The 10,000-horsepower, jaw-dropping action of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returns to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, Aug. 31-Sept. 5, for the 62nd annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals – the world’s most prestigious drag race.
And it’s the world’s most prestigious drag race for a reason. The best of the best from all over the world head to Indianapolis to compete in the event known as the Big Go. Nearly 1,000 drivers will compete in 12 categories with hopes of hoisting the elusive Wally trophy on Labor Day Monday. With heightened competition and a holiday weekend crowd in attendance, a win at the Big Go often goes down on racers’ résumés as the biggest single-race achievement.
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s the last race of the 18-race regular season before the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoff. Drivers and teams will be racing to secure the final top 10 spots for the Countdown and with an increased amount of points in play via the point-and-a-half system for this event (150 points to the winner), the drama on championship Monday is expected to be more intense than ever.
Over the years fans have cheered on drag racing immortals like “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney and Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, as they raced to the winner’s circle at the Big Go. Today’s stars – such as nine-time Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner Tony Schumacher, four-time Funny Car winner John Force and six-time Pro Stock winner Greg Anderson – are all racing with plenty of determination to continue to build upon their legacies.
For many of the competitors, the race has evolved into much more than an annual contest of speed. For those who seek to become a part of its mystique, winning the event has become a necessity. Racers say that no career is truly complete without a win at this, drag racing’s grandest event.
This year’s edition of the famed event will feature intense side-by-side racing as drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for their share of Mello Yello Series points. Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel); Jack Beckman (Funny Car); Erica Enders (Pro Stock); and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners.
For the first time, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will be aired live on FOX and FOX Sports 1 (FS1). Dave Rieff leads the coverage with Tony Pedregon offering insight as an analyst and they along with the rest of the broadcast team give the viewers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the sport.
A special Monday edition of the SealMaster NHRA Track Walk also will take place prior to final eliminations, where many of the sport’s most celebrated drivers will walk alongside fans down the historic dragstrip. As part of NHRA’s ongoing celebration of the 50th anniversary of Funny Car, one legendary Funny Car driver will be honored during pre-race ceremonies. Fan-favorite vintage racecars will be on display in the Hot Rod Junction, along with several autograph sessions featuring the biggest stars of the sport will be featured throughout each day of the event. On Friday, a special fireworks show will close out that day’s racing.
Thundering Jet Cars will take to the track to make exhibition passes as part of Friday and Saturday’s racing activities. As usual, one of the highlights of the spectacular pre-race show on Monday will feature a highly-skilled skydiver soaring into Lucas Oil Raceway with an American Flag in tow during the traditional performance of the National Anthem.
Bonus bucks and bragging rights will be on the line for qualified drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car as they battle in the lucrative Traxxas Nitro Shootout. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be held on Saturday evening, while the Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car is contested Sunday afternoon. The winners in each Traxxas Nitro Shootout will earn $100,000.
Drivers in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Series also will look to become winners of the prestigious event during the weekend. The fastest Super Stock cars will challenge for the ultimate bragging rights and a bonus purse during the popular Mopar HEMI Challenge.
Downtown Indianapolis will come alive with NHRA excitement on Wednesday, Aug. 31, when the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Fan Fest comes to Monument Circle in the heart of the city. NHRA race team showcars, classic cars, live music, video displays and giveaways are just a few of the activities scheduled for the event. Fans will also be able to get autographs from their favorite drivers in one of the largest autograph sessions of the season. In addition, the official event press conference will take place during the Fan Fest, where several news announcements will be made and the random lottery drawings for the No. 8 positions in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout will be conducted. The Fan Fest begins at 10 a.m.
The biggest, 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.
The first of five Mello Yello Series qualifying sessions is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2. Two more sessions will take to the track on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 2:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m., and the final two qualifying sessions will take place on Sunday, Sept. 4 at 11:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 5. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel will be contested Saturday, Sept. 3 with rounds at 4 p.m., 5:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Car takes place on Sunday, Sept. 4 for the eight qualified drivers, with rounds at 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
FOX national broadcast and FS1 will televise coverage of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for the first time in event history. FS1 will air highlights from the event on Sunday, Sept. 4, at noon and 5 p.m. EST. The broadcasts will continue on FS1 with two hours of live coverage on Monday, Sept. 5 starting at 11 a.m. EST. The extensive coverage will then continue live on the FOX national broadcast channel at 1 p.m. EST.
One of five motorsports facilities owned and operated by NHRA, Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis sits on 267 acres of land just west of Indianapolis in the town of Brownsburg, and features three race courses: a championship drag strip, a .686-mile paved oval and a 2.5-mile, 15-turn road course.
Tickets for the world’s most prestigious drag race can be purchased by calling the NHRA Ticket Sales Center at (800) 884-NHRA (6472), or online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.