CLERMONT, Ind – For the 65th time, the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series is back for the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals. The most prestigious race of the season once again packs more pressure due to being the final race before the countdown starts in two weeks.
Also, want more pressure? Friday night’s opening round of qualifying will be the best shot to make a top run. See, the passes were run under the bright lights of Lucas Oil Raceway as a cool light show went down the drag strip as each nitro car made their respectively burnout. The other qualifying sessions will be run in the heat of the day where the track isn’t in as good as a condition as it is under the night time sky. The best shot to get it right was – now.
Speaking of which, what an experience this is. The place was packed full of energetic racing fans ready to see cars turning speeds in excess of 300 mph. It’s literally a sensory overload. You can not only see the cars – but also feel them through every square inch of your body as well. The shot of adrenaline when each driver mashes the gas pedal of these beasts ricochets from your ears through your chest and exits through the vibration of the ground that your very feet stand on.
Forget your smell. The aroma of nitro is an experience you just can’t get over. You can feel, hear, smell and heck even touch the cars too. The access for race fans is incredible – as good as any motorsport series in the world.
In terms of on track action, the Pro Stocks guys and gals got the nitro sessions started with Andrew Hines turning in the best time of 6.864 ET (194.63 mph) on the bikes. The local hero narrowly topped Matt Smith who turned in a pass of 6.874 (197.02 mph).
Jerry Savoie (6.898), Ryan Dehler (6.901) and Karen Stoffer (6.904) rounded out the top five in their first round.
In the Pro Stock cars, Jason Line was P1 at the end of the night in turning an ET of 6.570 (209.62 mph). Line, won the last race of the season in Brainerd and is looking for a second straight win and head into the playoffs with the most momentum one could have.
Two-time champion Erica Enders wound up P2 with a time of 6.590 (207.24 mph). Coincidentally enough, Enders lost to Line in Brainerd as they went 1-2 in the final session of the last race and 1-2 in the first session in Indy.
Current points leader Bo Butner was third (6.592) while Alex Laughlin (6.593) and Matt Hartford (6.602) rounded out the top five.
We have 21 cars going for 16 spots into the Big Go for Monday, so Christian Cuadra, Alan Prusiensky, Robert River, Richard Freeman and Jeremy Martorella have some work to do. They have to beat 6.694 set by Wally Stroupe.
Next up was the Funny Car’s. Jack Beckman was the lead man as the California native went 3.875 (328.46 mph). The 2015 US Nationals winner edged out his teammate Ron Capps (3.882) on Friday night.
Defending series champion JR Todd (3.883) was P3 after his first pass while Shawn Langdon (3.887) and Robert Hight (3.896) rounded out the top five.
There are 19 funny car’s going for 16 spots so Terry Haddock, Bob Tasca III and Ray Martin are on the outside looking in. Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.368) currently holds the bubble position.
Finally, it was the Top Fuel drivers shot to close out the night. The final group saw the top ET with Brittany Force going P1 with an ET of 3.670. Steve Torrence ended up P2 (3.688) as the top two drivers in the points are currently 1-2 after night 1.
Billy Torrence was third while Leah Pritchett and Antron Brown rounded out the top five.