Tony Schumacher and Ron Capps had the quickest hot rods during Thursday's final day of testing for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at historic Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
NHRA teams utilized the two-day open test to prepare for the world's most prestigious drag race, which will be held Aug. 29-Sept. 3 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 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series regular season and will be televised by ESPN2HD in more than 10 hours of coverage on Labor Day weekend.
Schumacher, an eight-time winner of the Big Go, posted the quickest Top Fuel run with a performance of 3.784 seconds at 322.73 mph in his canopy-covered U.S. Army dragster. His teammates, points leader and defending event winner Antron Brown and four-time season winner Spencer Massey also posted quick runs in their DSR machines.
Massey was second in his FRAM/Prestone dragster, recording a best of 3.786 at 325.37. The Texas native is fired up and ready to race.
"We know our tune up, we know our race car, lets make it 110 percent, 115 percent because this is the U.S. Nationals, we are in the Traxxas Shootout so we want to make sure we have every i dotted and t crossed and that is what we were doing," Massey said. "We came out here yesterday and made two runs, today made five or six runs and accomplished what we wanted to. The car ran a 79 and 78, so we are very, very pleased. I even got into the canopy car earlier today and drove that thing just to see what it was like and it was pretty cool. It is something everyone is going to go to I think. I am very pleased with how the Prestone car is going and I'm ready for the U.S. Nationals. I'm ready to get out there and win that Traxxas Shootout too."
Brown was fourth quickest with a 3.803 at 321.65 in the Matco Tools dragster. Even though he didn't dip into the 3.70s on any of his runs, he feels confident with what his team learned during the test.
"Brian (Corradi, crew chief) and Mark (Oswald, crew chief) came out here and worked on a hot track setup because it can get hot out here," Brown said. "We ran good this morning and ran good the other night. We really wanted to crack a 70 off, but it got away from us. The track got really really good tonight early so we learned that. Now we got it. My teammates went 78, 79 so we know what to do to do that. It feels good going into race day cause we found a lot of little things that could have attacked us during the race that got us out here in testing that we worked on and got better. We've got some new parts into the rotation, some new clutch stuff into the rotation, so now we can go into the race confident knowing that we got some other good stuff we can use."
Brandon Bernstein was third overall in his MAV TV/Lucas Oil dragster, clocking a 3.802 at 322.65 and his teammate, Morgan Lucas, winner at Brainerd last weekend, was fifth in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster, posting a 3.806 at 316.30.
Funny Car points leader Capps made a statement with his best run of the test session, a 4.032 at 311.85 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, which was just a tick off the elapsed time track record set last year by Cruz Pedregon (4.026). Capps is still riding high from the momentum gained from his Lucas Oil Nationals victory in Minnesota just a few days ago.
"Obviously we had a great weekend in Brainerd and Rahn (Tobler, crew chief) had a lot of things he wanted to try and at first we were just going to come here and try those things and on the first lap today he put what setup he wants to start with in Charlotte for the Countdown in it," Capps said. "We went to 4.03 and it was a great run. Then we decided to go ahead and try some things we needed to try. We needed to get out in the heat of the day and find out if we can find the conditions we are going to find on Monday here at the U. S. Nationals. It was important for us to push that envelope and we learned a lot. I've said this before sometimes you learn more than you bargained for and more than you imagined from things that don't work. And we learned a bunch with the NAPA team and stayed low E. T. which was great."
Capps' teammate Johnny Gray was second overall with a 4.097 at 301.07 in his Service Central Dodge Charger and was followed by red-hot rookie driver Courtney Force, who was third in her Traxxas Ford Mustang with a 4.098 at 293.79. The 24-year-old daughter of 15-time world champ John Force has advanced to three finals this season and recently earned her first pro victory, at Seattle.
"We were trying some different things; just trying to see what would happen and see what we could accomplish," she said. "We had a great run early in the day and ran a 4.09 and would have run a little better than that, but I actually got off it a little early. That is why it is testing, you come out here and learn about the track and we are new to this track in a Funny Car, so it was a great day for us. We had some ups and down, some good runs and bad runs, but overall we are just getting ready for the Big Go."
She is really excited about the challenge of competing in her first Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in a Funny Car.
"It is definitely going to be overwhelming, but it is one of the biggest races of the season," Force said. "There is so much going on. Obviously all the action with the Traxxas Shootout and just being that it is the Big Go. Everyone is trying to get locked into the Countdown and that is what we are fighting to do and we are hoping to have a good weekend, just stay focused and keep our Traxxas Ford Mustang running consistent."
Defending Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner Mike Neff and defending world champ Matt Hagan, who will be fighting to earn a spot in the top 10 at Indy, were fourth and fifth respectively. The elder Force, a four-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner, was sixth overall and made his first official testing runs today. Yesterday he and teammate Robert Hight actually participated in a special tire test for Goodyear.
Tickets for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus are available by calling (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or logging on towww.NHRATIX.com.
1. Tony Schumacher 3.784, 322.73
2. Spencer Massey 3.786, 325.37
3. Brandon Bernstein 3.802, 322.65
4. Antron Brown 3.803, 321.65
5. Morgan Lucas 3.806, 316.30
6. Bob Vandergriff 3.899 314.90
7. Steve Torrence 3.968 270.70
8. Shawn Langdon 4.314, 190.46
9. Brady Kalivoda 4.341, 192.96
10. Khalid alBalooshi 4.817, 147.07
11. Rit Pustari 4.824, 155.60
12. Tommy Johnson Jr. 4.847 151.80
1. Ron Capps 4.032, 311.85
2. Johnny Gray 4.097, 301.07
3. Courtney Force 4.098, 293.79
4. Mike Neff 4.113, 308.28
5. Matt Hagan 4.115, 303.50
6. John Force 4.171, 302.08
7. Bob Tasca 4.191 298.21
8. Jack Beckman 4.214, 266.69
9. Jim Head 4.232 284.15
10. Robert Hight 4.268 291.89
11. Alexis DeJoria 5.191 143.69