SUNDAY FINAL - BRAND MOVES FROM TUNING TO DRIVING EN ROUTE TO WINNING INDY
On Sunday, Brad Brand completed one of the strangest journeys to the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals victory circle in the 58-year history of the event.
Brand started the rain-delayed event as the crew chief for the R2B2 Racing's two turbo powered entries in the NHRA Pro Mod Series presented by ProCare Rx. When the rains pushed racing to a second weekend, driver/team owner Roger Burgess couldn't make it back to resume the race.
The figurative keys to the ProCare Rx Chevy Corvette were turned over to Brand with one opportunity to make the field.
"I really thought I'd be able to get down the track," Brand said. "The air was so good yesterday that we had more power than we've had for this car all season. I missed it pretty bad."
So bad, in fact, that Brand qualified No. 17 and initially didn't make race. Luckily, some racers who were at Lucas Oil Raceway for the first weekend, couldn't make it back for the second. Brand, as first alternate, got into the field as the No. 16 qualified car.
"We got lucky," Brand said. "I knew if we turned the power down, we'd still go fast."
Brand was fast enough to beat No. 1 qualifier Don Walsh in the first round on Sunday morning then followed it up with wins over Steve Matusek, Rickie Smith and finally Mike Castellana in the final.
"I think it's safe to say we made some good calls today," Brand said. "Good calls, great team, no parts breakages. It's a pretty nice feeling.
"We've been so close this year, I'm so glad it all came together today and Roger saying for me to treat the car like it's my own."
In the finals against Castellana, Brand made his second best pass of the day: a 5.914 second lap at 251.63 mph. Castellana shook the tires at about 100 feet and limped home with a pass of 12.763 seconds at 83.97 mph.
With the runner-up finish, Castellana moved four points ahead of Smith in the season points standings.
The NHRA Pro Mod Series continues Sept. 14-16 with the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, N.C.
Final round-by-round results for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx portion of the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway Park at Indianapolis:
ROUND ONE -- Steve Matusek, Ford Mustang, 6.071, 232.15 def. Harold Martin, Chevy Corvette, 7.840, 126.51; Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 6.044, 242.02 def. Pat Musi, Dodge Stratus, 6.041, 235.64; Troy Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 5.962, 256.06 def. Adam Flamholc, Camaro, 6.007, 239.61; Todd Tutterow, Plymouth Duster, 6.015, 245.00 def. Scott Ray, Corvette, 6.053, 233.76; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.952, 242.80 def. Clint Satterfield, Camaro, 6.166, 238.34; Brad Brand, Corvette, 5.889, 251.86 def. Don Walsh, Mustang, 5.947, 252.99; Leah Pruett, Mustang, 5.920, 248.25 def. Donald Martin, Camaro, DQ; Mike Castellana, Camaro, 5.894, 242.71 def. Shannon Jenkins, Camaro, 5.938, 239.36;
QUARTERFINALS -- Coughlin, 5.951, 251.67 def. Tutterow, 5.929, 246.17; Castellana, 5.893, 241.15 def. Farber, 6.039, 245.40; Brand, 8.191, 117.56 def. Matusek, broke;
SEMIFINALS -- Brand, 5.994, 248.57 def. Smith, 5.962, 242.19; Castellana, 7.935, 120.94 def. Coughlin, foul;
FINAL -- Brand, 5.914, 251.63 def. Castellana, 12.763, 83.97.
Point standings (top 10) for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx following the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway Park at Indianapolis:
1. Mike Castellana, 493; 2. Rickie Smith, 489; 3. Troy Coughlin, 429; 4. Don Walsh, 428; 5. Danny Rowe, 419; 6. Leah Pruett, 379; 7. Donald Martin, 350; 8. Pete Farber, 334; 9. Kenny Lang, 303; 10. Steve Matusek, 277.
SATURDAY - 2 - WALSH EARNS FIRST CAREER NHRA PM NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITION
Don Walsh raced to his first career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the rain-delayed NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx portion of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus.
