BEAUTY AND THE BEASTS - The NHRA Factory Stock Showdown is everything the late Bob Tasca had in mind when he coined the phrase, "Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday." In one of the greatest gatherings of modern day muscle. sixteen Factory Stock Showdown competitors battle it out for the most prestigious of all drag race titles - U.S. Nationals champion. Narrated by veteran drag race announcers Joe Castello, Brian Lohnes and Alan Reinhart.

Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Sean Bellemeur, Chevy Camaro, 5.821, 257.09 def. Chris Marshall, Camaro, 6.638, 154.02.
Top Alcohol Dragster -- Josh Hart, 5.271, 274.89 def. Dan Page, 5.460, 261.62.
Competition Eliminator -- David Rampy, Roadster, 7.386, 154.25 def. Greg Kamplain, Dragster, Foul - Red Light.
Stock Eliminator -- T.C. Morris, Pontiac GTO, 10.971, 121.11 def. Jerry Emmons, Chevy Camaro, Foul - - Red Light.
Super Stock -- Dennis Steward, Plymouth Savoy, 10.411, 100.76 def. Dale Hulquist, Pontiac Grand Am, Foul - Red Light.
Super Comp -- Joe Hessling, Dragster, 8.903, 189.90 def. Gary Stinnett, Dragster, 8.912, 179.18.
Super Gas -- Devin Isenhower, Chevy Camaro, 9.907, 157.50 def. Steve Hoyt, Chevy Corvette, 10.271, 132.26.
Factory Stock Showdown -- Leah Pritchett, Dodge Challenger, 8.108, 170.26 def. Mark Pawuk, Challenger, 8.191, 167.51.




DISQUALIFIED AGAIN - Factory Stock Showdown racer Joe Welch has been disqualified a second time during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals following a first-round win. Per an NHRA official, Welch was disqualified officially for an illegal throttle body modification. Welch defeated Mark Pawuk in the first round; however, following the ruling Pawuk will be reinstated.

ELEPHANTS ON PARADE - In 1968, the folks from Chrysler decided they needed to build the ultimate Stock and Super Stock vehicle from their factory. They teamed up with Hurst for what was a limited run of Barracudas and Darts, and what they built was a total of 50 were built with 426 Hemis. They were not street legal, nor were they street driven. They were only destroyed to go out and destroy Fords and Chevys on the drag strip.

Sit back, crank up the speakers and enjoy the action from the 2018 Dodge Hemi Shootout from the NHRA U.S. Nationals and called by veteran announcer Brian Lohnes along with Mopar legend Herb McAndless.

THE UNLIKELY FINAL - In another world, this might have been a street race. Instead, the diverse world of Stock Eliminator played host to this drag race. Every Thursday at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, the many classifications within Stock Eliminator for a giant gathering of intramural skirmishes known as Class Eliminations. While there are 30-plus classes represented in 170-plus competitors, there are instances where some combinations have only one car. The NHRA combines those lone wolves in two divisions designated by the choice of transmission, manual or automatic. This video shows off the unique final round of the manually shifted portion.

TONS OF FUN - O/Stock Automatic is to drag racing what recreation, beer league softball is to former baseball players. It is competitive, it's fun and it's easy to get involved with. Follow along with competitors Patrick Downing and Randall Campbell as they prepare for the ultimate drag race between a truck and a station wagon.


LAST MINUTE TRIP TO INDY - Three weeks ago Chris Marshall wasn’t even planning to be at the Big Go, and now he’s here and qualified No. 1 out of 19 cars in his mostly self-funded Top Alcohol Funny Car.

After taking home two Wallys in the past few weeks, Marshall thought he should try his luck at the U.S. Nationals.

“Well it’s pretty motivating when it all comes together finally. We’ve had a good car this year, but I haven’t been able to get it done… When we got it all together in Seattle, it felt really good to win obviously. And then we went to the regional race the next weekend and won that one. It gave us the motivation to try to find our way over here.”

But even with all his recent success, he didn’t imagine he’d be sitting on the pole position after Q4 on Saturday.

“I didn’t expect that. I have been number one qualifier eight out of the 11 events I’ve been to this year, which is pretty crazy. But being on a track I’ve never been to, the humidity and the track and all that. No, I didn’t really expect that, but it’s pretty amazing.”

Marshall has never been to the U.S. Nationals, not even as a spectator. He tried to mentally prepare himself for the biggest race in the world, but he says it’s still overwhelming.

“[Indy is] amazing. And coming to it, I actually tried to set my mind up to just treat it like every other race. It’s just like another race. You know, just do your normal thing. Once I was here, it did [get overwhelming], just like they say on TV. I think it’s a cliche because you think, how can it be that much different? But it is. You can feel it. Just something about it. I didn’t believe it until I was here.”

Marshall had to make a lot of adjustments to his car due to the air conditions in Indiana versus the West Coast, but he says the most important thing is being faster than the cars in the field.

“The car isn’t running the numbers that we like to run but as long as it’s better than the rest of the cars I guess is what matters right now. So yeah the water grains are a big deal and that slows everything down and make some changes. I seem to be making the right changes somehow.”

Marshall is trying not to let the hype of Indy get to him, and is focusing on keeping his car consistant.

“I’m trying to make the right decisions, and not trying to rotate the earth. What’s caught me this year is always trying to go quicker. Always quicker. No matter how quick it was, I want to go a little quicker and finding some consistency is really what I needed to actually go rounds, and that’s what I’m trying to do now.”

Marshall got his start in mud racing, which he says helps him navigate his 260-mile-per-hour Top Alcohol Funny Car.

TROY COUGHLIN JR. HAS NO REGRETS - Troy Coughlin Jr. has driven everything from bracket cars to Top Fuel Dragsters, but this weekend at the Big Go, he’s looking to bring home a Wally in his jegs.com Top Alcohol Dragster.

In 2017, Coughlin started out the year behind the wheel of a Kalitta Motorsports-owned Top Fuel Dragster. When he stepped out of the seat mid-year, he soon found himself wheeling an alcohol-fueled dragster.

Coughlin says he has no regrets about initially bypassing Top Alcohol Dragsters for a Top Fuel Dragster to begin his nitro career, but he says he has learned a lot in the last year.  

“It is what it is. Everything happens for a reason and I believe that. But I think it’s either way, it just depends on the reason you’re here and what your goals are. My goals are to come out and be a great driver and to win rounds and races because of good driving and being with a great group of guys who can make a car function and work and able to go up again for the next round on time. It’s a complete package.”

Coughlin has had a successful season so far, winning the “Northeast Shootout” Division 1 race in Maryland, and just last weekend winning the Division 3 race at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Kentucky, clinching his North Central Regional Top Alcohol Dragster championship.  

Heading into Indy, Coughlin says this momentum is a blessing.

“We get a lot of runs, a lot of data, a lot of mental data for the approach and just having a good mindset going into each lap. It helps because you’re on a swing, everything’s going right.”

Coughlin has driven just about every kind of racecar you can think of, and he has a little difficulty defining his favorite.

“The Pro Mod car was a blast to drive because it was just so smooth and so fast with the turbochargers. But you know, I really think this alcohol car’s fun because it’s such a consistent, winning car with a great team. The Top Fuel car had its coolness because of the raw power and the chance that if you are quick and you can hit the tree and you can keep this thing hooked up in the groove, you’re going to win a lot of rounds.”

