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DeJoria To Make Her Return At U.S. Nationals

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 1 2016
Alexis DeJoria will be driving a Funny Car again this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Alexis DeJoria will be driving a Funny Car again this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria has received medical clearance from her team doctors and NHRA’s medical staff to return to competition this weekend for the 62nd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

DeJoria sat out the last two NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events due to a pelvic fracture bugnhranotessuffered during a crash at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in July.

“I’m so excited to finally get back in the seat on Friday,” said DeJoria, who has been undergoing physical therapy and receiving low-level laser treatments as well as pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. “I’ve really been missing my guys, my Kalitta (Motorsports) teammates and my fans. Not to mention, the 10,000-plus horsepower machine I’m fortunate enough to drive 24 races a year. I missed two of them this season, but I’m back now, and man, what a race to come back to _ Indy, ‘The Big Go.’^”

Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s event winners. For the first time, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be aired live on FOX and FOX Sports 1 (FS1).

In addition, the Pro Stock final from the postponed national event at Seattle between Aaron Strong and Vincent Nobile will be completed at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in Brownsburg, Ind., during the regular-season finale. Upon completion on Monday, Sept. 5, the top-10 drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle will be locked into the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.

DeJoria will enter the U.S. Nationals in the No. 10 spot. Chad Head and Cruz Pedregon _ the 11th and 12thranked drivers _ trail her by 87 and 115 points, respectively. Funny Car point-leader Ron Capps, of Don Schumacher Racing, has five wins this season in search of his first world championship.

A special world championship point system will be in effect at this event, with drivers earning points based on a point-and-a-half system (150 points to win). A single racer in each category can earn a maximum of 188 points at this event. All other NHRA Mello Yello Series events offer 100 points to win. Teams also will get 15 points instead of 10 for making a qualifying attempt. Qualifying bonus points will remain at 1-2-3 for the five sessions and the standard 1-8 points will be given for qualifying positions.

“It’s so crucial for us to do well in order to be able to finish out the weekend in the top-10 and qualify for the Countdown to the Championship,” said DeJoria, driver of the Tequila Patron Toyota Camry. “I know we can get it done. I have a lot of faith in my guys, we just need to get that consistency back. If there’s any race where we can pull it off, it’s Indy.”

DeJoria, a four-time national event champion, won the 60th running of the U.S. Nationals in 2014. Funny Car qualifying is set to begin Friday at 8 p.m. (EDT).

While fighting to retain a spot in the top-10, DeJoria also will have the opportunity to race for a $100,000 purse in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, a race within the race. DeJoria earned her spot in the Shootout at the NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas earlier this season.

“Indy is the biggest race of the year,” DeJoria said. “I’ll have my friends and family in the pit cheering us on. I’ve had a lot of time to rest, practice and get myself race-ready.”


Pro Stock point-leader Jason Line never has been able to solve the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, advancing to the final round of the world’s biggest drag race just once. But Line, who has posted seven victories in 2016, is poised to change his personal history this weekend.

Line will deal with a talented Pro Stock class that has gained ground in recent races. Allen Johnson won in Denver, while Drew Skillman took the victory at the most recent race in Brainerd, Minn. Defending event winner Erica Enders, the two-time/reigning world champion, has struggled in 2016 but moved to ninth in points with a semifinal finish at Brainerd. Erica has a 49-point lead over 11th-place Alex Laughlin, who trails five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. by 36 points for the 10th spot.

“Everyone wants to win the U.S. Nationals, so you have to have your act together,” said Line, driver of the Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro. “But with the extra qualifying session and racing on Monday, you need to have some patience, which is not my strong suit at all. It’s all part of learning how to cope and figuring out how to work it to your advantage.”

In Top Fuel, eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher will try to capture an NHRA-record 10th U.S. Nats win. Standing in his way is defending event winner Morgan Lucas; two-time/reigning world champion and current point-leader Antron Brown; 2013 world champ Shawn Langdon, Richie Crampton, Doug Kalitta, Brittany Force, J.R. Todd and Clay Millican. Leah Pritchett and Terry McMillen, currently tied for 10th in points, also will be hustling for the final spot in the Countdown.

