Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Scotty Pollacheck (Pro Stock Motorcycle) claimed victory at the 66th annual Denso Spark Plugs NHRA US Nationals. Competition was staged at Indianapolis over the Labor Day weekend.
In Top Fuel, Langdon placed his DHL/Kalitta Motorsports dragster in the top qualifying spot with a strong 3.728 at 313.22 mph Friday night qualifying effort. He marched through the first two elimination rounds with 3.729 at 315.71 mph and 3.723 at 319.90 mph efforts to take out Joe Haas and Cory McClenathan. In the semi-final round, things became a little crazy. His opponent was Justin Ashley with his Strutmasters dragster. Ashley had just claimed his first career event title by defeating T.J. Zizzo in the 48-day delayed final round from the rain shortened NHRA Summer Nationals. This event was the second “make-up” event moved due to the COVID-19 situation. Ashley cut a near perfect 0.001 second reaction time to Langdon’s 0.0390. Both cars lost traction and a pedal fest developed. Langdon, with more experience, was able to out duel the rookie Ashley, to advance to the final round with a 6.920 at 175.00 mph to 7.237 at 184.90 mph margin. In the final round, he would square off against Leah Pruitt. She had marched through eliminations, taking out Terry McMillen with a 3.703 (low elapse time of the event) at 325.61 mph, Tony Schumacher and Steve Torrence. Langdon got away first (0.015 to 0.091) and thundered to 3.705 at 326.32 mph victory to claim the 2020 Denso Spark Plugs US Nationals Top Fuel title.
In Funny Car, Fast Jack Beckman lost the make-up event (Summer Nationals) title to Matt Hagan. But his team and crew chiefs John Medlen and Dean Antonelli quickly raised the performance on the Infinite Heroes/Dodge SRT Charger Funny Car. This allowed Beckman to get past Cruz Pedregon, Tim Wilkerson, and Ron Capps to meet up with JR Todd and his DHL/Kalitta Motorsport Toyota Camry. Todd left first (0.054 to 0069) but Beckman drove around him for a 3.908 at 327.35 mph to 3.960 at 324.28 mph victory.
Erica Enders took the US Nationals Pro Stock crown by defeating Matt Hartford in the final round. She reacted quicker (0.009 to 0.026) and drove away to a 6.606 at 208.55 mph to 6.610 at 208.59 mph victory. Enders is, once again, a strong contender for another NHRA Pro Stock season championship.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, there was a “race within a race”, as the eight specially qualified riders competed for a $25,000 winner’s purse. Matt Smith and Scotty Pollacheck met up in the final round, with Smith collecting the win (and the $25,000), as Pollacheck fouled out with a “red light”. Pollacheck did manage a strong recovery as he marched from his #1 qualifying spot into the Denso Spark Plugs US Nationals final round. Andrew Hines and his Vance and Hines Harley team took out John Hall, Matt Smith and Eddie Krawiec to match up with Pollacheck for all the marbles. Pollacheck left first (0.033 to 0.048) and rode away to a 6.790 at 200.53 mph to 6.914 at 197.10 mph win, to claim his first ever NHRA US Nationals event title.
The event was the fourth consecutive event held at this track, during the COVID-19 situation. Due to proper event coordination at the previous COVID events, NHRA was allowed to increase the fan attendance. This event featured approximately two-and-a-half times the fan level of the previous three events. Masks were required to be worn and all persons entering the event went through a medical temperature screening process. The next planned event is in Gainesville, Florida for the delayed Gainesville Nationals, scheduled for Sept. 25 through 27.