The Coughlin family is one of the most respected and recognized in the sport of NHRA drag racing, and Coughlin says he’s thankful to be able to do something he loves with his family always around.

“I’ve always believed I’m the most fortunate kid in the pits. My whole family’s here, most of my family’s here. My wife Brenna, she’s new to the drag racing scene so we’re breaking her in. It’s an honor to be a part of this because look, my uncle Jeg’s a multi-time world champion, won in seven different classes. My father’s a three time Pro Modified world champion. You know, people would like to say that it’s more pressure for you, well I just replace the pressure with incentive to want to do well and to represent myself, and my team at the best we can be.”

Coughlin is currently qualified No. 13 heading into first round on Sunday.

FROM NORWAY TO THE BIG GO - Julie Nataas is in Indianapolis, Ind. for the first time in her life this weekend - and she’s here to bring home the Wally in the competitive Top Alcohol Dragster class.

Nataas, holding the title of NHRA’s quickest sportsman female driver, moved from her hometown in Norway to California to attend college. Growing up watching her father race Top Fuel, she knew that she wanted to follow in his footsteps.

“So my dad, he was a Top Fuel driver and I want that too, ever since I was 11 or 12-years-old. I wanted it because I was down at Pomona with my dad and I saw all these cool guys and girls going down the race track in a different way than Europe, and just then I decided that that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Nataas ended up in the seat of a Randy Meyer-owned dragster thanks to her good friend, NHRA Fuel Funny Car driver Jonnie Lindberg.

“So I know Jonnie Lindberg through racing in Europe, and when I didn’t race here while living here, I was kind of going out to the races with him and his family. One day I just told him ‘hey, can you get me into racing?’ So he’s like ‘yeah, I’m going to introduce you to this guy.’ Randy [Meyer] was actually over in Sweden so that’s where we first met, at the race there.”

Nataas knows that there are lots of young drivers who look up to her as a successful female in the sport. Her best advice is to just follow your heart and do what you love.

“I moved from my home country because I was hoping to get racing out here. So I did that even if everyone told me that was impossible while I was still in school. I would just follow your dreams, don’t give up.”

If Nataas wins the Top Alcohol Dragster Wally this weekend, you might see some tears - happy tears, that is.

“My eyes are going to be crying so much. I’ve been crying every semifinal round I won. If I win the Wally here I don’t know if I’m going to be able to talk. I might pass out.”

Nataas is currently qualified No. 3 heading into first round on Sunday.

CAN I BORROW SOME NAIL POLISH? - Krista Baldwin grew up watching her grandpa, Chris Karamesines, race his Top Fuel Dragster across the country. But Karamesines, her role model, didn’t want her behind the wheel of a racecar at first.  

“He did not want me to be a racecar driver. That’s for sure. He always gave me a goal. He’s like, you know what, you’re not going to get into a car until you graduate college. Well I graduated college and two months later I made my debut at the Winternationals. He didn’t want this life for me, but seeing me so happy and being successful, I think now he realizes that I’m hooked. There’s no way I’m going to go back, there’s no stopping me. So he now he’s giving me advice. I can go to him and say, ‘Hey, I felt this in the race car. What do you think it is?’ And he’ll tell me insight on what to do. He won’t tell me outright what to do, he’ll be like, ‘Well just think about it and I’ll let you know.’”

Baldwin, nicknamed the Greekette after her grandfather, “The Golden Greek”, knows that she’s one of the youngest drivers on the property, and she has a passion for bringing the NHRA experience to fans of all ages. When talking about her teammate, Justin Ashley, Baldwin says “We’re enthusiasts, very much enthusiasts, and we’re just excited to be the face of this new era.”

“We want to have younger kids come to the sport. That’s what’s going to engage the crowd. You can watch this sport on tv, yeah it’s okay, but it’s not the same as sitting here, smelling the nitro, feeling the thunder, watching the nitro cars go down the track. It’s completely different. It’s definitely a sensory experience, so what we need, if Justin and I, and say Julie [Nataas] and Megan Meyer, and Ashley Sanford, and Cameron Ferre, and all those guys, we need to be together and bring more people to the sport.”

So how did Baldwin end up behind the wheel of a 260-mile-per-hour Top Alcohol Dragster? It all started with nail polish.

“So we [Anthony Dicero] met a few years ago in Charlotte and we met because I had some nail polish and his three-year-old daughter chipped a nail helping fill up the fuel, so I came to the rescue. That’s how it started. Right there I started looking at the Top Alcohol class.”

And Top Alcohol is known as one of the most competitive classes in NHRA drag racing. Baldwin even says it’s “cutthroat.”

“You have to be the best you can be in this car. It’s a huge puzzle. So you have the driver, you have the race car, you have the tuneup, you have the crew chief, you have the workers. Everything needs to fit perfect in order to make a successful run.”

“It’s cutthroat, let me tell you. It’s very cutthroat. There’s times when I get out at the top end and I just want to hit something because I messed up. I knew if I messed up, I lost the race. Sometimes we smoke the tires. It’s hard. You just never know, but that’s the name of the game. I mean I guess I like stress because I keep doing this. I don’t know why, but I do. Just because I just love it so much.”
Baldwin says she’s often asked when she’s going to step into her grandpa’s Top Fuel dragster.

“I’ll probably never get in his car because I don’t want to take that away from him. That’s his project, that’s his baby, and I want him to continue to do what he wants. Now granted, I would love to get into the Top Fuel ranks but I still want to be successful here [in Top Alcohol]. I still want to win a race, I still want to run for a championship, and so I want to, granted I can’t predict the future, but I want a Wally from this class before I move on.”

Baldwin didn’t make the field, qualifying 21 out of 26 cars.

60 YEARS & GOING STRONG - Bud Polhill is in the stands for the U.S. Nationals this weekend for the sixtieth consecutive time. You read that right. He’s been traveling from his home in Ontario, Canada to watch the historic event for the past 60 years - even before the event came to Indianapolis.

“My wife knows that I’m not going to be home on Labor Day weekend…. I’ve been to a lot of races around the country, but this is the one that I always come to because it’s the biggest one.”

Many of his years were here on the racetrack, but the past 25 have been spent as a spectator.

The 79-year-old has a lot of memories in the last 60 years, but a few of his favorites involve some NHRA legends.

“I remember the time when Don Garlits won here and he got on the starting line and shaved his beard off. He grew it and said I’m not shaving it off until we run this fast and I win this race. And he got up there at the starting line and shaved his beard off. That was great.”

“Also Tom McEwen, when he came here just shortly after his son died and ended up winning the race. That was pretty emotional for a lot of people here.”

If there’s one thing he’s still waiting to see, it’s his son Steve [Polhill] take the win in Stock Eliminator.

Polhill says the racing bug bit him after just one trip to the track.

“I was sitting at home one weekend and everybody said, ‘Well the U.S. Nationals are coming to Detroit.’ I said, ‘That’s only 100 miles away. I should go.’ So a couple of us loaded up our stuff and we went to Detroit for that race, and that was it, I was hooked.”

