NHRA’s regular season concludes with races at Brainerd, Minn. and Indianapolis (Aug. 29-Sept. 3) before the Countdown to the Championship begins. The six race Countdown to the Championship begins Sept. 14-16 at Charlotte, N.C.
This weekend at the Lucas Oil Nationals, 11 more drivers have opportunities to clinch Countdown to the Championship spots.
In Top Fuel, veteran Doug Kalitta will clinch by qualifying and Shawn Langdon can clinch by qualifying depending on his qualifying position and qualifying bonus points. Langdon and Morgan Lucas also will secure spots if they should win in the first round or either Clay Millican or Bob Vandergriff Jr. lose in round one.
“Obviously we are not locked in there yet, but we are feeling pretty good with where we are at,” Kalitta said. “The boys have my car running pretty good and I’m really happy with the effort of my team.”
David Grubnic, Kalitta’s teammate also can get into the Countdown with a strong Brainerd weekend. He needs to go two rounds further than either Millican or Vandergriff.
“Hopefully, we can get both the cars locked in at Brainerd; Connie (Kalitta) would be happy I’m sure,” Doug said. “That would put less stress on us trying to roll into the last race trying to get into the Top 10.”
Brandon Bernstein, Lucas’ teammate, also can secure a Countdown spot by going one round further than either Millican or Vandergriff.
“I would love to clinch a spot at Brainerd and not have to worry about it at Indy,” said Bernstein, who is in his first season driving for Morgan Lucas Racing. “The goal is to go to Brainerd and just go rounds and race our race and have a good weekend. If Morgan and I could get in this weekend, that would be terrific. That would be the best case scenario for the whole Morgan Lucas Racing team. Then, we could just go into Indy and try and win Indy. We could just focus everything on winning that race and having fun.”
Mike Neff and Johnny Gray, the top Funny Car candidates to get into the Countdown at Brainerd, are in once they make qualifying runs.
Courtney Force, who is coming off her big win in Seattle, can also clinch with a first-round win, depending on her qualifying position and qualifying bonus points or by winning both the first and second rounds.
Cruz Pedregron, the 1992 and 2008 NHRA nitro Funny Car world champ, has an outside shot of getting into the Countdown at Brainerd, but needs a flawless race.
Pro Stock driver Shane Gray, Johnny’s son, can clinch a spot by having a nearly perfect race.
“We are certainly going to try and get in the Countdown, but we just have to go and see what we can get done,” Shane said.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Karen Stoffer can clinch by going one round further than Steve Johnson.
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