Old Guys Rule, As Monday’s US Nationals Final Rounds Produced Emotion

CLERMONT, Ind – In a day and age where racing is trending younger and younger, it was the veterans of the sport who shined on NHRA’s grandest stage. In the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s nothing to see a 20 some year old driver win. They have a lot of good young talent right now and using it to their marketing advantage.

In NASCAR, it’s more of the same. In NHRA though, while there’s some very good young drivers competing, the veterans had the last laugh on Monday afternoon.

55 year old Doug Kalitta had won 45 times in his career prior to this weekend – but none of those 45 have come in Indy. In the final pass of the day for the pro class, Kalitta topped 61 year old Billy Torrence for his first Big Go win. Kalitta, was jacked. He becomes the 30th different Top Fuel winner in US Nationals history.

To race this long and to not have a win in Indy, it was something that Kalitta will always cherish. He went around and gave everyone in the press room a handshake thanking them for being here for his win.

Yes, the winner in Top Fuel in NHRA’s Daytona 500, or Indy 500 or Super Bowl, thanked us. No, thank you for the treat by letting us witness you run off four straight wins as the No. 8 seed to beat Torrence in a thrilling final round.

That guy he beat?

He’s 61.

Then there was 70 year old John Force. He hasn’t won here in 17 years. He said that he’s past the time to walk away. He should have done so a long time ago. He missed the boat. He doesn’t feel well each day. He grunt and groans when he has to get around each morning. He’s battling depression and can’t do anything about it because he cares so much about driving.

His family and his race car is what he lives for. He just doesn’t know how to walk away from the sport that he feels like he owes so much to. He just wants two more things before he can even contemplate leaving – a championship and a Big Go.

Step 1 accomplished.

Force, beat 54 year old Jack Beckman in the final round en route to his 151st career win and his fifth at Lucas Oil Raceway. But, it was that gap of 17 years that made him so emotional. It was that he wanted his family to see him happy again and nothing cures that depression like a celebration with his family in victory lane.

Think that’s enough? What about Jerry Savoie? He turned 60 earlier this year. He too knows that his time in this sport is nearing an end. Like Force, he has too much off track that he’d rather steer his attention to.

But, the farmer is still here despite not wanting to be. See, Savoie is missing a tooth and he didn’t want to be seen without it. But, following a recent loss, the White Alligator Racing driver ate some pizza to calm down. Unfortunately, that decision made things worse.

Savoie, lost a tooth. He had to have surgery as a result. He didn’t want to come to face the fans and media without his front tooth. But, here he is in victory lane celebrating his first win of the season and second in Indy.

“I’m a coon ass hillbilly,” Savoie said.

Finally, young whippersnapper Alex Laughlin, a whole 30 years old, beat his 35 year old teammate Erica Enders in a thrilling Pro Stock final round. For Laughlin, it was his first win of the season and first in the Big Go.

Laughlin, rode one of those mobile bikes from downtown Indy to the Brownsburg area race track on Friday. He misjudged the distance it would be with that thing. But he was committed and took over 2 hours to make it here.

Glad he did.

He now has three career wins with this one being the top moment of his career.

30, 55, 60 and 70.

Those are the ages of the winners on Monday. They’ll refile for AARP on Tuesday.

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