A similar thing happened to his son, Steve, who also fell in love with racing at an early age.

“That little white Escort, I bought him [Steve] that so he could drive back and forth to school. One Sunday morning I said, ‘Where are you going’. He said, ‘I’m going down to the race track, I’m going to the drag races.’ I figured he’s going down to watch. I come home that night and he’s got this trophy that’s half as big as he is, and I said, ‘You know what you just did, don’t you? You’re screwed, you’re hooked.’ He’s been racing ever since, in the same car.”

Polhill said that other than watching his son compete, his favorite class to watch is Competition Eliminator.

“They’re all so different and there’s so many different combinations and the people are great. They’re competitors, but only when it comes onto the track. The rest of the time they’re good friends.”

He says there’s nothing in the world like NHRA drag racing, and that’s what keeps him coming back to Indy every year.

“You meet so many nice people from all over the country. Drag racing is that kind of a sport. NASCAR is a great sport, but you can’t do this at a NASCAR race. You can’t walk through the pits and talk to the racers. That’s the good part about it, you get to really get involved in it and see the people, and see what the people are really like. Like the commercial says, every ticket is a pit pass.”

NOT A CHEATER - Joe Welch, a back-to-back Factory Stock event winner (Briston 2018, Norwalk 2018), was disqualified from counting his first and second qualifying passes at Lucas Oil Raceway after it was found that he had an illegal suspension system.  

Welch said that he didn’t know the adjustable link on his suspension was illegal, but after looking at the rules, he doesn’t deny having it on his 2015 Dodge Challenger.  

“I’ve been running the same suspension since 2015. The car was totally torn down in 2015 during the tech inspection, and again when I ran at the Gatornationals this year… They put the suspension together on the car, and we brought it out that way. And we brought it out the first race, it’s never been different. But today it was an issue.”

But Welch says even though he was running an illegal suspension system, “the adjustable link did not give me a performance advantage.”

“I went through a full inspection on my suspension system, they spent about half an hour and took pictures of it, and no one said anything. But, clearly, I don’t disagree with what the rule says. It says I can’t have an adjustable link on the bottom, and my link is adjustable. I’ve never adjusted it. It is what it is, and I’m sorry that it happened.”

Welch is more concerned about possible engine damage from the second qualifying pass.

“Something happened in my supercharger, peeled off a piece of metal, and we just got the car put back together about five minutes ago. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it didn’t do any internal damage to the engine. We did all the diagnostic tests that we could do. Clearly, there isn’t enough time for us to change an engine and be ready for tomorrow.”

Welch says his goal now is to focus and just get qualified.

“The goal is to put a conservative tune in it so we don’t spin the tires; don’t try to be Mr. Macho out there. Let’s get in the field, and hopefully we get one more qualifying run and then, if we get in on this one, we’ll see what we’ve got in the car.”

Even though he’s brought home two Wallys this year, Welch has had a pretty difficult season when it comes to getting qualified.  

“Ironically, every race that I’ve won this year - Norwalk and Bristol - we’ve just had a miserable time qualifying. I’ve just not an uneventful qualification. I’ve had a rough time.”
Even with some fingers being pointed at Welch, he claims he’s not a cheater.

“I’m not going to whine and cry, but I’ve had more than my fair share of love from my other racers. I’m pretty sure I know who’s doing it. I’ve had just about every part on this car inspected. I’m sure that it’s not over. But you win a couple races, and some people just gotta make you to be a cheater.”

“I’m not a cheater. Well, I don’t think I am. I don’t start off to cheat, that’s for darn sure. The adjustable link did not give me a performance advantage.”  

Welch has one more chance to qualify for the field in the fourth round of qualifying on Sunday.



MEYER PLANS TO TAKE RECORD FROM FORCE - Megan Meyer was the bridesmaid in 2017, falling short to Josh Hart in the finals of Top Alcohol Dragster at the U.S. Nationals.

“We were so close to getting the win, but we just fell a little bit short on track. We got a lot of rounds here last year.”

Meyer says right now she’s focusing on not redlighting as she prepares for eliminations - since that’s what eliminated her at the last national event when she lost in round two of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minn. She’s looking to bring home a win this weekend, not just because it’s the Big Go, but because she needs the points to help her in her goal of winning the National Championship this year.

“I don’t want to throw away a race this weekend because it means so much to us. We don’t get bonus points or anything extra for this weekend, but there’s a very big car count here, so there’s a lot of competition out here, so we’ve got to be on our A-game. I have three national events left, including this one, to count for points, so it’s down to the wire for me. It’s very important to get as many points as possible this weekend so I can solidify my position as number three or hopefully bump up to number two in points.”

The U.S. Nationals can be an overwhelming race for even the most experienced driver. Meyer says she’s “just trying to stay focused, be mentally prepared for anything that happens on track and not let all the hype get to me when I get in the cockpit.”
The Randy Meyer Racing team has two cars here this weekend with Julie Nataas also wheeling another dragster in the category.

“It’s great that we can run two cars because Julie and I can work together to kind of block points for each other.”

Meyer says growing up she had many female role models - like Ashley Force, Erica Enders, Angelle Sampey and Amy Faulk. But she’s looking to pass Force as the winningest female in Top Alcohol Dragster.   

“I really look up to those females... Right now I have four national event wins. I’ve got to get six to get past Ashley Force for the winningest female in Top Alcohol Dragster. So that’s my goal between this year and next year is to get at least two more wins, so that way I can pass her.”

And while most Top Alcohol drivers have a goal of moving up to Top Fuel, Meyer’s passion is in the Alcohol-fueled field.

“I get some mixed reactions when I tell people that, because they just assume all the young kids want to just use Top Alcohol as a stepping stone to jump into a Top Fuel Dragster. For me, it’s not like that. I’ve grown up around the Top Alcohol class so it’s always been a dream of mine to race against these guys. I’ve known them for years, so to be a top competitor in this class and to race against the guys that I’ve known for years. So yeah, this is my dream. I want to get a World Championship.”

Meyer is currently qualified No. 7 after running a 5.366 at 276.24 in Q1 and a 5.465 at 271.24 during Q2 on Thursday.

LOMBARDO IN INDY WITH A BOUNTY ON HIS HEAD - John Lombardo Jr. celebrated in the winners circle at Indianapolis for the first time in 1985, when his dad took home the win in Nitro Funny Car. Since then, he’s been chasing that dream of winning his own Wally at Indy - and he made it happen last year.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever enjoyed this pleasure [of coming to Indy as the defending champion]. I started racing here in 2010 and have been back every year, and found pretty much every way to lose this race. To run well all through Sunday and Monday [last year], to do a decent job in the car, and help earn it as a team just meant a tremendous amount.”

Lombardo says he’s accomplished one of his biggest goals by winning the biggest drag race in the world, and next on his bucket list is the National Championship.

“We’ll keep our heads down to try and get that done one of these days.”

It’s no secret that aTop Alcohol Funny Car is one of the toughest race cars on the planet to drive. But Lombardo feels right at home in his 250-mile-per-hour car.

“What we love about it is the same thing that we kind of hate about it. The cars are technical to drive, there’s not a lot of electronics that do the driving for you, and although they’re not quite as extreme as the Nitro Funny Car, there’s more choices to make and more things that you can do wrong.”

