2016 US Nationals winners circle NHRA


Top Fuel’s Tony Schumacher sprinted to victory on Labor Day at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

Matt Hagan in Funny Car, Chris McGaha in Pro Stock, and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle, were also winners in their respective categories at the final regular season race of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Schumacher claimed his 82nd career win when he powered his U.S. Army dragster to a 3.806-second pass at 317.64 miles per hour to beat Steve Torrence’s 3.803 at 325.06 during the final round on Monday. The winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA Top Fuel history also became the winningest driver in Lucas Oil Raceway history by tallying his 10th career victory at the hallowed track. Schumacher outran Tripp Tatum, reigning world champ Antron Brown, and Sonoma winner J.R. Todd in the earlier rounds before facing Torrence.

“I didn’t see [Torrence] for one second but I heard him,” Schumacher said. “It was a great final round, live on FOX and I had my chance to win my 10th at Indy. The fans got a close race. It’s been such a great career and it’s been so much fun. I’ve had great teams, one after another, and it’s a blessing to be a part of this and have a chance. I love my job and I love drag racing cars.”

Schumacher, who also won the Top Fuel portion of the lucrative NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout this weekend, will enter the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship six-race playoff as the #4 seed.

Torrence, competing in his sixth final round of the season, beat Bruce Litton, Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta in the earlier rounds. He is a three-time runner-up at Indianapolis and has two wins so far this season, which came in Pomona and Englishtown. Torrence enters the Countdown as the third seed.

Leah Pritchett clinched the 10th and final spot in the Countdown to the Championship after Terry McMillen redlighted in the first round. Pritchett, who also lost in the first round, had a one-point lead over McMillen entering eliminations.

In Funny Car, Hagan pushed his Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to a 3.964 at 327.43 to beat reigning world champion Del Worsham’s 3.958 at 324.20 in his Toyota Camry. It was Hagan’s 21st career win and first at the U.S. Nationals. The two-time world champ has three wins this season and enters the playoffs as the #3 seed. Hagan sprinted past John Bojec, Robert Hight, and Tommy Johnson Jr., en route to making his fifth final round appearance of the season.

“It’s incredible,” Hagan said. “This is something for the last nine years that I’ve been driving for Don Schumacher Racing we have been trying to accomplish and it’s not an easy task. I have the parts and pieces and people around me, especially (crew chief) Dickie Venables. I’m just proud to be a part of it. The fans got what they paid for today. I’m tickled to death to be up here right now. This is something that I’ve wanted to check off for a long time.”

Worsham, who won four of the six Countdown races last year en route to his first Funny Car world championship, beat Alexis DeJoria, Dave Richards and points leader Ron Capps in earlier rounds. Worsham has one win this season and enters the Countdown in the #2 slot.

DeJoria clinched the final Funny Car spot when Chad Head lost to Capps in the second round.

In Pro Stock, McGaha tallied his first win in 2016 by racing his Chevy Camaro to a 6.688 at 207.15 past Allen Johnson’s 6.715 at 207.09 in his Dodge Dart. McGaha, the runner-up at Phoenix earlier this year, now has four career wins. This was his first final round appearance at Indianapolis. The Texan will enter the Countdown as the No. 7 seed. He outlasted Matt Hartford, Curt Steinbach and two-time 2016 runner-up Vincent Nobile en route to the final round.

“We got to keep doing what we were doing today,” said McGaha about his chances of winning the championship. “If we keep doing what we were doing today, we’ll definitely have a shot. I botched a lot of runs along the way. We shouldn’t even be in seventh. Between tire shaking and making bad calls and flat getting our butt kicked, we should be a lot higher. It’s not impossible at this point. Just got to keep winning.”

Johnson, making his third final round appearance of the season, raced past Brainerd winner Drew Skillman, Greg Anderson who won seven races this year, and Shane Gray, in the earlier rounds.

Gray, McGaha, back-to-back world champ Erica Enders, and five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin penciled their names into the final four Countdown to the Championship spots in Pro Stock.

Hines took over the Pro Stock Motorcycle points lead by riding his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a 6.682 at 194.63 in the final round to beat Hector Arana Jr., who redlighted on his Lucas Oil Buell. He earned his 47th career win, fifth of the 2016 season and second at Lucas Oil Raceway with the effort. The winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle racer in NHRA history beat rookie Melissa Surber, alligator farmer Jerry Savoie and Sonoma winner LE Tonglet in the earlier rounds.

“I’ve had a good motorcycle as of late, but it hasn’t been qualifying well,” said Hines, a five-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. “I knew the potential of my Harley. I knew I had a bike that could go rounds and we just had to pick on it here and there. We’re getting closer to something that will work for us in the heat. We got to the final round and figured out the tune-up that needed to be in there. I’m happy I made my best run of the weekend in the final round.”

Arana Jr. made his first final round appearance of the season by riding past Michael Ray, Chip Ellis and rookie Cory Reed in the first three rounds. The 2011 Indy winner will head into the playoffs as the #7 seed.

LE Tonglet, Chip Ellis, Hector Arana Sr., Matt Smith and Reed all clinched spots into the Countdown to the Championship.

The 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will continue with the NHRA Carolina Nationals, Sept. 16-18, at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C. It will be the first race of the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

NHRA Pro Stock Point Standings

1. Jason Line           1,843
2. Greg Anderson        1,772
3. Bo Butner            1,269
4. Allen Johnson        1,192
5. Vincent Nobile       1,121

NHRA Funny Car Point Standings

1. Ron Capps            1,532
2. Del Worsham          1,330
3. Matt Hagan           1,295
4. Courtney Force       1,282
5. Jack Beckman         1,200

NHRA Top Fuel Point Standings

1. Antron Brown         1,504
2. Doug Kalitta         1,370
3. Steve Torrence       1,367
4. Tony Schumacher      1,290
5. Brittany Force       1,247

NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Point Standings

1. Andrew Hines         1,026
2. Eddie Krawiec          985
3. Angelle Sampey         752
4. Jerry Savoie           743
5. LE Tonglet             631

The NHRA and Drag Race Central contributed to this report.