Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Coming off the latest landmark victory in his legendary NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series career, John Force has a chance for another noteworthy achievement on drag racing’s grandest stage.
The 16-time Funny Car world champ recently picked up his 150th career victory, putting him in prime shape to compete for a win at the 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, which takes place Aug. 28-Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
While the sport’s most prestigious event turns 65 this year, Force will try to earn his fifth career win at the Big Go, entering the final regular season race on a strong note in his 11,000-horsepower PEAK/Chevrolet Performance Chevrolet Camaro SS. The 150-time event winner is currently third in points, putting Force on a good path approaching Indy and the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, where he will try to win his unprecedented 17th title. For now, though, Force’s immediate focus is doing well on drag racing’s biggest race.
“That’s the granddaddy,” Force said. “That’s where everybody wants to go. Everybody wants to win. I’ve won it a few times, and my daughter, Ashley, won it twice in her Funny Car. We’ll see if we can do it again with the Chevrolet Performance car. Indy is always exciting, extra qualifying run, extra day to be in my Chevy Camaro hot rod. No complaints about that. It’s always a good show. It’s the Big Go, the world’s biggest drag race, and everyone wants to win it. It’s intense all the way to the end.”
Terry McMillen (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of a race that will be shown on the FOX national broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including a live broadcast of eliminations on both FOX and FS1 on Monday, Sept. 2. It is the 18th of 24 races in 2019 and the prestigious event includes an increased amount of points via the points-and-a-half system to close the regular season.
The legacy-defining event kicks off with the popular Friday Prime Time show, and Force will really try to shine when eliminations come on Labor Day Monday. He’s been consistent all year, advancing to two final rounds and eight semifinals, but Force hopes to dial it up even more in Indy. That means debuting a special car for the race and prepping the entire John Force Racing organization to be at their best at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
“Indy is special to me because we do a specialty car with Chevrolet Performance,” Force said. “It’s become a bit of a tradition. It would be exciting to win, get their specialty scheme in the winners circle, but I’d love to win it with any of my teams, Robert Hight with Auto Club, Brittany with Advance (Auto Parts) and Austin Prock with Montana Brand. We’re all Chevy so no matter who wins, it’s a win for Chevy at the biggest race of the season, their race.”
Hight currently leads the Funny Car class, as he picked up his 50th career win last month. But Force also has to contend with a number of stalwarts in the loaded Funny Car class, including defending world champ J.R. Todd, Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman, Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, Bob Tasca III, Shawn Langdon and Tim Wilkerson. Everyone will be at their best on the big stage, but that’s also why Force loves the event and he hopes to put on a memorable performance.
“Indy is also where our racing headquarters is and our employees can come to the race and see what they create, get to take some real pride in everything they do for us,” Force said. “Our crew guys, they’re working hard but there’s a whole other side in Indy, where we have guys working just as hard making sure we have everything we need on the road to get us down that track quick, safe and looking good. The U.S. Nationals is a chance for us to put on a show for those employees.”
In Top Fuel, Terry McMillen claimed the biggest victory in his career a year ago, and he’ll try to do it again against the likes of points leader and defending champ Steve Torrence, three-time world champ Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta, Brittany Force, Leah Pritchett and Clay Millican.
Greg Anderson has the most wins of any active NHRA driver at Indy, as the four-time Pro Stock world champ has six Indy wins. Trying to prevent a seventh will be points leader Bo Butner, Alex Laughlin, five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Deric Kramer, Jason Line and Erica Enders.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, points leader Andrew Hines has two Indy wins and is in the midst of a dominating year with seven wins in nine races. He will look to enter the playoffs on a strong note against Eddie Krawiec, defending world champ Matt Smith, Hector Arana Jr. and Karen Stoffer.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Series presented by J&A Service will also look to become winners of the prestigious event. It is the ninth of 12 events during the 2019 Pro Mod season, and points leader Stevie “Fast” Jackson is the defending event winner. The fastest Super Stock cars will challenge for ultimate bragging rights and bonus purse during the popular Dodge HEMI Challenge as well. Fans can check out special pit areas for Copo Camaros and the HEMI Shootout.
Racing in the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series will also take place in Indy, as well as the popular SAMTech.edu NHRA Factory Stock Showdown category, which will include a special 32-car field at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend a number of different NHRA schools throughout the weekend, including Nitro School, to learn how the cars and motorcycles operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Factory Stock School will take place on Friday, while Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle Schools follow on Saturday. Pro Mod School and Nitro School will both take place on Sunday, giving fans an incredible behind-the-scenes learning experience throughout the weekend.
Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis will also host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers. Another can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Monday after racing concludes. NHRA fans can congratulate the winners as they celebrate their Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victories.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers. Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30. Two more sessions will take to the track on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 1:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 1 at 1:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 2.
FOX national broadcast and FS1 will televise coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, starting with qualifying on Sunday, Sept. 1 on FS1 at 2 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. EST. The broadcasts continue on FS1 with two hours of live coverage of eliminations on Monday, Sept. 2 starting at 11 a.m. EST, continuing live on FOX at 1 p.m. EST.