Over the years there’s been talk of adding more electronics to the class, but Lombardo hopes that doesn’t happen.

“I’m kind of a purist, I like them the way they are. The driver still has an awful lot to do with it comparatively. Like I say, it’s one of the things we really love about the class.”

It’s not all just about being on the racetrack when he’s in Indy, either. Tomorrow, Lombardo and his team will be hosting the annual “A Day at the Races”, which brings 50 children from the Hoosier Burn Camp to the track for a fun-filled day, at no expense to their families.

“To have that combination of hosting kids that have come back from such a traumatic experience and to be able to share NHRA drag racing, with many of them for the first time, to come out with their friends and families, to kind of share this passion and see them really enjoy the day.”

“Last year we were able to put the Hoosier Burn Camp sticker in the winners circle here and that really rounded out a great weekend.”

Lombardo is currently qualified No. 3 - running a 5.600 at 258.86 in Q1, and 5.731 at 225.60 in Q2 on Friday.

JUSTIN ASHLEY MAKES INDY DEBUT WITH NEW TEAM - Justin Ashley just wanted to have control of his own destiny. This weekend at The Big Go in Indianapolis, he’s back behind the wheel of an A/Fuel Dragster, but it isn’t the Randy Meyer-owned car he’s usually steering. This time, Ashley will be debuting his own racing operation. He’s also announced a new sponsor, 1800CASHOUT, a real estate company that buys distressed rental properties across the country.

“Growing up in this sport and watching my father as a team owner and driver, I always looked up to him and said one day I want to do that. So to be able to do it, and make our debut at Indy, there’s just something about it. It’s really special.”

And following in his father’s footsteps is exactly what he’s doing. “The biggest lesson I took away from my father is to surround yourself with good people. You’re only as good as the people you work with, and I have a fantastic team here. I came from a fantastic team with Randy Meyer Racing. Now I have Lance Larsen, Anthony Dicero, Krista Baldwin, Mark Adkins, Tom Abbett, the entire team, they’re all fantastic.”

Growing up at the racetrack, you’d imagine Ashley would’ve seen himself driving as soon as he could. But he said he actually never thought racing was in the cards for him.

“Growing up, my father kind of almost wanted me to stay away from it. He said, you know what, stick to stick and ball sports if you can - football, baseball, basketball. Once I graduated college, I’m like this is something that I want to do. The NHRA’s very close to my heart. I have a tremendous passion for racing.”

But now, Ashley’s a role model in the sport, especially for younger racers trying to make their way into the Alcohol class.

“To be a role model for kids growing up in the sport, you know, that’s what it’s all about for me. I think that’s so important. I think that the more influx of youth we can get into NHRA, really starting from the Jr. Dragster program is so important. It’s critical to the sport's well-being. If there’s anything I could ever do for any kid out there or anyone who’s interested in driving, I’m always more than happy and more than open to helping them.”

But Ashley’s talents aren’t just found on the race track. At just 23-years-old, he’s already a successful businessman as the owner of 1800CASHOUT. “The way I learned how to be successful is by seeing what other people do, who I consider to be successful and good at what they do.”

Ashley sees a degree of difficulty in both drag racing and flipping houses, two drastically different markets. He says “they’re both tough in their own different way. Both of them involve surrounding yourself with good people, but I think that over the course of time you continue to learn, you continue to develop, you continue to grow and keep your ears open and continue to get better.”

While Ashley’s focus is winning this weekend in Indianapolis, and eventually winning a championship in Top Alcohol Dragster, he says he does hope to transition to Top Fuel at some point.

“I see myself moving to Top Fuel, not necessarily anytime soon. You know, our focus for this team is on Top Alcohol Dragster, is on the rest of this year and next year,
maybe the next few years. But we’ll see where it takes us after this. It’s always been a personal goal of mine to race in Top Fuel. To me that’s, when you reach the pinnacle of a certain profession, there’s something special about it.”

Ashley is currently qualified No. 15 - running a 5.591 at 266.00 in Q1, and a 5.450 at 268.76 in Q2 on Friday.

DOOR CAR IN A SEA OF DRAGSTERS - When Super Comp comes to the lanes, you’re likely to see a lot of Big Block Chevy-powered rear-engine dragsters. So many, in fact, that when Kevin White brings his ‘72 Nova to the lanes, sometimes the track officials think he’s in the wrong place.

“Well, even here on the first qualifying run we pulled up there and the guys tried to put me in [the wrong class] again. And it’s like, ‘No, no, no, dude. Look at my number. I’m Super Comp.’ And it’s, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.’”

Door cars are a rarity in the dragster-dominated class, and door cars that don’t have a delay box or a throttle stop are just a downright anomaly.

“I don’t have a box or throttle stop. Yeah, and everybody that comes up, even dragster people come up and go, ‘What throttle stop are you running?’ It’s like, ‘Well, I’ll tell you the truth. I’m not.’ It’s just me and my motor.”  

The Indianapolis native is competing this weekend in his second U.S. Nationals. But, he just started drag racing five years ago. After buying a collector car at the Mecum auction in Indianapolis, one of only six made, he figured he might as well bring it to the racetrack. And that’s what he did, racing it in True Street at NMCA.

“True Street’s a lot of fun... but I really wanted to get into something more. So that’s when we decided to go find a Nova and build it and go start racing. We built this car two years ago from the ground up.”

White says one of his favorite parts about running his Nova in Super Comp is putting dragsters on the trailer. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for him on Thursday as he fell short to Steve Hoyt in round one.

MCILVAIN RACECARS DOMINATING SPORTSMAN CLASSES - From Super Gas cars to Super Comp Dragsters - Dean Mcilvain can build them all.

Six years isn’t a huge tenure for racecar builders, but for Dean Mcilvain, it’s all he’s needed to get about 45 racecars on tracks across the country. And last weekend in Bowling Green for the NHRA Division 3 race, he had seven of his cars represented out of nearly 200 cars on the property.  

Michael Shelton and Joey Fuesting raced in the finals of Super Comp - and both drivers were wheeling Mcilvain cars. Jeremy Mason, who won the Wally in Super Gas, also put a Mcilvain car in the winner’s circle

“The racing gods were on our side, and it worked out… It was something I would have never dreamed of. We just hope to have winners, let alone what we would consider to be a dominant day. Just incredible.”

Mcilvain’s been building cars for six years, but he’s been racing for more than 20. He built the very first car he ever raced.

“I’ve always done this stuff on the side and then the opportunity come about that my full time job was with a government contractor, they were going to move it to California and I said you know, I think I’m going to give this a try. We’ve been blessed with a lot of really good luck early on in what I figure to be short term compared to most of our competitors.”

In the next few years, Mcilvain says we can expect to see some Mcilvain-build roadsters running in Super Gas, and hopefully lots more dragsters, too.  

And if you find a driver of a Mcilvain racecar - it’s likely that they’ll let you know it. They are passionate about their love for the the Ohio-built racecars.

“We put so much passion into it. If you have one of our cars, we figure you’re our family. I know how much it costs to do all this, and so, we try to do it ourselves. We try to stick around as long as we can when our customers are still in and we just want to have a great support system and be there for any of their needs. It’s just been amazing.”


