2019 NHRA U.S. NATIONALS - PRO STOCK NOTEBOOK

       

 


MONDAY NOTEBOOK


LAUGHLIN SNARES INDY PRO STOCK TITLE


Just when it appeared a victory was lost Alex Laughlin drove past Erica Enders for a prestigious U.S. Nationals win.

Laughlin clocked a 6.648-second lap at 207.43 mph to get past his teammate Enders late after she slowed to 6.773 seconds at 206.80 mph.

The victory seemed certain for Enders after she had a .007 reaction time compared to Laughlin’s 0.120 reaction time.

But, Laughlin, who drives a Hot Wheels/Havoline-sponsored Camaro with the same Elite Motorsports power as Enders, never gave up.

“I knew I had to be obviously the best ever be my whole life on the tree racing Erica,” Laughlin said. “Whenever I staged, I rolled in first and the bulb flickered, and I immediately had flashbacks to Denver when that happened. It locked on, so I thought I was good. As soon as she got staged and we both put it on the two-step, my bulb flickered again. I don’t have a whole lot of experience in the finals, I’ve been to a few of them this year and the pressure is honestly a big deal and I just about choked up there to be honest. She had some problems and I also didn’t drive great going down the track. All in all, a little bit of luck, a little bit of opportunity and the end of the day we had the better race car and got it done.”

This was Laughlin’s third career win and he broke a 48-race winless streak. Laughlin’s two wins came at Bristol, Tenn., in June of 207 and St. Louis in the fall of 2016. Laughlin is the 25th different Pro Stock driver to win Indy.

“(Lumpy, (Brian Self) as my crew chief is huge for me because I am my own worst enemy, no doubt,” Laughlin said. “I beat myself up pretty bad when I don’t perform well and that guy (Self) is so confident in himself and me and our whole team and he definitely lifts the morale, so I owe a whole lot of this to him for sure.”

Laughlin qualified No. 5 at 6.576 seconds at 207.94 mph. His victory march Monday consisted of wins over Steve Graham, Val Smeland, Deric Kramer and Enders.
With his victory, Laughlin he moved to second in the points standings 20 points behind after the points were reset for the six-race Countdown to the Championship, which begins Sept. 12-15 at the Dodge Nationals in Reading, Pa.

“It is unbelievable,” Laughlin said. “I have never even made the Countdown before. I have never really had the funding to run the full season. We have made huge strides, and this definitely is a breakout season. I couldn’t do this without my sponsors.”

Laughlin did have a lot of time to think about his past and future when he rode a bird scooter on a nearly two-hour journey from downtown Indianapolis to Lucas Oil Raceway Friday.

“I like being different for sure, I’m not the same as everybody else, there’s no doubt about like trying to the bird scooter (to the track),” Laughlin said. “(On the ride) I was doing a lot of (thinking) for sure about winning Indy and the way our car runs. It has been a breakout season and I had a whole lot of things to think about, mainly watching the cracks in the sidewalk, so I didn’t face plant because I have done that twice. After I got about 12 miles out, I didn’t know these things have a deal with them where they shutdown, so I had no choice but to finish the ride out old-fashion style and push it.”

Laughlin’s most recent success should help his presence in the social media world somewhere he has made a name for himself. According to Laughlin, he has close to 100,000 followers on his social media pages.

“I don’t have a whole lot of help finding these sponsors and everything,” Laughlin said. “I don’t have agents or people searching for stuff. I’ve scraped all this up by myself. We have turned a little bit into a lot more and we’re still digging for sure. Being able to have success validates us and gives us credibility. I know that my sponsors don’t care so much about winning as how I look for their brand, but there is also no doubt it (winning) doesn’t hurt at all.”

SUNDAY NOTEBOOK

PRO STOCK

MCGAHA TRYING TO CHANGE HIS LUCK – Chris McGaha was riding high after a big win in Norwalk, Ohio, June 23.

Since then the veteran Pro Stock driver from Odessa, Texas, has been experiencing more than his share of bad luck.

