By Lee Elder
CLERMONT, Ind. (Sept. 1, 2018) – NHRA Funny Car driver JR Todd was surprised when he finished Saturday’s qualifying sessions with the best pass in the category.
He’ll take it, you understand. He just didn’t expect it.
Todd and the other NHRA competitors are scratching and clawing their way through the stress-filled Chevrolet Performance US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. It is the biggest race of the season and final race before the NHRA’s Countdown playoff system starts for the professional teams in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Todd’s 3.910-second and 325.45 mph pass from Friday was not surpassed during Saturday’s qualifying sessions, despite a change in conditions that made Q3 inviting for teams looking to improve their performance.
“I thought we could go to work on our race day set up,” Todd said. “The conditions in Q3 got real good. … We just weren’t tuned up for the conditions.”
Still, his time from Friday remained the best in the category. The morning and early afternoon hours were spent with low and heavy clouds leaving shadows on the track. The skies cleared, warming the track, but the wind shifted too and gave the cars a push down the famed racing surface.
Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the other top qualifiers in the pro classes.
Gray’s 6.603-second, 208.68 mph run from Friday remained atop the Pro Stock ladder after Saturday’s rounds and he felt comfortable that his team would start eliminations on the top step Monday.
“We’re going to come out of here with the number one qualifier,” Gray said. “I’m a little scared, I don’t know how many number ones have won this year.”
Deric Kramer is the only Pro Stock driver to have been both the top qualifier and race winner for the same event this season.
Krawiec said his 6.825-second, 197.02 mph run might not be the category leader by the end of the final session Sunday. He made the run Friday.
Krawiec said, “Tomorrow morning’s runs could be pretty good. You saw what happened here today. Everybody stepped up in the second session. It wasn’t just because the air got better. It didn’t.”
The Pro Stock Motorcycle riders not in the field for the US Nationals include two-time winner Angelle Sampey, Kelly Clontz, Ron Tornow, Odolph Daniels, Andie Rawlings and Wendell Daniels. In Pro Stock, the drivers not qualified include: Alan Prusiensky, Val Smeland, Shane Tucker and Charlie Westcott. In Funny Car, the non-qualified drivers included: Terry Haddock and Justin Schriefer. The Top Fuel drivers not qualified included: Kebin Kinsley and Chris Karamesines.
The Pro Stock Countdown field is set. Bo Butner clinched the final berth in the 10-driver field. The field will include Greg Anderson, Tanner Gray, Erica Enders, Vincent Nobile, Jeg Coughlin, Derick Kramer, Jason Line, Chris McGaha, Drew Skillman and Bo Butner. The order could still change slightly, but the 10 competitors are set.
Tim Wilkerson started the weekend with a 24-point lead for the final position in the Funny Car Countdown. Bob Tasca III grabbed four points Friday to narrow the lead but Wilkerson got the four points back by posting the best time in Q3. This one could go down to Monday’s eliminations before it is decided.
Qualifying continues Sunday and eliminations are scheduled for Monday.
NOTES: The track temperatures ranged from about 113 degrees to about 120 during the Mello Yello professional sessions. … The drivers entered in Pro Stock represented 11 states, two continents and three nations, Pro Stock drivers represented 13 states, Funny Car represented six states, Top Fuel had nine states and two nations. … Chris Karamesines made a brief Top Fuel burnout and then shut the engine off, aborting the run.