NEW YEAR, SAME RESULT - Gary Wolkwitz raced his Super Stock 1968 Dodge Dart to the top spot during qualifying for the NHRA Dodge HEMI® Challenge, the popular race-within-a-race held during the NHRA U.S. Nationals. Wolkwitz will start from the pole for the second consecutive year as he seeks his first career win at the Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis facility.

The event, now in its 18th season, comes during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Mopar-powered 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda Super Stock cars that compete in the fan-favorite event. The iconic 42.6-lb NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy and $15,000 winner’s purse will be on the line tomorrow during eliminations. All drivers finishing in the top 16 will receive cash rewards.

“It didn’t do me much good last year,” said New Jersey native Wolkwitz of his No. 1 position, which he nailed down with a 8.524-second elapsed time (ET) in the final qualifying session. “Let’s hope this year is a little bit different. It would be terrific (to claim the win). I turn 73 in October, and this might be my swan song.”

Jimmy Daniels, the two-time and defending event champion, nabbed the No. 2 slot with a strong 8.538 run, earning his same starting position as last year. The 22-year-old dental student from Pennsylvania is hoping to put his imprint in the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge record books by becoming the first driver to claim victory in the event at Indy three years in a row.

“We’re trying hard (for the win),” said Daniels, whose father and namesake is also a past HEMI Challenge winner. “We’ve still got some work ahead of us. This is my first pass since the NHRA Dutch Classic last October, so it’s been awhile. But we’re working on it. The car likes being in the No. 2 spot, and Gary’s No. 1. It’s good to have the Barton (Racing) cars in the one and two spots. We’re feeling good for tomorrow.”

Stephen Comella held the No. 1 spot before ultimately qualifying third with a 8.556 pass in his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda. The New York-based racer posted the fastest speed (156.79 mph) of qualifying. HEMI Challenge veteran and Dodge Dart pilot Jim Pancake (fourth) and inaugural 2001 HEMI Challenge race winner and 1968 Plymouth Barracuda driver Bucky Hess completed the top five.

Rounding out spots 6-10, in order, are last year’s runner-up Gus Mantas, Tony DePillo, Wendell Howes, Rich Locker and 2016 runner-up Stephen Herbert.

A parade of HEMI Challenge cars will take place Friday, August 31, before eliminations commence, with the final round to crown the 2018 champion scheduled for prime time on Friday night, just prior to NHRA Nitro qualifying,

THE UNLIKELY FINAL - In another world, this might have been a street race. Instead, the diverse world of Stock Eliminator played host to this drag race. Every Thursday at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, the many classifications within Stock Eliminator for a giant gathering of intramural skirmishes known as Class Eliminations. While there are 30-plus classes represented in 170-plus competitors, there are instances where some combinations have only one car. The NHRA combines those lone wolves in two divisions designated by the choice of transmission, manual or automatic. This video shows off the unique final round of the manually shifted portion.

TONS OF FUN - O/Stock Automatic is to drag racing what recreation, beer league softball is to former baseball players. It is competitive, it's fun and it's easy to get involved with. Follow along with competitors Patrick Downing and Randall Campbell as they prepare for the ultimate drag race between a truck and a station wagon.


CAMARO SHIPPED ACROSS SEAS FOR THE U.S. NATIONALS - Nic Williams wins the award for furthest traveled, coming from Northampton, England.

“We just decided to come to Indy two weeks ago,” says Williams. He put his car on a boat and shipped it over, then raced last weekend in Bowling Green, and now he’s in Indianapolis hoping to bring home the Wally.  

Williams is racing a ‘69 Chevrolet Camaro in AA-Stock Automatic.

Several changes must be made to the car he’s used to running in the UK - such as running a different type of fuel. But none of that has stopped Williams so far.

With a red light in the first round of class eliminations, and currently sits 129th in qualifying, missing the field by just one car. He’s hoping something will happen that will bump him up to #128 so he can compete for the U.S. Nationals title.

MEDEISIS WOULD JUST RATHER BE AT THE TRACK - Nichole Medeisis isn’t your typical 20-year-old. While most of her friends may be studying or hanging out with friends on the weekends, Medeisis can be found at the racetrack. And this weekend she makes her third appearance at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals driving her Racetrans.com-backed Super Comp dragster.

She says even after being here before, the energy and amount of cars is still overwhelming, but she feels good about her chances of taking home the Wally this weekend.

“We’ve had three pretty good time runs so far. So we’re right where we want to be. Hopefully it keeps going that way for the last time run.”

Medesis says she was pretty much born at the racetrack.

“I was in Juniors starting when I was eight, and then I went up until 17 when I got right into a big car. But before that my brother ran, he’s three years older than I am so I had to watch him for a little bit, and then my Dad also raced when he was younger. He put his car aside for us.”

SPEAK SOFTLY, AND CARRY A BIG STICK - Paul Wong ended Wednesday as the number one qualifier in Stock Eliminator, running his  V/Stock Automatic at 13.512,  -1.988 under index. And this is his first time driving the Bob Shaw-owned car down the racetrack.

“t’s a 1987 El Camino with a 4.3 fuel injected V6. He spent a good couple years working on it. It was number one qualifier here in 2016. A lot of work and time has been put into it now to where now it’s gone two seconds under which is kind of a big feat in Stock Eliminator.”

And Wong is a no stranger to driving eccentric vehicles.

“I number one qualified here in 2012 with an ’86 Chevy C-10 pickup truck. I’ve number one qualified several places with a ’65 Belvedere with a 273 four speed with a U stick. And even my faster cars, some of them are really unique. I’ve got a ’62 Plymouth Savoy 383 with two four barrels. There are tons of unique things.

Wong, racing since ‘86, has been entering the U.S. Nationals 8 times in the past ten years. He says he’s learned a lot from racers before him.

“I learned a lot from these old guys. I’ve got under the wing of these guys that read the class guide before it was even on the internet, they would print it all off. And they would look at specs and check things. The real old timers, people like Bob Shaw, would go buy a street car, halfway set it up, and if it would run within a second of the index then they would know it was worthwhile trying.”

Wong says he and Shaw think there’s more left in the car, but he knows he can’t take anything for granted at the Big Go.

“You know, I’ve been taught early on to not take this place for granted in any way, shape, or form. We felt we were loaded for bear, but you have to respect that there’s a lot of people here trying to accomplish the same thing, and a lot of people speaking softly and bringing a serious A game here. You have no idea how fast anybody can go.

But Wong isn’t thinking about first round just yet - he’s thinking about his “annual party” at tear down.

“I’ve got to get to the tear down barn before I worry about first round.”

When he’s not on the racetrack, he’s home working on classic cars.

“I’m working on a ’70 440 6 pack Barracuda for my wife, and then I just finished a 1965 Valiant Signet convertible, 273 four barrel 4 speed for stick shift.”

U.S. NATIONALS IS THE BEST CAR SHOW IN THE WORLD - Bill Bagley and his ‘73 Plymouth Duster makes his first appearance this weekend in F Stock Automatic at the historic U.S. Nationals, all the way from the Lone Star State of Texas.

