Several Top Fuel drivers, including nine-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner Tony Schumacher, defending winner Shawn Langdon and noted rookie Richie Crampton, raced to impressive performances Thursday during the final day of testing at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
NHRA teams utilized the two-day open test to prepare for the world's most prestigious drag race, which will be held next weekend (Aug. 27-Sept. 1) at the famed NHRA-owned multi-purpose motorsports facility that sits just west of downtown Indianapolis. The tradition-rich event is the final race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season and will be televised by ESPN2 with more than 10 hours of coverage on Labor Day weekend. The event also will feature the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel and Funny Car and many special activities with the sport’s legendary drivers in celebration of the milestone 60th anniversary.
Schumacher posted the second-quickest run of the day with a performance of 3.810 seconds at 323.81 mph in his U.S. Army dragster. He comes to the Big Go this season looking to win the race for a record 10th time, which would break a tie for most wins he currently shares with Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden.
“We don’t test as much as we used to, most teams don’t,” Schumacher said. “There are a lot of new parts and pieces we have to get on the car that we have to try before the race weekend and qualifying. We also have the (Traxxas) Shootout as well. It is a huge weekend, we have a chance to do something that very few cars have had the chance to do and that is to win Indy 10 times. You want to make some good laps and know that you are coming in here comfortable with your tune up.”
Another Indy win would also give the seven-time world champ momentum heading into the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs. “The Sarge” has two victories and two No. 1 qualifying positions this season and is in fourth place in the points standings.
“We have been coming on so strong and have such a great racecar and you know we keep saying we need one more run, one more run, and here we want to give ourselves four or five more runs to get what we need,” Schumacher said. “We’re definitely leaving the test session comfortable coming back in a few days.”
Defending U.S. Nationals and Traxxas Nitro Shootout Top Fuel winner Langdon clocked a performance of 3.838 at 313.07 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster and appears to be in good form heading into the event. He has one victory this season in five final round appearances and is in third place in the series standings.
"Last year we had such a great weekend winning everything there was," said Langdon, also the defending Top Fuel world champion. "But you can ask anybody, those weekends don’t come by too often. You have to appreciate those weekends and we strive for those weekends like that, but at this point we will do the best job we can. We want to get back into the winner's circle and that paycheck for the Traxxas Shootout is nice as well so we are going to do the best job we can. The main thing is just getting this car ready for the Countdown and getting that big check at the end of the year."
Rookie driver Crampton was fourth in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster with a performance of 3.814 at 322.73 as he prepares for his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals as a driver.
"Everyone wants to win the U.S. Nationals and for most of us living here in Indiana now this is a hometown race," said Crampton, a native Australian who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2012. "It is the Big Go, it is the U.S. Nationals. It is at Lucas Oil Raceway so it is a home track for the Lucas Oil family. We definitely want to win this one. There are point implications going into the Countdown and there is also that $100,000 that Traxxas is putting up. This is the No. 1 on the list of races you want to win, and me as a rookie, I’d love to win."
Al-Anabi Racing director of racing operations Brandon Bernstein got behind the wheel of Khalid alBalooshi’s dragster and posted the quickest performance of the day, a 3.801 second run at 299.26 mph. Billy Torrence was third overall with a 3.811 at 323.04 in his Capco Contractors machine, while Leah Pritchett posted her best effort of the test, a 3.858 at 310.63 in her Gumout/Dote Racing dragster.
Wednesday leader Matt Hagan continued to pace the Funny Car pack as he powered his Mopar Dodge Charger to run of 4.038 seconds at 316.75 mph. Tommy Johnson Jr. sped to the second-best time with a 4.042 at 317.19 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge and Jack Beckman was third in his Valvoline Dodge with a 4.164 at 264.96.
Below is a listing of each Top Fuel and Funny Car competitor’s best performance from Thursday’s testing:
1. Brandon Bernstein (in Khalid alBalooshi's car) 3.801, 299.26
2. Tony Schumacher – 3.810, 323.81
3. Billy Torrence – 3.811, 323.04
4. Richie Crampton – 3.814, 322.73
5. Shawn Langdon – 3.838, 313.07
6. Leah Pritchett – 3.858, 310.63
7. Spencer Massey – 3.913, 259.56
1. Matt Hagan – 4.038, 316.75
2. Tommy Johnson Jr. – 4.042, 317.19
3. Jack Beckman – 4.164, 264.96
4. Courtney Force – 6.983, 84.44
Tickets for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or logging on to www.NHRATIX.com.