Walsh took the top spot at historic Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis with a performance of 5.854 seconds at 252.52 mph in his Walsh Precision Turbo Ford Mustang. The winner of the tour's most recent event in Norwalk, Ohio, Walsh will face Brad Brand in Sunday's first round of eliminations at the world's most prestigious drag race as he goes for his second win of the season and third consecutive final round.
Other notable first round pairings in the seventh of 10 events in the series are Troy Coughlin vs. Adam Flamholc, 2011 Indy runner-up Mike Castellana vs. Shannon Jenkins, series points leader Rickie Smith vs. Clint Satterfield and Donald Martin vs. Leah Pruett.
THE FIRST ROUND - Sunday's first-round eliminations pairings for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare Rx portion of the 58th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway Park at Indianapolis. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
1. Don Walsh, Ford Mustang, 5.854, 252.52 vs. 16. Brad Brand, Chevy Corvette, 8.940, 103.96; 2. Troy Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 5.909, 256.21 vs. 15. Adam Flamholc, Camaro, 7.520, 120.05; 3. Mike Castellana, Camaro, 5.925, 241.67 vs. 14. Shannon Jenkins, Camaro, 6.689, 176.14; 4. Donald Martin, Camaro, 5.961, 243.85 vs. 13. Leah Pruett, Mustang, 6.520, 241.80; 5. Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.963, 242.89 vs. 12. Clint Satterfield, Camaro, 6.270, 241.11; 6. Pat Musi, Dodge Stratus, 6.004, 230.10 vs. 11. Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 6.254, 240.77; 7. Todd Tutterow, Plymouth Duster, 6.031, 247.57 vs. 10. Scott Ray, Corvette, 6.113, 233.52; 8. Harold Martin, Corvette, 6.057, 236.75 vs. 9. Steve Matusek, Mustang, 6.064, 247.79. Did Not Qualify: 17. Kenny Lang, 12.384, 95.20.
SECOND CHANCE APPRECIATED – ProCare Rx-sponsored driver Leah Pruett felt uncomfortable with each falling rain drop during the first week of the NHRA U.S. Nationals. A week later she’s appreciative of her second chance.
Initially, race officials sensing they could beat the forecast and race last Monday, closed qualifying after one session leaving Pruett as a spectator. The event was eventually postponed, and qualifying was reopened.
"Hallelujah, we get another chance," Pruett confirmed she said when qualifying was reopened. "For a while there, the Weather Channel was the only TV I watched [last week]. I studied radar and satellite images. I Googled every weather site on the internet, all trying to predict if we'd get enough rain to get another chance to make the field."
In Pruett’s only run during Friday’s qualifying, she suffered a turbocharger failure. Today she gained a spot in the field with an over-the-edge 6.520, 241.80.
DID NOT RETURN – At least five drivers did return for the rescheduled Indy event, four of whom are competing in the ADRL Memphis Drags in Memphis, Tenn. Only one session was completed before the vent was postponed.
No. 5 qualifier Pat Musi, driving Rickie Smith’s second car, and Todd Tutterow No. 7, along with non-qualifiers Adam Flamholic and Mike Janis, were the top four qualifiers after the first day at the Memphis event.
Roger Burgess, No. 15 qualifier, was unable to return due to business obligations.
SUNDAY - RAIN INVADES THE BIG GO; ACTION SCHEDULED FOR MONDAY
Persistent rains have forced NHRA officials to cancel the final two qualifying sessions for the Mac Tools U. S. Nationals presented by Auto-Plus at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis on Sunday. The fields for all the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series categories -- Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle -- have been set by the qualifying sessions that took place on Friday and Saturday.
Courtney Force in Funny Car, Spencer Massey in Top Fuel, Erica Enders in Pro Stock, and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle will begin eliminations Monday in the No. 1 position.
Fields in the Lucas Oil NHRA Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by ProCare RX have also been set.
In addition, the NHRA Traxxas Funny Car Showdown scheduled to run on Sunday has been postponed to a later date.