The beautiful, yellow car was restored back in 2016 to OEM specs and then everything race adapted to it.

“[I have] a lot tied up in, but I have a passion for it. I love doing it.”

Bagley said he was born into drag racing, as his dad was a Stock Eliminator driver in the early ‘60s. He eventually started bracket racing in the ‘70s and ‘80s back in Texas.

As a first-time contendant for the Big Go Wally, Bagley says that Indy is one of the best car shows in the world.

“It’s fantastic. Especially in Stock. I have a passion for OEM restored vehicles, just love them. And so many are done just like I did mine. It’s just a car show that nobody should miss.”

Taking a Wally back home to Texas would mean the world to Bagley.

“I can’t even begin to describe that. It would, I don’t know, it would probably take a couple of days to realize what had just happened. But it would be fabulous. I’m trying to make the field right now. We have a hurt engine so we’re a little bit down on horsepower.”

And his relationship with his Duster is pretty close.

“Well, I feel like the little guy can hear me when I’m talking to him. He responds to good things and he never lets me down. I’m always the one that lets him down. It runs great. It’s consistent when we had to go bracket racing, and the obstacle is always me, it’s never the car.”

SO MANY WALLYS HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THEM - When you think of a station wagon, you probably think of something like the Brady Bunch, not a racecar in Stock Eliminator. But Jim Hale of Van Buren, Ark., was one of the first in line on Thursday with his ‘66 Plymouth Belvedere K Stock Automatic.
Most of his life, Hale has run Hemi cars, but he decided to build the station wagon in 2016.

“I had a ’64 Hardtop car I raced for two years in Stock. Sold it in January or February of ’16.”  

And next year we may see Hale running two classes in Indy. He’s currently building a  ‘55 Dodge Hemi that will run Super Stock.

Hale has been coming to the U.S. Nationals since 1967, taking home several Wallys in the past 50 years.

Hale says he has more than 60 Wallys, and he’s “gave probably 10 or 15 away.”

Hale hopes his abundance of round wins and prestigious trophies help him earn a bid into the Arkansas Drag Racing Hall of Fame, where he’s a nominee this year.  

Headed into the first round of class eliminations, Hale had the buy.

“Oh yes, always glad to get a bye. I tuned up a little and ran quicker this morning than my competition did. I was one number down, I was in second place until this morning.”
Hale won class Thursday and is ready for first round on Saturday.

CHEVY-GUY TURNS MOTOWN MUSCLE MOPAR - Gregg Luneack doesn’t consider himself a “Mopar guy.” But, this weekend he’s driving the Motown Muscle -  a 1970 Challenger 440 six pack B-Stock Automatic.  

Luneack’s only owned this car for less than a year, but he’s been racing since the early ‘70s. He said his love of cars got him into racing, but most of his driving has been behind the wheel of a Chevy.

“I like Chevy’s and Mopar’s, I like them all. Just whatever class I’m trying to run, if I think one car’s better than the other, that’s the one I go with.”

This is Luneack’s first U.S. National appearance since 2006, and he’s hoping to bring the Wally back home to San Diego.

TRADITIONAL BEASTS - Behold the A/Stocker, the traditional top of the food chain for the traditional Stockers. Each year at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, a fraternity of fearless monster-tamers get together to determine who is the baddest of the baddest amongst their beastly Stockers. This year there are EIGHT A/Stock entries ready to shift it out to determine the king of this jungle. Who will you ride with?


THREE-DECADES LATER, STILL CHASIN' IT - Bringing home Wallys from national events in Memphis in Topeka in the 90s top Verne Buchanan’s favorite memories, but he’s hoping to change that with a win in Indianapolis this weekend.

Buchanan, 76, built his G-Stock Automatic ‘73 Ford Mustang in 1982. “I built it, started racing it in 1984. Took me three years to get to run the index and after that it’s been faster, and faster, and faster.”

Buchanan’s brother won the Stock Eliminator Wally in Indy in 1982, and he started coming to this historic race to chase those same dreams in ‘87.

“I missed maybe five times, work or different things have kept me from coming. This will be 30 years I’ve been coming up here.”

“[Indy is] a lot more cars, and it’s a lot more competition. You got to be ready to race when you come to Indy or you won’t be able to qualify. You got to be ready to go.”

Heading into class eliminations, Buchanan knew he didn’t have the fastest car, but said he’s “just going to do the best I can, try to get a little practice time on the tree so I’ll be ready to race eliminations.”

Buchanan lost in second round of class eliminations on Thursday, but is qualified for Stock Eliminator and will run first round on Saturday.

BOGACKI’S GOALS ARE HAVING FUN AND HELPING OTHER RACERS - While Luke Bogacki may have already checked off several big wins on his bucket list, he sure wouldn’t mind bringing another Wally home from the Big Go this weekend.

Competing in the U.S. Nationals since 2012, he took home his first U.S. Nationals Wally that first year by winning Super Comp.

“Just racing on Monday here is the coolest thing in the world…. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced an atmosphere quite that electric. Maybe with the exception of the late rounds at the Million Dollar Race, but it’s different just because there’s so many eyeballs. There was one year, the first year that I made it to Monday here, I look over as I’m pulling into the water and there’s Mario Andretti and Don Prudhomme standing there. You just don’t get that anywhere else, you know what I mean? The history here, it’s difficult to explain but it’s so electric and so cool.”

These days Bogacki has a passion for sharing his knowledge of sportsman racing with others, mostly through ThisIsBracketRacing.com, something that evolved after a friend talked him into doing a live class.

“I kind of fell into it like a lot of things. I actually had a friend of mine over a decade ago stay on me for a year to do a live class. I thought no, nobody will pay for that. I’m not comfortable doing it. Anyway, he talked me into doing it and it was a huge success with the handful of guys that we had, and that kind of spun going in that direction. It’s been a fun ride. It’s amazing how many people we’ve helped over the years.”

Bogacki says he’s out here with a different perspective now, and really to have fun. “I get to do it with the family and I just enjoy the competition in general.”

Bogacki’s oldest son, Gary, is five years old right now, the legal age to get started in a Junior Dragster.

“Gary’s five and he is all about it. As far as he knows, the minimum age is eight because that’s what I keep telling him. So we’ve got a couple years. He’s not quite ready yet anyway. But if he stays as interested in it as he is right now, they’ll be no holding him back. He’ll be in one sooner than later.

O'NEAL MAKING THE MOST OF US NATIONALS, DESPITE LACK OF TOP SPORTSMAN FIELD - Don O'neal, driver of the 1999 Monte Carlo Top Sportsman car, was behind the wheel this weekend at Indy. But instead of his 200-mph racecar, affectionately nicknamed the “Monster Carlo”, it was just his golf cart he drove around Lucas Oil Raceway. He even found his way into the announcer’s booth a time or two.

“Yeah it’s awkward to not have a steering wheel to hold onto, but being able to do some announcing and take care of sponsors and continue doing business, it will be a long week but it’s going to have fruits of labor that will come from it.”

While Don wishes he were wearing a helmet this weekend, he knows that The Big Go is about more than just laps down the track.  

