Pep Boys Callout For Top Fuel and Funny Cars at NHRA U.S. Nationals

John Force burnout
Mike Salinas
Mike Salinas

NHRA’s U.S. Nationals have always been the biggest and best gathering of drag racers in the United States. For years, Indianapolis Raceway Park has been THE destination on Labor Day weekend, mirroring INDYCAR’s invasion of Indianapolis Motor Speedway each Memorial Day weekend.

This year, the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals will be fast, fierce and, most likely fabulous. NHRA has announced it expects to see as many as 45 nitro cars – both Top Fuel and Funny Car – on the grounds, to take part in five qualifying sessions and Monday eliminations, the way the U.S. Nationals have always been held, excepting the past two years when the COVID-19 pandemic forced racers to think smaller.

Not any more. This one will be big. How big?

Not only will NHRA’s Camping World Drag Racing Series execute its “regular season” finale over the weekend, but the Pep Boys Callout resumes and includes Funny Car as well as Top Fuel for this race-within-a-race. The Top Fuel edition of the Callout began at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in March, but lousy weather scotched all but the first round of competition. In fact, the selections were held during a deluge at the Top Eliminator Club tent and pretty much signified what was going to happen for the balance of the weekend. There was a single qualifying session for the Gators and eliminations took place on Sunday.

Now, with one round taken, Top Fuel points leader Brittany Force gets to choose her competition from the stout field of four-time and reigning Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence, four-race 2022 winner Mike Salinas and Justin Ashley, who’s been to NHRA’s Winner’s Circle twice this season. Force gets to call her semifinal opponent on Friday evening, just before the first nitro qualifying session. Competition for the semifinals in Top Fuel takes place Saturday at 2:40PM and the finals will ensue at 6:25PM Saturday evening. All times are Eastern.

John Force burnout
John Force burnout

Funny Car gets its own Pep Boys Callout – the class wasn’t initially included in this contest – and that competition will take place on Sunday. With six wins in 2022, three-time Flopper champ Robert Hight of John Force Racing (Chevrolet Camaro SS)  is the top seed and gets to call out his first-round opponent, followed by reigning champ Ron Capps (Toyota GR Supra), three-time titleholder Matt Hagan in his Tony Stewart Racing Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat  and Charger racer Cruz Pedregon, a two-time Funny Car champ – unless one of the these drivers decides he wants to race one of the other top four challengers.

The “bottom half” of this field is stout: 16-time champ John Force (Camaro SS), surging Brainerd winner Bob Tasca III in his Ford Mustang, six-race winner Alexis DeJoria (GR Supra) and 2021 Indy winner Tim Wilkerson (Mustang), who qualified for this race at Brainerd. Funny Car’s Callout selection takes place on Saturday at 2PM, while the special race’s competition will take place with an opening round at 1:20PM on Sunday, semifinals at 2:45PM and finals at 4:55PM on Sunday.

For Funny Car, as for Top Fuel, the quickest Callout driver in the opening round will make the first selection in semifinals, which automatically locks in the second pair of combatants. For both Top Fuel and Funny Car, the Pep Boys NHRA Callout has an overall purse of $130,000, with a cool $80,000 going to the winner of each race within this very important race.

This is the close of NHRA’s “regular” season before the Countdown to the Championship begins in Reading two weeks hence. As such, there’s a lot on the line for everyone, not just those already in the playoffs, but for every competitor on the grounds.

In Top Fuel, the field of 25 could easily shake up the top-10 standings, while there are 18 Funny Cars on the official entry list. The number and quality of the nitro entries indicates that the health of NHRA’s premier Camping World Drag Racing Series, which has seen light interest throughout this “regular” season, is not as moribund as some might think. It costs plenty to be at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park for the week-long Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals. And the fact that so many are making this trip, well, that’s a good thing!

About Anne Proffit 983 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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