“We believe that with the forecast for the remainder of the day that it would be extremely difficult to get the track into racing condition,” said Graham Light, NHRA senior vice president racing operations. “We are planning to run a full day tomorrow.”
Sportsman racing will begin at 8:00 a. m. with the first round of eliminations for the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series to take place starting at 11 a. m.
SATURDAY - NO QUALIFYING ON SATURDAY
Rain delays on Saturday morning and the threat of further inclement forced NHRA officials to cancel Saturday’s two Pro Modified Challenge presented by ProCareRX.
The Pro Modified cars were initially scheduled to run at 2:00 and 5:50 PM.
Turbo racer Donnie Walsh leads the 16-car field with a 5.869 elapsed time at 252.52 mph.
The Pro Modified cars will have one more opportunity to qualify on Sunday and will go into final eliminations later on in the afternoon.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - CONSERVATIVE FIRST DAY FOR SALE; FAST FOR OTHERS
It’s already been a dream season for Donnie Walsh in NHRA Pro Modified, but after one day at Indianapolis, Walsh appears set on trying to top himself.
After picking up his first career win at the most recent Pro Mod event in Norwalk, Ohio, Walsh is off to a brilliant start at the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, running a 5.869 at 252.52 mph on Friday to take the top qualifying spot after one round of action.
If it holds up, it would give Walsh his first ever No. 1 qualifier in Pro Mod, which would be the perfect way to keep his hot streak going.
“It’s pretty exciting. We may only get one qualifier with how the rain looks, so we just wanted to get in. So to get in like that is pretty exciting,” Walsh said.
The Pro Mod class will get two qualifying opportunities on Saturday and a final one on Sunday, but some – or all – of those runs might be wiped away with the inclement weather expected in Indianapolis.
That made Walsh’s run on Friday even more important and he delivered a strong run in what was the next to last pair of the session.
His turbocharged 2011 Mustang has made remarkable strides in a short time, exemplified by his standout performance in the scorching Norwalk heat in July.
Despite treacherous conditions, Walsh was one of just a few drivers to make one consistent pass after another, topped off by three straight runs in the 5.80s in eliminations.
Two months later, it appeared that not much has changed for Walsh, who is making a late-season charge for a championship.
To get down the track on Thursday, Walsh admitted he also got a fortunate break.
“We were tuned up but we were worried about the track. Everything just came to us,” Walsh said. “I think it helped us out a lot that the weather came in with some humidity. It took a little bit out of it right at the starting line, which I think helped it get down.”
Donald Martin and his ’69 Camaro is currently second with a 5.961 at 243.85 mph, while Danny Rowe is right behind with a 5.983 to put him in third. Mike Castellana is the only other driver in the 5-second zone, going 5.992.
Despite the strong showing on Friday, don’t expect to see Walsh in cruise control for the rest of qualifying.
“Nothing puts you in cruise control at Indy,” Walsh said.
BACK TO THE 1320 - Driving a turbocharged ‘70 Duster on Friday at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Todd Tutterow made his usual solid pass to the eighth-mile.
This time, though, he didn’t have to pull the chutes.
Racing in the ¼-mile for the first time in what he estimated to be 10 years, Tutterow couldn’t shake the smile off his face after going 6.031 at 247.57, good enough for seventh after one qualifying pass in Pro Mod at the NHRA U.S. Nationals.
“It’s a good feeling looking up and knowing I’m just halfway there,” Tutterow said.
Tutterow, a current standout and former world champion in ADRL Pro Extreme, debuted the ’70 Duster – after multiple problems – for the first time at ADRL’s Dragstock at zMAX Dragway in early August.
Weeks later, Tutterow is making his NHRA debut at Indianapolis, running a ¼-mile pass in what is surely an uncharacteristic setting for the driver and tuner extraordinaire.
But it didn’t seem to bother Tutterow, who also clearly enjoyed his first U.S. Nationals experience.
“It’s not too hard. I’ve run so many different cars and combinations, and jumped from one thing to another, it just really comes natural. I guess I’m lucky for that,” Tutterow said.