 A slew of competitors in Pro Stock Motorcycle will be fighting over the final Countdown spots. Only five riders have clinched berths, led by point-leader Eddie Krawiec, a three-time world champ aboard his Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson. Steve Johnson currently is 10th, but Karen Stoffer and Michael Ray are each just five points back while rookie Cory Reed trails the veteran Johnson by 29 points. Scotty Pollacheck and Jim Underdahl are each less than 75 points back of Johnson.

Others riders looking to secure berths are 2009 world champion Hector Arana, Chip Ellis, two-time world champ Matt Smith and Hector Arana Jr., all currently in the top-10. Five-time/reigning world champ Andrew Hines, defending event winner Savoie, three-time world champ Angelle Sampey and 2010 world champ LE Tonglet already have clinched their spots.


John Force and Terry McMillen secured the No. 8 positions in the NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout following special lottery drawings held in downtown Indianapolis to preview the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals and the lucrative specialty event held during the weekend.

McMillen _ who never has competed in the Shootout _ upset Clay Millican, who led the Top Fuel votes with 43 percent. McMillen earned the third most fan votes with 17 percent. He will meet top seed Antron Brown in the first round on Saturday.

“It’s a blessed day,” McMillen said. “Everybody has been supportive. It’s been a fantastic ride. Most of all I want to thank all the fans, everyone at NHRA and Mello Yello for making this happen. It’s just going to be a great day and what an opportunity.”

Force, who scored consecutive victories in Denver and Sonoma, Calif., this season, earned the most fan votes in Funny Car with 63 percent and will face the top-seeded Ron Capps in a first-round pairing on Sunday. “Brut” Force has raced in the event five times and has won twice.

“The bad news is that I got Capps,” said Force, a 16-time world champion. “But I want to say that these are some of the baddest hot rods in the land; Cruz (Pedregon) and (Jack) Beckman and (Del) Worsham. I need the practice. I need some more rounds, but I’m embarrassed. I love Traxxas, love what you do but this isn’t how I wanted to get here. I’ve never gambled in my life. I don’t like luck. I don’t play the luck game. I play strategy and I’ve got to get my stuff together. ”

Selection of the two drivers culminated a process that started on Aug. 21. All drivers in both categories who had competed in each race this season but were not a part of the seven qualified drivers for each Traxxas Nitro Shootout were eligible for the fan vote/lottery. Fan voting took place on NHRA’s Facebook page and lasted until Aug. 30. The fan voting determined how many lottery balls would be assigned to each driver for the drawing.

The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be held Saturday with rounds at 4, 5:15 and 8 p.m. (EDT). The Shootout for Funny Car will be contested Sunday with rounds at 12:30, 3 and 4:45 p.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout will be covered by FOX Sports 1 and FOX.

In other Top Fuel first-round pairings, Doug Kalitta, a three-time winner this season, will face Phoenix winner Leah Pritchett; Pomona, Calif., winner Steve Torrence will race Shawn Langdon, who won the Bristol, Tenn., event and Brittany Force, who won in Gainesville, Fla., will face Denver winner Tony Schumacher.

In the three other Funny Car first-round pairings, Houston winner Courtney Force will go up against Las Vegas winner Alexis DeJoria; Matt Hagan, who won in Atlanta, will be pitted against Phoenix winner Tim Wilkerson and Gainesville winner Robert Hight will race Bristol winner Tommy Johnson Jr. 

Brown is the defending NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout winner in Top Fuel and Beckman is the defending Shootout winner in Funny Car. The lucrative bonus races will award the winning drivers $100,000 each.


Texas Motorplex officially will open its Club 660 Party Zone during the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, Oct. 13-16, in Ennis.

The Club, located basically at half-track, will be open Friday through Sunday and feature live music between pro rounds, a cash bar and premium seating at $5 per person. Drink specials and other Club 660-only offers will be announced during the event.

The third annual PreStage Fan Fest in Downtown Ennis will be held Thursday, Oct. 13, from 5-9 p.m. (CDT) with food trucks, music and driver appearances during the free event.