“If you’re in motorsports, I think at any level, whether you’re a manufacturer or product developer or a dealer, you have to be here. Here’s your customer base, at least it’s a percentage of it. And to be able to shake hands and talk to people and see what they’re doing.”
O'neal’s season hasn’t been all shaking hands though. He’s had his share of success on the racetrack, including his first Wally in Top Sportsman.
“[My first win] at Charlotte. A complete surprise but man was it awesome. We’ve had a decent year.”

“Obviously we had the bizarre final in Chicago, we runnered-up at Indy in our first divisional and we’ve had some third round loss exits, and we’ve had some first round loss exits. We’re trying not to think about the points chase but at the same time, I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me. I’m incapable of blocking it out, and every time we go to a race we know when we leave the racetrack how many points are left on the table for us to try and acquire to make that push.”

Staying in the chase for a championship is always on O'neal’s mind.

“Really I’m at the point now where I’m just looking at trying to stay top 10 in the national standings. That’d be two years in a row, that’d be called a success to finish top 10 twice back to back. If anything else above that happens, then we’re going to call that icing on the cake at this point.”

If you’ve met O'neal, you know he doesn’t know a stranger. But he doesn’t let it impact his mental state when he straps in his racecar.

“I get in my car very early and don’t mind sitting in it for 30 or 45 minutes because when you have the helmet on, people typically don’t come over to talk to you. They leave you alone. So it gives you time to just kind of be and try to get in a positive mental attitude or mindset from that standpoint.”

O'neal will be back behind the wheel of his Top Sportsman car next week in Earlville.


WEDNESDAY'S LEADERS - The good thing about NHRA's Stock Eliminator is the oddest of combinations can emerge as the king of the hill over the obvious favorites.

Let the record reflect Paul Wong could do no wrong in the first two sessions of Stock Eliminator qualifying at the Chevrolet U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway outside of Indianapolis.

Wong, during Wednesday's opening session, set the pace with a -1.988, 13.512 run under the V/Stock Automatic in his 262-inch, V-6 powered El Camino.

Coming in a distant second was the Factory Stock/K Mustang of Bill Dyer, -1.630 under the index with a 10.270. Gary Summers' stick-shifted, U/Stock Mustang was third with a 13.040, -1.610 performance.

Leonard Mattingly, -.799 under the A/Stock Automatic index, is No. 128, and on the bubble. There are 170 entries in competition this weekend.

Super Stock veteran Ernie Neal remained at the top of the leaderboard through two sessions. Neal ran a 9.578 behind the wheel of his GT/N Cavalier, -1.472 under the index. Slipping into second, also driving a Cavalier, Dan Jacobs run -1.404 under the GT/K index with a 9.346 elapsed time. Larry Zavala's SS/JA Camaro was third at -1.275 under with a 9.725.

Ryan Wilson's SS/FA Camaro now sits on the bubble at No. 128 with a -.612, 9.838.

After two sessions, Steve Comella leads Dodge Hemi Challenge qualifying with an 8.561 elapsed time, while Tony DePillo anchors the 16-car field with an 8.853.

Qualifying resumes on Thursday with a final session of Stock qualifying, with class eliminations to kick off after a session of Super Comp and Super Gas time trials.

COLLIER RETURNS TO RACETRACK AFTER TOPEKA CRASH - If there’s one lesson Steve Collier learned from his nearly four-month recovery time, it’s to take life slow.

Collier crashed his Top Alcohol Dragster at the NHRA Heartland Nationals in Topeka in May, and the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals is his first race back in the driver’s seat after fracturing several vertebrae.

“[Indy] was my goal,” Collier said, “I did a lot of laying up in the bed trying to heal, and I barely made it.”

There’s 11 Wallys at Collier’s house right now, but none yet from the US Nationals, and that’s at the top of his bucket list making this weekend a must-race affair.

After his first pass down the track since the wreck, this time behind the wheel of his 2006 Undercover Manpower/Collier Racing dragster, Collier said he was more in Top Alcohol mode.

“I turned the top bulb on, and I went to put the fuel to it and I had to kind of get refocused," Collier explained. "I was a little worried. I didn’t know how the actual launch was going to feel. I thought I was going to be okay, but I didn’t know for sure. Now that I’ve got that under my belt, it was perfect.”

The process isn't as easy as getting back on a bicycle as some would suggest.

“I’m trying. I mean I can tell I’ve been off," Collier said. "I haven’t had many passes; I just got to knock the dust off and get going.”

Getting going wasn't the easiest proposition, as the injury rehab was painful.

“I was watching the team roll out and go racing, and I’m in the bed, I was pretty much in a cast, that brace, just like having a cast on," Collier admitted. "I depended on my wife to help me a lot at home.”

Collier is racing Super Comp and Super Gas this weekend, with no plans to run Top Alcohol this year.

“If I do, it will be next year," Collier said. "We’re looking at our options. I damaged my car pretty heavily, so we’re just kind of looking at our options and try to get everything put back together and see where we’re at.”

Help and encouragement from his family is exactly the reason why he’s back on the racetrack this weekend.

“Thanks to my entire family, and my wife,” Collier said.

Collier’s son, 19-year-old Koy [Collier], said seeing his dad crash was tough to witness

“You kind of just hope and pray for the best and everybody took off and ran to every pit vehicle we had, the truck and all the motorcycles,” Koy said.

“I just froze. I just stood there and was like I’m going to take a long walk down there and just hope for the best, pray for best. You can only think positive thoughts with stuff like that.”

Koy knew the only thing he could do for his dad was to try and win the race.

“I ended up making it to the semifinal round and got beat. So I was close,” Koy said.

When asked who would win a final round at Indy between Steve and Koy, Koy said, “It’d be a tough race.”

“He’s tough to beat; he’s one of the toughest. I think I’ve beaten him twice, and he’s beat me eight times.”

THE STRUGGLE WAS REAL - Try as he might, Jim Boburka cannot seem to get the point across to today's drag racing youth just how tough racing the NHRA U.S. Nationals used to be. Indeed, the struggle was real.

Boburka, 72, who for decades raced Super Stock but now competes in Stock, believes Indy is still a challenge, but nothing like it was back in what some describe as the good, old days.

"One of the biggest things and I tell a lot of the young guys this today, nobody would realize what we had to go through at Indy," said Boburka, who first attended the Big Go in 1965. "When you come here, you took everything out of here every night. There were no cars, trailers, nothing left here, including the pros.

"So you would have to get here at 5 in the morning to try and get in line because there were no designated run sessions. Whenever they called Stock, you went up there. And whenever they pulled out whatever it would have been 20 pairs, you were stuck there.

"There was many a time I can remember vividly like it was yesterday being on this circle right over here jacking the car up and changing the transmission because I ran a stick back in those days. But that’s what you did. Once you made your run, you got right back in line. That line could have been all the way over on the other end, go all the way around here to get into the pits."

Boburka has seen the process simplified, and he credits NHRA for taking the initiative to improve the program.

"Best thing they ever did was give us time trials and sessions, and not make you have to be here or let you leave your equipment here in the pits. I tell the young guys that and a lot of people don’t believe what we had to do. It was a challenge."

Boburka said he first experienced Indy as a fan before attempting to compete in what some describe as the greatest drag racing spectacle.

