CLERMONT, Ind — The 68th annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals are back and are filled with tons of varying storylines for each division competing here at the Lucas Oil Raceway this week. So instead of cramming them into a long post, lets separate it out by 5 things I’m watching for each division. Here’s Top Fuel’s edition.
Brittany Force’s Turn At Indy Glory?
The “Big Go” is huge for the Force family. They’ve combined to have 10 US Nationals crowds between them or their extended family. John Force has won 5 of these himself. Ashley Force Hood has won 2. Robert Hight is married to one of John Force’s daughters. He’s won 3 times. Is it now Brittany Force’s turn?
She had the No. 1 qualifier last year but was bounced before she even got to the finals. She’s the current Top Fuel points leader and has won 15 times in her career including 4 of which this year. Can he get an Indy win on Monday?
Will Steve Torrence Go Back-To-Back?
Steve Torrence has won 4 straight Top Fuel championships. However, this hasn’t been a great start to his 2022 season. As we reach the end of the regular season, he’s only had 1 Wally. However, that did occur the last time out in Brainerd. Can he win for the 2nd straight race weekend?
If so, it would be his 2nd straight victory in the US Nationals and 4th of his career here which would tie him with Larry Dixon for 3rd most all-time in Top Fuel history here.
Torrence has won 35 races in that 4 year span of titles as well as 8 more wins during his runner-up finish in the standings in 2017. To have 1 win this year is shocking. But maybe he’s heating up at the right time too.
Kalitta And Brown Hoping To Not Fall Out Of Countdown
Doug Kalitta has 49 career wins and 13 playoff appearances. 4 of the last 6 years he’s finished in the top 3 in points. Antron Brown also has 13 playoff appearances and 68 wins. He’s a 3-time Top Fuel champion.
Each are on the danger zones heading into the weekend. Kalitta is 9th in points (+53) with Brown in 10th (+29). Clay Millican (-29) and Austin Prock (-29) are trying to force their ways in with this weekend’s race being the final one of the regular season.
There’s a chance that either one or both of Kalitta and Brown won’t make the playoffs. That would be shocking.
Kalitta was 2nd in points in both 2019 and again in 2020. However, he’s on a 38 race winless drought. Brown has a new team that’s self owned but he did just win in Topeka 2 races ago. Can both do enough on Monday to ensure that they’ll be a part of the Countdown and each earn their 14th career playoff berth?
Kalitta holds the record with 24 straight seasons with a top 10 finish in Top Fuel. He also holds the record for most career wins (49) without a title too. He’s finished runner-up in the standings five times but has never celebrated a season’s championship.
Kalitta won this race in 2019 with Brown in Top Fuel in 2011 and Pro Stock Bikes in 2000 and 2004.
Schumacher Is Back
Instead of being in his racing suit last year, the all-time winningest NHRA winner and driver with the most US National Wally’s Tony Schumacher donned a different suit for most race weekends. He traded the cockpit for the broadcast booth.
That lasted one season. The “Sarge” is back. He’ll pilot one of these 11,000 horsepower beasts this weekend. That’s a massive storyline to see Schumacher back vying for his 11th US Nationals crown on Monday.
He won his first race of the season 3 races ago in Washington and enters with some momentum. He last won a Wally here at the Big Go in 2016 so he’s due.
Friday Night’s Qualifying
More times than not, qualifying on Friday night dictates the top half of these ladders during these weekends. That’s because it’s under nighttime conditions to where the sun is set and the lights are on. That creates more natural horsepower and grip levels which produce faster times.
But, with only 1 shot to go on Friday, it puts a lot of pressure to get it right too…Saturday and Sunday is more qualifying passes but all are during daytime hours.