Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – INDIANAPOLIS, IN – A victory at the 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals is one that drivers covet the most, and all the stars in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will get their chance to perform on drag racing’s grandest stage during the marquee event, Aug. 28-Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis as they face their last chance to snag a spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
The sport’s most prestigious event celebrates its 65th anniversary in 2019 and is the 18th of 24 races, also culminating the end of the NHRA regular season. As fans witness the incredible 11,000-horsepower action at the race known as the Big Go, drivers and teams are willing to do whatever it takes to hold the Wally trophy on Labor Day Monday. With drivers competing for a spot in the top 10, the legacy-defining event also includes an increased amount of points via the points-and-a-half system for the race (150 points to the winner), adding even more prestige to the event. With action across several thrilling categories, behind-the-scenes NHRA schools and more, the 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals promises to be an event for the ages. The popular Friday Prime Time show will kick off pro qualifying with a trackside D.J. and special pyrotechnics.
The top drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will compete for their place in Indy history in 2019. 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.
In Top Fuel, Terry McMillen claimed the biggest victory in his career by knocking off Doug Kalitta in the final round at Indy. It provided one of the race’s most memorable moments, and McMillen will look to add another in 2019. No active Top Fuel driver has more than one victory at the race, but points leader and defending world champ Steve Torrence will look to add a second to follow his 2017 triumph. Torrence has been red-hot in 2019 with eight wins, but a number of drivers will be looking for their Indy moment, including talents like Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, Richie Crampton and Scott Palmer.
It’s been a special time at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for J.R. Todd, who has won the race in back-to-back years. Todd rode the momentum of last year’s win to his first Funny Car world title, and he’ll look to become the first driver in class history to win the prestigious event three straight years. But it won’t be easy in the star-studded field, as Todd will have to contend with the likes of points leader Robert Hight, who has three Indy wins, four-time race winner John Force (who is aiming to claim his 150th career win), Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan, who each have one win at the race, Tim Wilkerson, Bob Tasca III, Shawn Langdon and veteran Ron Capps, who is after his first Indy win.
Greg Anderson has the most wins of any active NHRA driver at Indy, as the four-time Pro Stock world champ has gone to the winner’s circle six times at the World’s Biggest Drag Race™. The last came in 2011, meaning Anderson, who recently won back-to-back events in Denver and Sonoma, is anxious to return. Trying to stop him are a number of standout drivers, including three-time race winner Jeg Coughlin Jr., KB Racing teammates Bo Butner, the current points leader, Jason Line and Deric Kramer, as well as the likes of two-time world champ Erica Enders, Alex Laughlin, Chris McGaha and Matt Hartford.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, points leader Andrew Hines has two Indy wins, and he’s in the midst of a dominating year with six wins in eight races. His last Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory came in 2016, while teammate Eddie Krawiec also has two wins at the race, most recently in 2017. Looking to stop the Harley-Davidson teammates are a host of talented riders, including defending world champ Matt Smith, who has an Indy victory in 2006, Hector Arana Jr., an Indy winner in 2011, two-time race winner Angelle Sampey, Karen Stoffer, Angie Smith and Ryan Oehler.
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 Mopar 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 11:30 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.