 "We live in Pittsburg, and I come out here, Interstate 70 wasn’t even done," Boburka explained. "We had to take the old route, U.S. 40. So however many years ago that was. The first time I raced here I believe was 1970 with my ’69 Z-28, and I won this race in 1980 in Super Stock J Automatic."

The win was completed on a Tuesday when rain postponed competition.

"The only thing that hasn’t changed in Indy is 90-degree oppressive heat”, Boburka said, in addition to the rain. "It was the same back then as it is today. I guess 90 degrees doesn’t change."

What keeps Boburka coming back? It's his favorite "man" activity.

"We talk about this, and it’s the only thing I do," Boburka admitted. "I don’t hunt, I don’t golf, I don’t fish, I don’t bowl, I don’t do anything else but car-related, mostly drag racing stuff. I’ve done it since I was a kid, it was ingrained in me. And the kids today, I have four grandsons, they’re not interested in cars. Two of them are too young at this point, but one’s 20 and the other one’s 18. They’re not interested in cars. They’re perfectly happy driving around in a four-door Impala.

"For what I have, you’d think one of the kids would have taken, including my son, now my daughter would have wanted to do it, but she, unfortunately, not, unfortunately, fortunately, she got married, had a family, got a career, so drag racing isn’t in the game for her right now."

Boburka understands the difference between he and the kids is he would have been searching for a perfect combination to race the four-door Impala.

"I'd be trying to hop up that six-cylinder and make the thing go faster," Boburka said, smiling.

WHY THE HECK NOT? - Kentucky racer Randall Campbell turned his old work truck into what’s now his O/Stock Automatic Chevrolet C-10. In 1985, the same truck that’s now running at the historic NHRA U.S. Nationals was Randall’s daily work truck. Five years later, the truck was sold. But then he saw it for sale in someone’s front yard. He knew it was his former truck, complete with his work number on it.  

“I stopped to try to buy it," Campbell said. "I gave $600 for it, and I made a race car out of it in 2002.” But racing began long before for Campbell, who gained an IHRA World Championship title in 1991."  

The truck originally had a V-6, which he ran for 6 years. NHRA then allowed the class to run a V-8, so Campbell built a V-8.

“It’s running better, but there’s still room for improvement,” Campbell explained.

One of only two O/SA racecars at Lucas Oil Raceway this weekend, Campbell is trying harder than ever to bring the Wally home.

“It’s everything," Campbell said. "It’s what I’m here for. I may not ever do it, but I won’t ever quit trying.” “If I don’t win it, it’ll be because I died trying.”

STREET OR STRIP? - Ken Vaughn admits he almost gave in to his initial consideration when it came to his prized 1968 Camaro. The old-school-themed Super Stock/D stick-shift car he's racing at the NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals almost became a street machine.

"It was actually a street car in 1984 and I was going to really fix it up and put it on the street, and I got to looking at it and it sure would make a nice race car," Vaughn recalled. So I talked to a friend of mine, and me and him built it originally the first time."

Vaughn said the Camaro's original roots can be traced to Modified Production, where it essentially raced as a street-legal vehicle with a 427 and a tunnel ram.

"It had the bolted-in roll bar and the back seat was gone," Vaughn explained. "The two front inner fenders were out of it. The rest of it was a solid metal body just like a stock body. And that’s the way I bought the car, and then I was going to put it on the street, so I was getting it all fixed up, and then I decided it would make a nice race car."

When he built the car, there was no doubt it had to be a class car as opposed to a bracket racer.

"It’s the competition. It’s being able to build something of equal horsepower or performance and be able to do it well against your competition," Vaughn explained. "As far as an e.t. car, you know it’s just any combination will work. But as a class car, you have to have the certain combination that fits that year or that horsepower rating."

Vaughn said the last few years have been a battle to remain competitive.
"Back in the day the car was real competitive but it’s hard to get the ones that’s had the higher horsepower ratings to really turn good numbers because you’ve got to carry so much weight," Vaughn admitted.  

Winning is nice, but it's not what rules Vaughn's world.

"On a scale of one to ten, this car is about an 11," Vaughn said. "Plus it's a stick car. I never was really excited about driving an automatic."

YOU'RE RACING THAT? - Doug Colley eventually got used to the stares and the questions. He understands it's what is to be expected when one races a 142-cubic inch powered, 1963 Volkswagon Beetle in a class chock full of big-block muscle cars.

"Each and every person who sees this car, just asks, "Why?" Colley revealed.

Colley's said the combination works for him.

"Number one just in the maintenance," Colley said while waiting his turn to make a qualifying run in Wednesday's Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. "This body will still come off of this car, and it will drive as a chassis."

Colley said the age-old challenge of weight transfer isn't much of a problem.

"Engine and transaxles right over the drive wheels, like where everybody else is trying to move weight back over their drive wheels, I’m trying to move weight forward," Colley explained. "I’m like 65/35, and that’s with ballast.  If I had the equipment, I could service the clutch in between rounds.

"Four bolts, dolly goes under the engine, I can have it out before you can smoke a cigarette. And I can service the clutch, have it back in there in probably 10 minutes."

Colley built his VW a decade ago because the car club culture wasn't his scene, drag racing was. When NHRA created an inclusive package with the Super Stock/VX classification, it provided the impetus for Colley to jump in, feet first.

"For the most part it’s bracket racing," Colley admitted. "There’s rules; it’s organized, and it’s structured. That’s what I want. That’s why I like being here."

Before you laugh, this little machine creates impressive horsepower.  

And believe it or not, the 280-horse, VW has had to spot someone before. He'll admit those rare occasions can be awkward.

"I’m used to driving over my shoulder, so it screws me up," Colley admitted. "I need it to happen more often so I can get used to it."

And winning the biggest drag race in the world, the NHRA U.S. Nationals? One can dream, at least that's how Colley sees it.

"Oh man, I ain’t even thought about that," Colley said. "I’ll be surprised if we qualify. We did a bunch of engine stuff over the wintertime, made a whole bunch more power, now I got to get the back tire to catch up to it. As soon as we’re done here this season, this car goes back under the knife, so I can fit like a 10-inch tire under it. 8-inch ain’t handling it anymore." - Bobby Bennett

YOU’RE RACING THAT? PT 2. - A 1981 Ford Escort isn’t the first thing you think of when you think of for a Stock Eliminator car, but that’s what Steve Polhill is wheeling down the track at the Chevrolet Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals. And before it was making laps in Indy, it was delivering pizzas.

“I used to deliver pizzas with it when I was in high school. I took it to the race track on the weekends.”

All the way from Ontario, Canada, Polhill and his Ford Escort are no strangers to the historic race. Traveling here with his father since he was a kid, and racing here for the past 25 years, Polhill said he'd come close to winning a Wally, but never accomplished the feat. But this might be his year. His dad still comes to the race, too.

Polhill says with a laugh that sometimes Dad’s his biggest cheerleader, as well as sometimes his biggest critic.

So what exactly prompted Polhill to turn his pizza delivery vehicle into a full-time racecar?

“My father and I ran competition eliminator years and years ago. Well, he ran, and I helped. So NHRA racing was something I always wanted to do.”  

“I was running my local racetrack and had seen another guy in Division 1 that was racing a Ford Escort, and I ran almost as fast as he did.”