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NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship Field Set After U.S. Nationals

Pro Stock driver Jason Line enters the NHRA Countdown to the Championship on a dominate late-season run. Image courtesy of USA Today/Gannett

Pro Stock driver Jason Line enters the NHRA Countdown to the Championship on a dominate late-season run. Image courtesy of USA Today/Gannett

NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff field is all set after the U.S. Nationals wrapped up yesterday in Indianapolis.

Alexis DeJoria defeated John Force in the Funny Car finals, making her—and the event’s other three victors—all first-time winners of the tradition-rich Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Richie Crampton in Top Fuel, Shane Gray in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle also won Sunday.

DeJoria is the first female driver to win three Funny Car races in a single season.

She crossed the finish line in 4.038 seconds at 310.34 miles per hour in her Toyota Camry to defeat Force—the current Funny Car points leader.

DeJoria, who also outran Cruz Pedregon, Blake Alexander and Courtney Force en route to the victory, earned a record 10th season victory for female racers in the NHRA Mello Yello Series.

“It’s huge [to win the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals],” said DeJoria, wife of noted TV personality Jesse James and daughter of famed entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria. “I was just happy to make it to another semifinal; that was four in a row. To make it past the semifinals, that was huge, but to win this race just builds our confidence even more and in me especially.”

DeJoria will be the fourth seed in Funny Car when the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs begins at the NHRA Carolina Nationals in two weeks.

Force was appearing in his sixth consecutive final and ran a 4.039 at 319.67 in his Ford Mustang. Following his Traxxas Nitro Shootout victory on Sunday, Force was strong Monday, defeating Robert Hight, Matt Hagan and Ron Capps in the first three rounds. Force was appearing in his eighth U.S. Nationals final and was seeking his fifth victory. He finished the regular season as the points leader and will open the Countdown playoffs with a 30-point advantage over teammate Hight.

Rookie Top Fuel driver Crampton, appearing in his first U.S. Nationals, powered past Steve Torrence with a 3.766 at 327.98 in his dragster to claim his second Wally trophy of the season. He was close to sweeping the weekend, as he posted a runner-up finish in the $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout bonus event on Saturday.

“Steve-O (Torrence) is one of my great friends out here and he beat me at the Brainerd race,” said Crampton, who will be seeded eighth in the Countdown. “We said to each other before the run that we were going to go out there and have some fun. It’s pretty awesome that he and I got to share a final round here at the 60th Indy. If I would have been runner-up, I probably would have been almost as happy, because it’s been a fantastic weekend for our team.”

Torrence was appearing in his second consecutive Indianapolis final in his dragster, posting a 3.799 at 327.82 during the final. The result broke a one-year drought from final round appearances for him. Torrence will be seeded fifth in the Countdown.

Doug Kalitta claimed the Top Fuel Countdown #1 seed and will open the playoffs with a 30-point advantage over Antron Brown.

In Pro Stock, Gray drove his Chevy Camaro to his first U.S. Nationals victory, defeating teammate Dave Connolly in the final with a 6.641 at 208.42. It was the fourth career victory for Gray, who finished the regular season sixth in points, and his first win since the Las Vegas race last October.

“I really can’t describe this in words,” said Gray, who beat Shane Tucker, Allen Johnson and brother Jonathan Gray before the final. “If I’ve learned anything this year, I’ve learned that it’s a lot different to go out and qualify [well] than it is to race on Sunday.”

Connolly was appearing in his fifth final round at the Big Go, having collected three wins. He was also runner-up at the event in 2006. Connolly defeated V Gaines, Erica Enders-Stevens and ended Jason Line’s three-race winning streak on his way to the final round matchup with his Gray Motorsports teammate.

Line’s late season performance, including a victory in the Brainerd race which was delayed and finished at Indy, earned him the top seed for the Pro Stock Countdown playoffs.

Krawiec took home his first Indy win and third victory of the season with a 6.941 at 192.63 on his Harley-Davidson, beating Jerry Savoie. The win was the 25th career victory for Krawiec, a three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ.

“I’ve been fortunate to win three championships and 25 races now and I’ve finally got an Indy win,” said Krawiec, who finished second in regular season points behind teammate Andrew Hines. “I was joking that I could just step off the bike now, announce my retirement, and not run the Countdown [to the Championship]. I think I’ll stick around, though.”

Savoie was appearing in his second consecutive final on his Savoie’s Suzuki. He beat Chaz Kennedy, John Hall and reigning world champ Matt Smith before posting a 6.987 at 192.58 in the final.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will head to North Carolina for the seventh annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, Sept. 12- 14, at zMAX Dragway.

 

Pro Stock Championship Point Standings

1. Jason Line           1,408
2. Erica Enders-Stevens 1,324
3. Allen Johnson        1,318
4. Jeg Coughlin         1,254
5. Dave Connolly        1,231
6. Shane Gray           1,188
7. Vincent Nobile       1,093
8. V. Gaines              805
9. Chris McGaha           782
10. Jonathan Gray         725

Funny Car Championship Point Standings

1. John Force           1,420
2. Robert Hight         1,340
3. Ron Capps            1,188
4. Alexis DeJoria       1,148
5. Tommy Johnson Jr.    1,107
6. Courtney Force       1,093
7. Matt Hagan           1,074
8. Cruz Pedregon          963
9. Del Worsham            961
10. Tim Wilkerson         883

Top Fuel Championship Point Standings

1. Doug Kalitta         1,479
2. Antron Brown         1,385
3. Shawn Langdon        1,261
4. Tony Schumacher      1,160
5. Steve Torrence       1,075
6. Spencer Massey         985
7. Khalid alBalooshi      959
8. Richie Crampton        958
9. Brittany Force         921
10. J.R. Todd             836

Pro Stock Motorcycle Championship Point Standings

1. Andrew Hines           906
2. Eddie Krawiec          889
3. Hector Arana, Jr.      692
4. Hector Arana           574
5. John Hall              569
6. Matt Smith             563
7. Michael Ray            501
8. Scotty Pollacheck      493
9. Angie Smith            490
10. Steve Johnson         462

The NHRA and Drag Race Central contributed to this report.

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