Dixon, Force Hood, Stanfield, Tonglet Top US Nationals
The Top Fuel finals matched up the top two drivers in the Countdown standings, with points leader Larry Dixon topping Cory McClenathan for his tenth victory of the season, going a perfect 10-for-10 in final round appearances to score his fourth US Nationals win.
Dixon came into Monday’s final round as the no. 1 qualifier and beat out Bruce Litton, Steve Torrence and Shawn Langdon to meet no. 2 qualifier McClenathan in the finals for the ninth time in his career
Dixon ran a 3.838 at 319.60 mph to top McClenathan’s 3.870, 319.82 mph, becoming just the fifth no. 1 Top Fuel qualifier in US Nationals history to win in the finals.
Dixon’s Indy victory was a fitting tribute to team owner Alan Johnson, who lost his brother Blaine in a crash here in 1996.
“It just means so much to me personally, with my dad racing here for years, racing with Snake (Don Prudhomme) and knowing how much it meant for him,” said Dixon. “And now racing for Sheikh Khalid and especially Alan Johnson and the Johnson family and how much this race means to them and how much that they’ve sacrificed at this event.
“It means everything to win this race. Nothing against Atlanta or Phoenix but I’d trade all them in for Indy wins.”
McClenathan bested Terry McMillen and T.J. Zizzo to face “The Sarge” Tony Schumacher in the semi-finals. McClenathan then eliminated the defending race winner to deny Schumacher his ninth US Nationals victory.
In the match up that everyone was waiting for, John Force and Ashley Force Hood met in the Funny Car finals for just the second time, with daughter besting father for her fourth career final round victory and her second straight US Nationals Wally.
It was her first victory of the season in just her third final round appearance of the season.
Force Hood was the sixth qualifier coming into Monday’s final round and eliminated Del Worsham, Paul Lee and Jack Beckman to advance to her 16th career final round appearance.
In the final round, Force’s Mustang barely left the line before he shut it down, giving Force Hood an uncontested win, running a 4.141 at 308.07 mph
“We went into this race saying ‘let’s put the past behind us and kick off this Countdown how we want this season to go’, and it happened. It just goes to show when you’re positive about things and really believe in yourself, that it can pay off.”
Force dispatched Bob Bode to set up a classic match up with Cruz Pedregon in the quarter-final. Pedregon smoked the tires to advance Force to the semi-finals against top qualifier Matt Hagan.
Hagan had trouble right off the line to send Force to his 210th career final-round appearance and his first since 2008, but missed out on his chance to score a fifth Indy trophy.
Pro Stock driver Greg Stanfield became a first time US Nationals winner with a hole-shot victory against no. 1 qualifier Mike Edwards.
Stanfield put up a 6.665, 207.59 mph against Edward’s 6.627, 208.75 mph to score his fourth career final round victory his first since 2008 at the Texas Motorplex. Stanfield bested Warren Johnson, Jason Line and Alan Johnson to advance to his second straight Indy final.
“This is just a huge win for me, especially after coming so close here last year.” said Stanfield. “And it was really exciting for our Nitro Fish Gear team owner, Kenny Koretsky, who was the Pro Stock runner-up at the 2004 Indy.
“I had promised Kenny that I’d get him at least one Wally this season, and I’m going to give him the trophy right after this race. I hope that we can win a few more.”
L.E. Tonglet rebounded from a first-round engine blowout at Brainerd to spoil Andrew Hines weekend with an upset victory in Pro Stock Motorcycle for just his second final round win of his career.
Tonglet ran a 6.869, 195.22 mph to beat Hines’ 6.962 194.13 to become just the fifth rookie to win at Indy.
“The US Nationals is the biggest race of the year, and just to be competing here is unreal for us,” said Tonglet. “I would have never expected after Brainerd to be sitting right here. It’s just unreal.
“Whenever you go up against the Harley-Davidson’s you know they’re going to lay some numbers down. We outran Eddie (Krawiec) in the semis and we said we’re going to have to turn it up to run with Andrew (Hines) and finally got my dad (Gary) to lean on it. He said ‘we’re going for it, we’re in it to win it’ and to outrun those Harley’s is crazy.”
Hines entered the finals as the no. 1 qualifier after topping all four qualifying sessions, and took down Wesley Wells, Steve Johnson and Jim Underdahl to meet L.E. Tonglet for their first ever final round match up
It was the second straight runner-up finish for Hines at Indy, who leaves with a new national record of 6.815 and 20 bonus points.
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