nitro stars look for legacy-making u.s. nationals win

INDIANAPOLIS — As the four-time defending Top Fuel world champion, Steve Torrence knows all about racing in big moments. But none of them can top winning at the prestigious 68th annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals, which takes place this weekend at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

It’s the world’s biggest drag race and Torrence, who also won the most recent NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series event in Brainerd, has a pair of U.S. Nationals triumphs to his credit, including last year in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster.

This year could be even bigger for the 52-time event winner, as he’s also in the semifinals of the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout specialty race. That started in Gainesville and is now down to the semifinals, where points leader Brittany Force, Torrence, Mike Salinas, and Justin Ashley will square off on Saturday for the $80,000 prize before eliminations on Sunday.

It’s a chance at another spectacular memory for Torrence, who will be hard-pressed to top how special last year’s win was at the Big Go.

“I won it last year with my little girl and that’s the most memorable win I have. It’s the grandaddy of them all and the big one you want to win,” said Torrence, who is third in points. “You can do all the things, but if you don’t win Indy, you don’t have a full career. To share that with my daughter before she was (one year-old), that was special. I look forward to going there every year and that’s what signifies a legend. (Tony) Schumacher, Big Daddy (Don Garlits), everybody who is somebody has dominated Indy. I’m not there yet, but hopefully I can get there someday.”

Torrence (Top Fuel), Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all picked up wins a year ago at the Big Go. This year’s race will be broadcast on both the FOX broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live eliminations coverage starting at 12 p.m. ET on Monday, Sept. 5 on FS1 and continuing at 2 p.m. on FOX. It is the 16th of 22 races during the 2022 season and the final race before the Countdown to the Championship.

It all looks to be perfect timing for Torrence, especially with the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout on Saturday and points-and-a-half on the line at Indy. A big weekend could send him to second in points headed into the playoffs, which would be plenty of momentum to make a fifth straight world title within reach.

But the Texan is solely concentrated on this weekend because, well, it’s Indy. With a huge 25-car Top Fuel field and a standout list of competitors, including Force, Salinas, Ashley, 10-time event winner Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown and Leah Pruett, Torrence knows he’ll have his hands full. But he’s also well aware how meaningful it is if you’re able to outlast everyone at the Big Go.

“You go there with a different mindset to try and win Indy,” Torrence said. “You couldn’t win a race all year, but you could win Indy and it would make your season. I’m excited to go there because I’ve got a good car. Indy is Indy and only true drag racers understand that. When you win Indy, it’s a big one.”

nitro stars look for legacy-making u.s. nationals win

Matt Hagan. (NHRA Photo)

In Funny Car, Matt Hagan is after the win at his sponsor’s race as he also gears up for a run at a fourth world championship. A second U.S. Nationals win would certainly help the cause and Hagan has the chance to make it a monumental weekend as well. The standout driver of the 11,000-horsepower Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat is also set to compete in the Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout, pitting him against seven other star drivers on Sunday in a unique specialty race.

That leads right into eliminations, which means plenty will be on the line on multiple days for Hagan, who has three wins this year. Joining him in the callout is points leader Robert Hight, who has six wins, Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, Bob Tasca III, who has wins in three of the past four races this year, John Force, Alexis DeJoria, and Tim Wilkerson, who is the defending event winner at the Big Go. Those same names will be among Hagan’s chief challengers during eliminations on Monday and Hagan has a strong sense of what winning the U.S. Nationals does for a driver’s career.

“I’ve won Indy before and it’s a really special, magical feeling when you do that,” Hagan said. “Indianapolis is one of those races you never want to leave the sport without winning. It’s just a lot of excitement and buildup through a long week for everybody. We definitely want to pull it down and have it be a win in the Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car at our sponsor’s title race. It’s going to be a big race and I feel like we’re still moving in the right direction with this car.”

Enders has reigned supreme in Pro Stock at the prestigious U.S. Nationals the past two seasons and the four-time world champ has been dominant thus far this year, winning six times. Her challengers include reigning world champ Greg Anderson, who has six Indy wins and 99 career victories, Aaron Stanfield, 2016 winner Chris McGaha, reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year Dallas Glenn, Kyle Koretsky, Troy Coughlin Jr., who has won the last two races this year, Matt Hartford, Bo Butner, and rookie Camrie Caruso.

Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Angelle Sampey has enjoyed a terrific 2022 season as she aims for her fourth world championship. She is also after her fourth Indy win, as is Krawiec, who is the reigning event winner. But the competition is stiff with points leader Joey Gladstone, who has back-to-back victories this year, defending world champ Matt Smith, Steve Johnson, who has a pair of Indy wins, and Angie Smith.

Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by D-Wagon will also look to become winners at the prestigious event. The fastest Super Stock cars will challenge for ultimate bragging rights and a bonus purse during the popular Dodge HEMI Challenge as well.

Racing in the NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series will also take place in Indy, along with the popular Constant Aviation NHRA Factory Stock Showdown category and Mountain Motor Pro Stock. The Big Go also represents a huge weekend for sportsman racers for the third straight year, as the event features the exciting JEGS Allstars bonus event. In all, nearly 950 cars will be in action across all categories at the race.

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