Sunday’s qualifying day at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis was knocked off schedule because of rain, but when the Q4 happened McGaha had a plan.

“We’re putting an intake on,” McGaha said. “We have an intake we wanted to try. We had never put it on a motor, and we are going to put it on a motor to see if we can get it running.”

McGaha, who won the U.S. Nationals in 2016, would like to repeat history this weekend.

“It would be nice to get another one,” McGaha said. “Winning is always nice and winning Indy twice would be something. Winning Indy the first time is way up there, but the first one I won at Sonoma (Calif.) was big because it was the first one. I would say Indy runs a real close second to that first win in Sonoma. They are all great.”

McGaha, who has eight career national event wins, arrived in Indy ninth in the points standings, but not much has gone right for him since Norwalk.

“I should have taken a vacation after Norwalk because it has been nothing but H*ll since,” McGaha said. “I blew a motor up in Norwalk and Kenny Delco blew up one of my motors in Norwalk. We thrashed to get those back together to go on the (Western) Swing. We won some rounds during the Swing, but we didn’t run like we did in Norwalk. Then on the way home from Seattle, about four from the shop, just south of Amarillo, we lost a steer tire on the truck and trailer and dang near lost the whole mess.

"We should have got hit, the truck and trailer went across the median into oncoming traffic and everything. The wreck tore the front nose off the truck pretty good and did a lot of damage. We had to put a tire on it on the side of the road. We lost the left front steer tire on the truck the worst one you can lose. We got that fixed so we could get to Brainerd (Minn.). Then, I blew two motors up at Brainerd. We thrashed to get that fixed and we didn’t get all that fixed, and we came to Indy. I should have just on vacation after Norwalk. We keep blowing stuff up it is kind of getting where we scaping the bottom of the barrel.”

As crazy as the past several weeks have been for McGaha, he still has plans for the 2020 season with his son, Mason, who is 17 and turns 18 in December.

“We would like to license him before Gainesville (Fla., in March),” McGaha said. “That’s the plan. I have a brand-new car for him, a Camaro. My goal is we can get him licensed and get him going at the first of the year. That’s my plan, whether it can happen is a different story. If we can get his car running smoothly then ‘yes’ we will bring a second car out with me (driving) every so often. But it is kind of the same thing if we started having issues like we have been having lately we would more than glad to park one while we regrouped.”

Mason has been doing local bracket racing off and on in a COPO for the last 18 months.

“It would be cool to have my son follow in my footsteps,” Chris said. “We have everything, we just need the time.”

DON'T SLEEP ON MATT HARTFORD - Not long ago, qualifying for NHRA Mello Yello Series Pro Stock events was an accomplishment for Matt Hartford.

Fast-forward to the present and Hartford has become a championship contender in his Total Seal Piston Rings/CIP1 Pro Stock Camaro.

Hartford arrived at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis this weekend fifth in the point standings – only 49 points behind second-place Greg Anderson.

Hartford has one win this season in Seattle Aug. 4 and three runner-up finishes in in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Denver. At the Most recent race in Brainerd, Minn., Aug. 18, Hartford lost in the semifinals to Erica Enders.

“I think we keep our head down and focus on what we need to do we can put the Total Seal Camaro in the winner’s circle here (in Indy) and at the end of the year put it on the big stage.”

As prestigious as winning Indy is, Hartford is keeping things in perspective.

“I would love to have Indy on the resume, but at the end of the day any race you can win with the competition that’s out here is great. There’s never a race you don’t want to win. Indy would be great. It would be something all of sponsors would love to be on the big stage with us, but we’re focused on qualifying well and winning every race we got to, regardless of it is Indy, Ponoma, Maple Grove, we don’t care, we just want to win.”

Despite Hartford’s recent run of success, he knows racing is unpredictable.

