The intensity and excitement level for the 2013 Auto Club Road to the Future Award candidates will be raised to the highest point of the season over Labor Day weekend as they attempt to qualify for the world's most prestigious drag race, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. The tradition-rich event, which has the power to turn an ordinary NHRA racer into a legend of the sport with a single memorable performance, will be held at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Aug. 28-Sept. 2.
It is the 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for 2013 and the final of 18 regular season races. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) raced to victories at the iconic event in 2012. Once again, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be showcased nationwide on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD during more than 10 hours of coverage.
Rookies Brittany Force and Leah Pruett (Top Fuel), Chad Head (Funny Car) and Adam Arana (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will be battling to make their respective fields and join the elite category of racers who have competed at the 'Big Go'. Only five rookies have won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals: Gary Beck in Top Fuel in 1972, Bob Glidden in Pro Stock in 1973, Larry Dixon in Top Fuel in 1995, LE Tonglet in Pro Stock Motorcycle in 2010 and Hector Arana Jr. in Pro Stock Motorcycle in 2011.
Brittany will look to write a new chapter in the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals history books in her Castrol Edge Top Fuel dragster when she attempts to make the 16-car field.
"I am so excited to be competing in Indy this year in the pro ranks driving a Top Fuel dragster," Brittany Force said. "Indy is the biggest race on the NHRA circuit and is the hub of all motorsports. Every year the Indy Nationals is packed with diehard fans from all over, rooting on their favorite teams."
Head, driver of the Head Racing Toyota Camry, has an interesting perspective on the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals as this second-generation racer has seen the event from numerous perspectives. His father Jim is a two-time winner, taking titles in both Top Fuel (1997) and in Funny Car (1984). Chad has worked the event as a crew member, served as team manager for other teams, and also worked the event as an NHRA employee. This year he will experience the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in a new role, from the cockpit of his 8,000-horsepower Funny Car as a competitor.
Pruett grew up on the West Coast and followed the sport of NHRA and the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals as a child from her Redlands, Calif., home on television. Pruett has raced in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals twice in her career, but this will be her first start in the Dote Family Racing dragster at the event.
"When I would watch the U.S. Nationals from home it would be a huge deal, it would be bigger than the Super Bowl," Pruett said. "We would watch it, love it, and my mom would cook buffalo wings, all of our friends would come over. That was the race to watch. That one was mind blowing and now to be able to be racing at it, I still have to pinch myself."
"They don't want me to over-think it and be like, 'Oh, it's the U.S. Nationals, I've got to perform,'" Arana said. "I know it's important to do well, especially because we need to stay in the top 10. After that race, the top 10 are locked in for the Countdown, so my goal for the U.S. Nationals is to stay in the top 10, and that way I can compete for the championship. But I try not to stress myself out about future races."
Any competitor that wins the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will have earned one of the hardest fought victories in drag racing. When eliminations start on Monday morning, each racer dreams of winning the event and becoming a racing legend.
Force, Head and Arana have celebrated in winner's circle with their families and now will attempt to stand atop the stage with their own Wally trophies from the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
"I remember my dad competing every year in the [Bud] Shootout and how exciting it was celebrating as a little kid in the winner's circle," Force said. "There have been so many great memories in Indy and I only hope to make some more this year with my Castrol Edge team."
"It is a big race," Head added. "It is prestigious, obviously dad won it. It would be great to have that next to your name someday. It is a long grueling race. It is a tough one."
"I remember it being very exciting," Arana said. "We won, and we went on to win the championship. I feel like whoever wins the U.S. Nationals has a good chance to win the championship. Winning at the U.S. Nationals would be huge. All the greats have done it."
This year's edition of the famed event will feature intense side-by-side racing as drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for their share of the $2 million purse and battle for important world championship points as the event is the final regular season race and will establish the top 10 fields for the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.
Teams in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Series also will compete during the weekend. In addition, the world's fastest Super Stock cars will race for bonus bucks and bragging rights during the intense Mopar HEMI Challenge.
Fans can get a taste of the excitement on Wednesday, Aug. 28th by attending the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Fan Fest, which will feature a display of race cars, live music, a huge jumbotron and plenty of giveaways at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. The Fan Fest, which starts at 11 a.m., also will feature a premier autograph session with many of the top professional drivers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. In addition, a press conference will be held during the Fan Fest, where several news announcements will be made and the random lottery drawings for the No. 8 spots in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout will be held.
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30. Two sessions will be held on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 1 at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 2. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be contested Saturday, Aug. 31 with rounds at 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car will be held on Sunday, Sept. 1 for the eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise more than 10 hours of coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Five hours of qualifying coverage and coverage of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout will air on ESPN2 HD at 1 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 1. Eliminations for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be featured during six hours of coverage on Monday, Sept. 2, starting at noon (ET).
Tickets are available for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Tickets are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or online at www.NHRAtix.com.