Gates will open for the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at 10 a.m. Oct. 13 with Sportsman qualifying between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. (CDT). Two rounds of professional time trials highlight the Friday, Oct. 14 schedule, along with Sportsman qualifying throughout the day, including the Nitro Friday Night Lights pro session. Saturday, Oct. 15, is packed with Sportsman eliminations and the final two rounds of professional qualifying.

Gates will open at 8 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, with pre-race ceremonies at 10 a.m. and final eliminations for the fourth of six NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff events getting underway at 11 a.m.

Former Funny Car driver Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex was the first all-concrete stadium-style drag racing facility when it opened in 1986. The facility hosts a number of racing and car show events between March and November each year and also features the Champion’s Club _ an 11,000 square-foot facility _ serving fully-catered events throughout the year.

Tickets for the Fall Nats are on sale, ranging from $10 to $380 for VIP weekend packages. Youth tickets for children 12-and-under start at $5. For tickets or more information, call The Plex office at (800) MOTORPLEX or visit www.texasmotorplex.com.




Thursday, Sept. 1 _ LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations.

Friday, Sept. 2 _ LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations (featuring Mopar HEMI Challenge); NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 6:30 p.m.; MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 7:15 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 3 _ LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations; NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2 and 5:30 p.m.; TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT (Top Fuel) rounds at 4, 5:15 and 8 p.m.; MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 4 _ LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations; NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m.; first-round of eliminations at 5:30 p.m.; TRAXXAS NITRO SHOOTOUT (Funny Car) rounds at 12:30, 3 and 4:45 p.m.; MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 11:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 5 _ Pre-race ceremonies, 9:45 a.m.; MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.


Sunday, Sept. 4 _ FOX Sports 1 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at noon (EDT); FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5 p.m. (EDT).  

Monday, Sept. 5 _ FS1 will televise two hours of live finals coverage at 11 a.m. (EDT); FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 1 p.m. (EDT).


Bob Glidden, Pro Stock, 9; Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel, 9; Don Garlits, Top Fuel, 8; Don Prudhomme, Top Fuel/Funny Car, 7; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, 6; Warren Johnson, Pro Stock, 6; Ed McCulloch, Funny Car/Top Fuel, 6; Dave Schultz, Pro Stock Motorcycle, 6; Larry Dixon, Top Fuel, 4; John Force, Funny Car, 4.


The most historic and prestigious event in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals has been contested annually since 1955. Originally known as “The Nationals” and first held at an abandoned airstrip in Great Bend, Kan., the event made stops at Kansas City, Mo., Oklahoma City and Detroit before eventually moving to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961.

Past winners include “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, an eight-time winner in Top Fuel; Shirley Muldowney, 1982 Top Fuel winner; Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, a seven-time winner and one of a handful of drivers to win the event in both Top Fuel and Funny Car and Bob Glidden, legendary Pro Stock driver who dominated the race by advancing to the final round in 13 consecutive seasons from 1977-’89. The Indiana native won the event a record nine times, a mark he shares with current Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher. It is the only major motorsports event to be contested on Labor Day.


The Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals is the final of 18 regular-season Mello Yello Series races. The Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs, will begin Sept. 16-18 at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C …Tony Schumacher is an 11-time U.S. Nationals finalist in Top Fuel (winning nine)… Schumacher’s first career NHRA start came at the U.S. Nationals in 1996 and the then-rookie posted a runnerup finish to Cory McClenathan … John Force, 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Series world champion and winner of a record 143 events, has won the U.S. Nationals four times, his last coming in 2002 … Four women have earned U.S. Nationals victories, including Shirley Muldowney once in Top Fuel, Ashley Force Hood twice in Funny Car, Alexis DeJoria once in Funny Car and Angelle Sampey twice in Pro Stock Motorcycle … Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme, Jim Head and Ed “The Ace” McCulloch have won the race in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, while Antron Brown also has won the race in multiple Mello Yello classes, Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle … The event also will feature competition in the Lucas Oil Series and the J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, featuring high-horsepower Sportsman machines that accelerate to more than 250 mph.