“It was a thrill when I was sitting behind the waterbox and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Here I am, running the U.S. Nationals.’”
But Tutterow isn’t in Indianapolis just for nostalgia.
Like he has all year, he’s tuning Donnie Walsh’s turbo Mustang, and Tutterow has his own sights set on doing well at Lucas Oil Raceway.
He is certainly onto something with his tuning prowess when it comes to the turbo cars as well.
Walsh is having his best season ever in NHRA Pro Mod, winning for the first time in July and currently sitting as the No. 1 qualifier with a 5.869 at 252.52 mph.
Tutterow noticed some standout power in his turbo Duster in the back half of his run, which is where the turbo cars usually shine.
But his goal for the weekend to continue to improve the start.
“They do run well at the back and that’s what I’m here for, to make it run the front part of the run,” Tutterow said. “We’ve been testing the last three weeks, different combinations, transmissions, rear-ends and converters, trying to work on the 1/8-mile combination.”
That’s because Tutterow will take the Duster to the ADRL’s Memphis Drags next week.
His lightweight Mustang is still being repaired and put back together after a crash in St. Louis in June, but he’s hoping to have that completed and overhauled to a turbo set-up by the end of September.
If Tutterow gets the results he’s after this weekend in Indianapolis, the lightweight Mustang could be especially dangerous with a turbo combination.
“It’s going good. The (Duster) is just heavy. I’m planning on picking my car up on the way and then we’re going to put the turbos on it, and hopefully have it by (the ADRL Ohio Drags in Norwalk on Sept. 28-29),” Tutterow said.
“It’s going to be tough, but that’s the plan anyway. This car is 250 pounds heavier than my (Mustang), so that’s going to be a major deal.”
VETERANS WITH BENEFITS - It wasn’t exactly a sequence of events that brought them closer together, but both Rickie Smith and Pat Musi were involved in horrific crashes last year racing in NHRA Pro Modified.
On Friday at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, they were teammates, fully recovered from their respective incidents and enjoying life at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Both have rebounded well from their 2011 crashes and already experienced plenty of success in 2012, but Friday provided an exciting dynamic by having two racing legends paired together.
It certainly brought a grin to Musi’s face when discussing a relationship with Smith that has grown significantly in recent seasons.
“We’ve known each other a long time, but in these past three years, we’ve kind of gotten mutual respect,” Musi said. “It takes a lot for me to trust somebody, but whatever he turns on that car, I have total confidence in it.”
That’s a big statement from Musi, who raced in the ¼-mile for the first time on Friday in Pro Mod since his crash last May in Atlanta.
Musi crashed hard into the guardwall at Atlanta Dragway’s shutdown area, and an MRI soon after revealed a fractured vertebrae.
He underwent surgery to insert titanium pins into his lower back, but always a fighter, Musi was quickly back behind the wheel.
Musi has performed well in the ADRL Pro Mod class, while his return to the NHRA Pro Mod scene as Smith’s teammate yielded terrific results on Friday.
Musi, who was the Pro Stock No. 1 qualifier in Indy at the U.S. Nationals in 1981, is currently fifth after one session with a 6.004 at 230.10 mph in a 2009 nitrous-powered Stratus.
He’s also content leaving the car in Smith’s hands.
“He knows these cars front to back, I guarantee it,” Musi said.
Smith is relying on Musi these days as well, dipping into Musi’s EFI-powered racing engines.
A month after Musi crashed into the guardwall last year, Smith had his own nasty crash, this one coming at Bristol Dragway last June.
Smith suffered a serious knee injury that resulted in surgery, but he’s been back in full force in 2012, winning twice in NHRA Pro Mod and also running well in the ADRL.
He went 6.04 at 242.89 mph, good enough for eighth on Friday, and Musi notices a similar trust with Smith.
“He’s getting that way with the engine stuff with me. He’s a serious racer. There’s nobody more serious than him,” Musi said. “He races full-time and he’s serious. He lives and breathes this stuff, but I understand it.
