Larry Dixon stormed to a dominating win in the U.S. Nationals to kick-off the NHRA playoff format Countdown to 1 title chase.
CLERMONT, Ind. – Larry Dixon kept his perfect final round streak alive Monday by racing to his 10th win of the season at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, the world’s most prestigious drag race.
Ashley Force Hood, Greg Stanfield and LE Tonglet also were winners in their respective categories at the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship event, the first of six playoff races.
Dixon earned his fourth win at Indy and 58th of his career by outrunning Cory McClenathan in the final round. Dixon defeated Bruce Litton, Steve Torrence and Shawn Langdon in earlier rounds to advance to the final.
Top qualifier Dixon covered the O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis dragstrip in 3.837 seconds at 319.60 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to hold off McClenathan, who trailed with a 3.870 at 319.82 in his FRAM dragster.
“Winning Indy is enough for me,” said Dixon, who with the victory became the first driver in NHRA history to win 10 consecutive finals in a season without a loss. He increased his series lead to 46 over McClenathan as he works on a third world championship title. “Nothing against Atlanta or Phoenix, but I would trade them all in to win at Indy.”
Force Hood claimed her first win of the season, second in a row at this event and fourth overall by outrunning her father, John Force, in the final round. She powered her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a winning performance of 4.141 at 308.07 while her father’s Castrol GTX High-Mileage Mustang lost traction at mid-track and finished in 7.246 at 91.61.
"This has just been an amazing day," said Force Hood, who beat Del Worsham, Paul Lee and Jack Beckman in earlier rounds. "This may mean more than last year because we struggled so much this season. Last year we were on a roll – we had gone to some finals and won some races and were up high in the points -- but this year it's been the other end of the spectrum, but our team has stayed positive and we just said we'd use the start of the playoffs to turn it all around and forget the past.”
The elder Force maintained his series lead, 60 in front of Beckman. Force Hood moved to fourth in the standings with the victory.
Stanfield used a quicker reaction at the starting line to defeat defending world champion Mike Edwards in the Pro Stock final round. Stanfield posted a 6.665 at 207.59 in a his NitroFish Gear Pontiac GXP to hold off the quicker-but losing 6.627 at 208.75 effort from Edwards in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries GXP. It was Stanfield’s first win of the season and fourth of his career.
Stanfield moved to third in the points and had early round wins over Warren Johnson, Jason Line and Allen Johnson.
"This is just a huge win for me, especially after coming so close here last year [in a.001-second loss to Jeg Coughlin in the final]," said Stanfield. "And it was really exciting for our Nitro Fish Gear team owner, Kenny Koretsky, who was the Pro Stock runner-up at the 2004 Indy [which was the 50th anniversary of the event]. We came here with our first complete DRCE-3 engine, which makes more power than our old combination, and we also got the suspension straightened out to make good use of that extra power. We were struggling a lot earlier in the year, and I was beginning to doubt if I could get the job done. But I had promised Kenny that I’d get him at least one Wally this season, and I’m going to give him the trophy right after this race. I hope that we can win a few more."
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, rookie LE Tonglet captured his second win of the season and moved into second place in the playoff point standings. Tonglet powered his Tonglet Racing Suzuki to a 6.869 at 195.22 to hold off top qualifier and national record-setter Andrew Hines, who was denied an Indy victory once again and finished in 6.962 at 194.13 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.
Tonglet, who becomes the fourth rookie driver to win at Indy in the modern era, beat Joe DeSantis, Chip Ellis and Eddie Krawiec in the first three rounds.
"In Brainerd, when we broke that engine, our season was over," he admitted. "We weren't coming here but Vance & Hines and Fuel Pak stepped up and helped us out. Even so, I never expected to be sitting here telling you all how good I feel right now. We knew the Harley-Davidson would put down a big number and we knew we needed to step up. We have been taking it easy on this engine all weekend but we finally got my dad [Gary] to lean on it and we outran Eddie [Krawiec] in the semis. Dad said, 'We've come this far. We're in it to win it.' We're still taking it race by race but after this, I think it's safe to say we'll be in Charlotte."
The NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs continue Sept. 16-19 at the O’Reilly NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, N.C.