Prestige, points and power at the NHRA US National Championships
Antron Brown earned his 54th Top Fuel win at the NHRA U.S. National Championships on Monday. (NHRA photo)
It was an NHRA US Nationals to remember as Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) scored prestigious victories at Monday’s 68th annual event at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on Labor Day.
The signature build-up to the U.S. National Championships final began on Friday as qualifying took center stage in the spotlight. The Pep Boys All-Star Callout novelty races put the Funny Car and Top Fuel classes under pressure on Saturday and Sunday before the start of eliminations for the “Big Go” on Monday.
As drivers and teams leave the IRP, winners and losers, their attention turns to the championship countdown – the showdown is scheduled for September 15-18 at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania.
Brittany Force breaks qualifying records, fails in eliminations
The Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac drag racer got off to a strong start on Saturday as Force claimed first place in qualifying with a 3.640 second pass at 337.75 mph.
“It was a killer race. Especially since we struggled every lap and finally figured it out. It was outstanding,” Force said.
Although he was more than fast enough to claim his seventh No. 1 of the season, the Force run also earned him a spot as the fourth fastest dragster in NHRA Top Fuel history. Force kept up their momentum in the eliminations, stringing together four dominant wins before falling to Matco Tools/Toyota drag racer Antron Brown in the final lap.
Brown passed Force with a run of 3.706, earning his 54th Top Fuel victory and his second class win at the U.S. Nationals — his last was in 2011.
“Thank God above, all the prayers, all the hard work. We’re making it happen,” said Brown, who is also in his first season as a team owner. “To be here in Indy, our hometown native – I live eight miles from the track – I’m just super proud. My team did an incredible job.
Brown’s emotional victory lifted him from outside the top 10 to sixth in the standings, giving him considerable momentum for the title chase.
Meanwhile, Force emerges from Indy with its head held high, despite sorely lacking a win in both eliminations and the All-Star Callout. Steve Torrence beat Force for victory in the specialty race on Saturday.
Force leads the standings entering the Championship Countdown.
After 27 years, Ron Capps wins at Indy
The first time Ron Capps attempted to win at the US Nationals was in a Top Fuel dragster in 1995. Two years later he took on IRP driving a Funny Car and in 2017 he reached the last round of eliminations.
But on Monday, all the years of trying were worth it as Capps finally lifted the U.S. Nationals trophy with his wife and kids by his side. The win came in his 27th attempt at the U.S. Nationals and in his first season as a team owner.
“To not only win Indy on Monday, finally, but to win the big legendary race and get pole position in one weekend. It was like I was held back, and held back, and held back, and then the floodgates opened,” Capps said.
Capps has certainly left his mark on Indy this year, beating points leader Robert Hight with a blistering 3.912-second run in the final round of eliminations. As a bonus, his victory in the Pep Boys Funny Car All-Star Callout on Sunday put another $80,000 in his pocket.
Capps’ successful weekend saw him pass Matt Hagan in the standings, giving him the No. 2 position heading into the championship countdown. Hight will lead the pack.
100th career victory for Greg Anderson
Greg Anderson went two-for-two at Indy on Monday, earning his seventh victory at the U.S. National Championships and becoming the second driver in NHRA history to win 100 events.
After beating his first three opponents in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro, Anderson faced Dallas Glenn for the final round. With a run of 6.587 seconds at a top speed of 208.07 mph, Anderson secured his place in the record books.
“I don’t know if I can explain how significant this is,” Anderson said. “It’s amazing and that [100th] victory had to come here. Indy means everything to me and I’ve said that my whole career.
Even with 99 other wins to compare, Anderson calls his win at Indy the “most special win” of his career.
It’s back to the grindstone this week as Anderson prepares for the championship countdown. The five-time Pro Stock champion begins the six-race streak third in points behind Aaron Stanfield and points leader Erica Enders.
Matt Smith takes lead in Pro Stock moto points
The reigning world champion enjoyed a perfect weekend at Indy, using his 6.872-second run to claim his first victory at the U.S. Nationals since 2006.
Smith and his Denso Auto Parts EBR motorcycle went up against Karen Stoffer in the final round. In typical head-to-head fashion, Smith edged Stoffer for the win and also took the points lead as the class prepares for the championship countdown.
“I’ve been to the final a lot here and I’m lucky to have two [Indy] won. They better watch out for me,” Smith said. “We have a good bike and we will defend our championship.”