really trying anything new because the car is running well, but we're just making sure the car is ready to go down this race track. We just have to make sure we're 100 percent ready for this race.
“This is the Super Bowl of drag racing. Winning this race is something every driver wants to do. It's the biggest race of the year and I'd like to check winning this off my bucket list.”
Funny Car's Force has had that honor four times and appeared ready to try to make it five on Thursday, powering his 8,000-horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a Funny Car-best 4.021 at 318.24. A fifth Indy win would tie Force with Ed McCulloch for the most in class history at the event.
His John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight also had another strong day as he tries to keep his top 10 position, running 4.022 at 314.46 in his Auto Club Mustang.
“We made some pretty good runs,” Force said. “We're just learning and it was a fun day. It's Indy and you want to run big numbers. I'm having fun with my kids and we're getting into race mode.”
Johnny Gray had the quickest Funny Car on Wednesday and his Pitch Energy Dodge Charger had another strong performance on Thursday, running 4.034 at 314.75. Looking for his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win, Gray believes things are coming together at the right time.
“We're testing some things we've wanted to try,” said Gray, a four-time winner in 2013. “Some of it shows a lot of promise and we feel real confident going into the race. We'll be fine. I would love to come double up with the Traxxas (Nitro) Shootout and the win at Indy and hopefully move up in the points for the Countdown. We'll see what happens but we're ready.”
Del Worsham was fourth as his DHL Toyota Camry powered to a 4.035 at 318.54 and Jack Beckman rounded out the top five, going 4.045 at 313.15 in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger.
Worsham currently trails Hight by 31 points in the race for the 10th and final spot in the Countdown, adding even more incentive to do well at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
“We all want to win the championship and until we make the Countdown it's not possible,” said Worsham, who won at Indy in 2005. “We're spending a lot of time and money trying to make that happen. Everybody knows what's on the line and what's at stake. The guys on the team don't need any words of encouragement from me at this point.”