As far as being teammates for the weekend, Smith saw plenty of benefits to teaming up with his friend.
Most of them, though, led back to racing and his performance at the U.S. Nationals.
“It gives us data on two different things. I run the Goodyears on his car and Hoosiers on mine. I’ll be back with the Goodyears because we shook and I had to pedal,” Smith said. “But that’s one reason to run two cars. You get double information.”
THURSDAY NOTEBOOK -
LEGENDS REUNITE - They were once fierce rivals, battling ruthlessly on the track within the mountain motor Pro Stock area. On this year's grand stage of the NHRA U.S. Nationals these doorslammers legends will become an army of one.
Seven-time IHRA world champion turned Pro Modified racer Rickie Smith announced today the addition of a second car, with past Pro Street champion Pat Musi behind the wheel, during the Labor Day tradition.
The car Musi will drive is a Jerry Bickel-built 1968 Camaro sponsored by IDG with an identical power combination to the 2012 Camaro Smith currently drives.
“This is going to be great and a lot of fun,” said Musi. “Rickie and I have always respected one another and we work really well together. Over the years we kind of did our own things. I was humbled because I have always considered him the best at what he does. When he picked me to drive his car it’s overwhelming because when you ask someone to drive it means you show trust.”
For Smith, understanding the caliber of Musi made the decision a no-brainer.
“He’s a good driver and has been behind the wheel long enough to know when to quit,” said Smith. “He knows where the edge is and knows where not to go. He’ll be a great addition for Indy.”
Both Smith and Musi have history at the NHRA’s gala event. Smith picked up his first Indy title in 2003 and while Musi still seeks his first victory at The Big Go, he does boast a Pro Stock No. 1 qualifier during the 1981 running.
“I’m pretty stoked about this because when you look at this, this is a dream team of sorts,” Musi said with enthusiasm. “When I roll to the starting line there will be no nerves or butterflies. I will go to the line with a car I know is capable of winning and that’s our goal.”
INDY, HERE SHE COMES - This weekend's Indy couldn't come soon enough for Pro Mod ace Leah Pruett.
"I can't wait to get back in car," Pruett said. "Two months is way too long to be out of the car. The first hit in testing last week I could really tell I hadn't been the car since Norwalk. It took a while to get back in the groove.
"We found some power in our time off, and that's exciting. What's even better is the test showed us we know how to use it."
That test, which included the turbo Corvette driven by team owner Roger Burgess, was a good indication on what to expect once qualifying begins.
"The Indy test went well," she said. "We made five passes, with our best one being a 5.87 on Wednesday evening, so we were pretty happy with that. The track was really good. The NHRA guys were there and had prepped it just like they do for the Nationals so it should be about the same when we return this weekend."
LOOKING TO WIN - Troy Coughlin has designs on Indy glory.
"I count myself as one of the fortunate ones that won Indy in the past," Coughlin said. "It's a race every driver wants to claim, almost as much as a championship, because of the long history of the event. Everyone that's someone in the sport has won Indy. I was lucky enough to get my first Indy win really early in my career (1991 in Super Gas) so I've been able to come here ever since and just have fun with it.
"We're serious about our racing but we have a rule that we have to be smiling and having fun along the way. We've been smiling a lot this year, and of course having a great hot rod makes it easier to enjoy the journey."
Coughlin has recorded two runner-up finishes in the last three events and has established himself as a bona fide championship contender. He's currently fifth in the championship standings, just 63 points off the lead. In drag racing, that's the rough equivalent of three elimination-round wins.
"The top three guys are only nine points apart and (fourth-place) Don Walsh and our team are only a few rounds behind that group," Coughlin said. "It's getting exciting. There's four races left, which should be plenty for everyone dreaming about winning it all to make a move. At the same time, we're running out of races, so Indy could end up being super important to the bigger picture."
NO CORVETTE FOR COUGHLIN IN INDY - Amidst great expectations, sources have indicated Coughlin will not run his forthcoming C6 Corvette from R2B2 Race cars this weekend.
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