BROWNSBURG, Ind. -- Nationals
NHRA teams utilized the first day of the two-day open test to prepare for the world's most prestigious drag race, which will be held Aug. 28-Sept. 2 at the famed NHRA-owned multi-purpose motorsports facility that sits just west of downtown Indianapolis. The event, which will also feature the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootouts, is the final race in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season and will be televised by ESPN2HD with more than 10 hours of coverage on Labor Day weekend.
Driving Brandon Bernstein's Protect The Harvest/MAV TV dragster, Todd powered the 8,000-horsepower hot rod to an impressive run of 3.786 seconds at 317.57 mph. Bernstein will be back behind the wheel for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals next weekend, but Todd was able to make valuable passes in the dragster during Wednesday's test session and was the only driver to dip into the 3.70s. Todd, who will be driving a third Top Fuel entry for Bob Vandergriff Racing next week, also went as quick as 3.880 at 261.98 in that dragster on Wednesday.
"That was way cool and my career best," Todd said of the 3.786 pass. "It kind of hurt itself down track, but it was running really strong early on and could have been better than the .78. We are running our car with Bob Vandergriff, and our numbers were similar to what Brandon's numbers were and what it ran today.
"I'm really happy with my team as well and what (crew chief) Mike Guger is doing. With not running all year I still think we can come out and contend with these guys. But that was a heck of a run for Brandon's crew that is for sure."
The pair of Al-Anabi Racing standouts followed Todd, as Khalid alBalooshi, who clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship last weekend in Brainerd, went 3.801 at 321.27. Points leader Shawn Langdon, who has won four times in 2013 and will be seeking his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victory, went 3.802 at 321.96, putting the Al-Anabi team in a good spot heading into the biggest drag race of the year.
"We're just doing a little bit of fine-tuning right now," said Langdon, who broke the track record at last year's event with a 3.740. "We feel confident with the way the car has been performing. It's been running very well and we're happy with the results, but there are just a couple little things we're trying to fix. Overall the car has been strong lately and we're just making a couple of tweaks to get ready for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, as well as the Countdown."
Nine-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner Tony Schumacher was fourth after one day with a run of 3.815 at 294.75 in his U.S. Army Dragster. Schumacher, who was the 2012 winner in Top Fuel, can become the all-time wins leader at the event with a victory this year.
In Funny Car, Johnny Gray continued to stay in championship form as the four-time event winner in 2013 powered his 8,000-horsepower Pitch Energy Dodge Charger to a strong run of 4.063 at 308.35. Gray has never won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, finishing as the runner-up in 2003.
Four-time Indy winner John Force posted the second-best time of Wednesday, making a pass of 4.091 at 311.94 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. A fifth win at the event would tie Force with Ed McCulloch for the most in Funny Car history.
Seeking his first win of 2013 is defending world champion Jack Beckman, who was third in testing with a 4.110 at 258.57 in his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger. Beckman is also after his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals win.
"Everything's just a little bit bigger here at Indy," Beckman said. "We're trying to get our power level up. We feel like that's something that has hurt our consistency a little bit. I think we're taking small steps in the right direction.
"It's been tough for this team this year. We're 17 races in and we haven't won a trophy yet. We know we're better than that."
Rounding out the top five was Bob Tasca III, who drove his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Ford Mustang to a 4.116 at 277.15, and Robert Hight, who went 4.164 at 295.14 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Both are fighting to stay in the top 10 for the Countdown, adding even more emphasis to this week's testing session at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
"We put a lot of emphasis on this race," said Hight, who is currently 10th in points and four behind Tasca. "It's the biggest race of the year for us. There's more at stake for us. Not only are we testing to try to win the (Chevrolet Performance) U.S. Nationals, we're testing to make sure our car is set for the last seven races.
"I'm not comfortable. I wish we were up there two or three spots. This is a big one for us. Being in that top 10 is huge. Our guys know what's at stake and everybody is all in on this one."
Jerry Savoie had the quickest run in Pro Stock Motorcycle, riding his White Alligator Racing Suzuki to a 6.971 at 191.70. Former NHRA Pro Mod Racing Series world champion Von Smith led Pro Mod drivers with a pass of 5.985 at 236.59.
Tickets for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or logging on to www.NHRAtix.com.
Below is a listing of each Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Mod competitor's best performance from Wednesday's testing:
Top Fuel 1. J.R. Todd 3.786, 317.57 (driving Brandon Bernstein's dragster) 2. Khalid alBalooshi 3.801, 321.27 3. Shawn Langdon 3.802, 321.96 4. Tony Schumacher 3.815, 294.75 5. Morgan Lucas 3.835, 298.73 6. Antron Brown 3.865, 304.05 7. Steve Torrence 3.867, 290.69 8. Billy Torrence 3.879, 298.73 9. JR Todd 3.880, 261.98 (driving dragster owned by Bob Vandergriff) 10. Spencer Massey 3.884, 315.64 11. Sidnei Frigo 3.986, 299.13 12. Brittany Force 4.307, 189.82 13. Leah Pruett 4.465, 176.24 14. Cory McClenathan 4.627, 168.98 Funny Car 1. Johnny Gray 4.063, 308.35 2. John Force 4.091, 311.94 3. Jack Beckman 4.110, 258.57 4. Bob Tasca III 4.116, 277.15 5. Robert Hight 4.164, 295.14 6. Courtney Force 4.184, 295.14 7. Chad Head 4.759, 174.41 Pro Stock Motorcycle 1. Jerry Savoie 6.971, 191.70 2. Steve Johnson 6.981, 189.73 3. Craig Treble 7.112, 188.10 4. Jim Underdahl 7.140, 186.43 5. Joe DeSantis 7.149, 186.72 Pro Mod 1. Von Smith 5.985, 236.59 2. Danny Rowe 6.020, 241.67 3. Mike Knowles 6.279, 193.90 4. Mike Castellana 6.306, 165.25 5. Clint Satterfield 6.333, 192.85 6. Tim Tindle Jr. 6.396, 171.73