Photos: Courtesy of NHRA
The NHRA Mello Yello series heads north to the Land of 10,000 Lakes this weekend for the running of the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, and with only two races to go before the Countdown to the Championship, there’s plenty of mental pressure on certain drivers to either step up or step away from their title bid at this race.
After Brainerd, the tour heads to Indianapolis’ for the the Chevrolet U.S. Nationals on Labor Day. This year, it returns back to points and a half and the combinations are endless of who could make a major move and get in the Countdown.
Urgency was the underlying theme of last year’s race, and teams and fans alike expect the same this year.
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown have clinched playoff berths and in 10th Steve Torrence is holding a 103-point lead over Clay Millican, who returns to competition after the tragic loss of his son, Dalton last week.
“We have a really good race team and now we expect to make the playoffs,” proclaimed Torrence. “The goal now is to win the championship. You can do it from No. 10 (starting position), but you’d like to be a little closer.”
Funny Car’s Matt Hagan and Jack Beckman are in the Countdown, but 11th place Courtney Force trails her John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight by 73 reachable points. Hight is tied for ninth with Alexis DeJoria and this three-way battle highlights why every round is so important when so few points separate the competitors.
“This is another huge race and that puts a lot of pressure on my Traxxas team, but we thrive on that pressure,” said Courtney Force. “That’s racing. We are motivated and going to do everything as a team to do well at Brainerd. We are in a tough position, but also excited and ready for this race. We’ve got no other choice at this point, but to push each other and give it 110% all weekend long.”
Pro Stock’s Greg Anderson, Erica Enders-Stevens, Chris McGaha and Jason Line are locked in to the Countdown. From all appearances it looks like Drew Skillman will hold the 10th position, but you can never tell what happens in this upset-minded class. Stay tuned.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins at Brainerd on Friday, Aug. 21, with sessions at 4 and 6:30 p.m. EDT. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Sunday, Aug. 22, at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Aug. 23, live on ESPN3 and 9 p.m. on ESPN2.