In 1958, 15 Indianapolis-area businessmen and racing professionals led by Tom Binford, Frank Dickie, Rodger Ward and Howard Fieber invested $5,000 each to fund development of what would become Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. The group purchased a 267-acre farm about seven miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and developed a multi-purpose auto racing facility. The original intention in creating Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis was to design a 15-turn, 2.5-mile road-course. Nearly as an afterthought, and as an insurance measure against economic problems, the investment group decided to incorporate a quarter-mile drag strip into the long straightaway of the 2.5-mile road-course design.

Constructed with assistance from the NHRA, the drag strip was the first of the three courses to be completed, with the facility’s inaugural event held on the strip in the fall of 1960. During the 1960 U.S. Nationals in Detroit, a handshake agreement between Binford and NHRA founder Wally Parks promised that the event would move to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961. The historic three-year pact was signed and sealed under a tree in Detroit Dragway’s pits, and Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis eventually became the home of NHRA’s biggest annual event.

NHRA purchased the entire facility in 1979. The first major improvement came in 1983 with the construction and dedication of Parks Tower, a four-story drag strip tower. In 1998, new grandstands, suites and a tower complex on the front straightaway were completed at the oval track at a cost of nearly $2.5-million, which included repaving of the entire oval surface as part of a three-phase facility improvement project. In 2001, NHRA and Lucas Oil Raceway constructed a new drag strip racing surface, replacing the strip with a 660-foot concrete pad and laying new asphalt on the remainder of the track and shutdown area.

Prior to the 2003 race, eight new luxury suites were added along the top of the west-side grandstands of the drag strip, giving fans a unique perspective of the action. In 2006, new soft barrier walls were added to the oval. In 2007, management announced its first track entitlement with O’Reilly Auto Parts. In 2011, a new track entitlement with Lucas Oil Products was announced. Formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park, the facility now is known as Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. During the winter of 2008, a new main track office building was constructed near the track entrance.


Top Fuel _ 3.740-seconds by Shawn Langdon, Sept. ’12; 328.54 mph by Tony Schumacher, Sept. ’14.

Funny Car _3.936-seconds and 323.74 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’15.

Pro Stock _ 6.538-seconds by Jason Line, Sept. ’11; 211.13 mph by Mike Edwards, Sept. ’12.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 6.815-seconds and 196.76 mph by Andrew Hines, Sept. ’10.


Top Fuel _ 3.671-seconds by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.

Funny Car _ 3.822-seconds by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.

Pro Stock _ 6.455-seconds by Jason Line, March ’15, Concord, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 6.728-seconds by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Concord, N.C.


The top-10 following the 35th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1.  Antron Brown, 1,424*; 2.  Doug Kalitta, 1,257*; 3.  Steve Torrence, 1,216*; 4.  Brittany Force, 1,161*; 5.  Tony Schumacher, 1,117*; 6.  J.R. Todd, 998*; 7.  Shawn Langdon, 968*; 8.  Richie Crampton, 840*; 9.  Clay Millican, 822; 10.  (tie) Terry McMillen, 637; Leah Pritchett, 637.

Funny Car _ 1.  Ron Capps, 1,413**; 2.  Courtney Force, 1,198*; 3.  Del Worsham, 1,192*; 4.  Jack Beckman, 1,146*; 5.  Matt Hagan, 1,115*; 6.  Robert Hight, 1,040*; 7.  John Force, 1,003*; 8.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 999*; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 915*; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 765.

Pro Stock _ 1.  Jason Line, 1,761*; 2.  Greg Anderson, 1,683*; 3.  Bo Butner, 1,207*; 4.  Allen Johnson, 1,054*; 5.  Vincent Nobile, 1,004*&; 6.  Drew Skillman, 953*; 7.  Shane Gray, 825; 8.  Chris McGaha, 802; 9.  Erica Enders, 742; 10.  Jeg Coughlin Jr., 729.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 898*; 2.  Andrew Hines, 856*; 3.  Angelle Sampey, 659*; 4.  Jerry Savoie, 651*; 5.  LE Tonglet, 522*; 6.  Hector Arana, 459; 7.  Chip Ellis, 454; 8.  Matt Smith, 402; 9.  Hector Arana Jr., 386; 10.  Steve Johnson, 331.

* Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

** Clinched No. 1 spot in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

& Awaiting to complete the Seattle event in Indianapolis 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 1 2016
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