By Lee Elder
CLERMONT, Ind. (Aug. 31, 2018) – Mike Salinas came to the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in a precarious position. He sat tenth in the NHRA’s Top Fuel standings, the last berth available in the Countdown to the Championship playoff bracket.
Richie Crampton was two points back and seemingly ready to challenge Salinas for the playoff berth. But Salinas posted the fastest time of Friday’s qualifying session, grabbing four points in the process and extending his lead slightly.
“We’re a little anxious to get a good start,” Salinas said before meeting with the media Friday. “At testing we did pretty well.”
J.R. Todd bested the Funny Car field, Eddie Krawiec was tops in Pro Stock Motorcycle and Tanner Gray paced Pro Stock.
Salinas was clocked at 3.756 seconds and 321.04 mph and he was disappointed.
“We thought it would run faster,” Salinas said. “We broke a blower belt at about 800 feet. It (the run) would have been faster.”
Richie Crampton, one spot out of the Countdown field as the weekend began, was 12th after Friday’s round of qualifying. There were 18 Top Fuel cars that made qualifying runs Friday.
Todd said his Funny Car-leading pass at 3.910 seconds and 325.45 mph surprised his team. “I’m guessing maybe the air got better as the night went on,” Todd said. “That can tune the car for you.”
Gray had the quickest pass in Pro Stock at 6.603 seconds and 208.68 mph. Friday night’s conditions were the best the teams are likely to see the rest of the weekend, so even if he is knocked off the pole Saturday or Sunday, he is nearly certain to be in the field based upon Friday’s result. He said his team would put positioning in the Countdown over testing track conditions over the final four qualifying sessions.
“We’re just going to go up there and try to lay down the fastest run we can each and every time just because we’re trying to gain points,” Gray said. “We’re trying to go into the Countdown number one and Greg (Anderson) has got us by a round, I think, or a round and a half. Points are really big here.”
Eddie Krawiec posted the top pass among Pro Stock Motorcycle competitors, 6.825 seconds and 197.02 mph. He said, “It doesn’t hurt that our shop is about a mile away from here and we run the dyno in all this weather. A lot of our data is acquired right here. It gives us an edge … coming here.”
Jimmy Daniels repeated his 2017 victory in the Dodge Hemi Challenge, a special race within the race. Daniels won with a pass of 8.662 seconds and 156.15 mph.
The US Nationals is the final chance for teams in the professional classes in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series to qualify for the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship. The Countdown qualifiers must finish 10th or better in the standings at the end of this weekend.
Of the Pro Stock Motorcycle racers outside the top 10 but still within reach of a Countdown spot, Steve Johnson qualified best on Friday, eight.
In Pro Stock, Bo Butner started the weekend in 10th place with a 189-point lead over Alex Laughlin. Laughlin was fifth after Q1, Butner was seventh.
A minor, misty rain dotted windshields during the Pro Mod Q1. It was enough to stop the cars from running down the track but did not get the track wet enough to require re-preparation before racing resumed.
NOTES: Courtney Force locked herself into the top spot for the Countdown in Funny Car with her qualifying effort Friday. … Bob Bode made a career-best 3.981-second run in Friday’s Q1 but his car brushed one of the timing reflectors at the end of the racing surface and his pass was disallowed. … The NHRA announced the 2019 Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series schedule for 2019. The Series has 10 events planned. There were 22 Pro Stock Motorcycles entered here, 20 Pro Stock cars, 18 Funny Cars and 19 Top Fuel cars. …Funny Car veteran Bob Tasca III announced his car’s paint scheme will be in tribute to Bob Glidden. … Tony Schumacher leads active Top Fuel racers with 10 wins at Indy, John Force leads active Funny Car drivers with four wins here, Greg Anderson is the leading active Pro Stock winner at the US Nationals with six wins and Andrew Hinds, LE Tonglet, Steve Johnson and Angelle Sampey lead all active Pro Stock Motorcycle riders with two wins each at the US Nationals. Top Fuel racer Antron Brown also has two US Nationals wins in PSM but Brown is no longer active in Pro Stock Motorcycle competition. … Eddie Krawiec, the defending Pro Stock Motorcycle champion, unveiled a new design for the motorcycle Krawiec will ride this weekend. The motorcycle bears the colors of Mello Yello, yellow and black. … Charlie Westcott, the multiple champion in the Dodge Hemi Challenge Series at Indy, tried his hand at Pro Stock racing. He stood 18th on the qualifying list after one round. … Two-time Pro Stock champ Erica Enders is also racing in Pro Mod this weekend.