“You got to be careful (believing that your peaking),” Hartford said. “We’ve seen cars come into the Countdown that were really good and then really struggle in the Countdown. Our goal is to keep our head down, keep focused on the prize at the end of the tunnel and just move forward every run. We talked about (Friday night) that there were many races that we came to that we would be happy to just qualify at over the years. After the first session (in Indy) we were fifth. We feel that every race that we go to that we have a car that can qualifying on the pole.”

DERIC KRAMER IS IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP MIX – Deric Kramer is no long an afterthought in the Pro Stock class.

Kramer, who is from Sterling, Colo., has emerged as a championship contender. He enters the U.S. Nationals sixth in the points standings on the strength of his victory in Chicago June 2.

Kramer is running motors supplied by KB Racing – which main two cars are Greg Anderson and Jason Line’s Summit Racing Camaros.

“It’s about racing with these KB cars,” Kramer said. “These know how to race. Every weekend I come to the race track with the expectation that I have a chance to win. That’s the best part. That’s what keeps me coming out to the race track every weekend.”

Kramer, who has a 15-10 elimination round record this season, has three career Pro Stock national event wins.

“If you’re in the Top 5 in points, you have a good shot of winning I believe,” Kramer said. “I’m sixth right now and I’m hoping for a good showing this weekend. Maybe I can move up a spot. I feel like I have as good a chance as any of the Top 11 cars at this point. There are a lot of cars out here that can win races and that’s what I’m hoping to do. This is a big race and it is a hard to qualify for race and it is a hard to win race. The best of the best come here for a reason. It’s definitely one of the ones you want to for sure.”

Kramer qualified No. 9 for Indy. According to Kramer, he was only Pro Stock driver who has qualified in the top eight or better in the first 11 races this season, but that streak ended Sunday.

DELCO IN THE COUNTDOWN MIX – The rain went away Sunday and that was a good thing for Pro Stock driver Kenny Delco because of engine woes in Q2 and Q3.

“In Q2 our motor went bad and in Q3 we broke it,” Delco said. “Then, when we were warming for Q1, we broke a lifter. We swapped motors and now we original motor (that broke the lifter) back in the car because we fixed the lifter. It has been a tough weekend. Nothing has worked well.”

Delco arrived in Indy 10th in the season points standings, but he’s only 12 points in front of his teammate Val Smeland, who is in 12th place and nine points better than 11th place Fernando Cuadra.

“We know this motor is fast,” Delco said. “I feel like we are in pretty good shape.”

Delco is running motors supplied by Chris McGaha. Smeland is running motors provided by former Pro Stock racer Frank Iaconio.

Back on July 20, Delco had his craziest run of the season when he crashed during a qualifying run at the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver.

During Q3 on July 20, Delco was making a pass in the right lane, against points leader Bo Butner.

When Butner left the starting line, his car laid over and his run was done. Delco’s Camaro kept charging down the quarter-mile and crossed the finished line in 6.972 seconds at 196.27 mph.

Then trouble happened shortly after for Delco. Past the finish line, as the parachutes began to deploy there was some smoke coming out from under Delco’s car and it hung a hard left and went nose first into the left wall. Then, the Camaro rolled three times before it settled on its roof and slid to the left wall and came to a stop. Less than a minute after the scary crash, Delco climbed out of the car and walked away.
 
“It was just like the perfect storm,” Delco said of the accident. “The parachutes didn’t work. The brakes weren’t working and there was no air up there, so there was downforce. I didn’t get hurt and the car is fixable. The car is probably going to Jerry Haas’ shop to get a body on it, probably after Reading (Pa.) (Sept. 15).”

Delco is in Monday’s race in the No. 16 spot and he will meet Bo Butner in round one.

NO PRO STOCK/PRO MOD SIMILARITIES – Pro Stock driver Alex Laughlin is having a strong season.

Laughlin arrived at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis third in the season point standing – just eight points in back of second-place Greg Anderson and 80 behind leader Bo Butner.

Laughlin has Elite Motorsports power in his Chevy Camaro. Laughlin is plenty busy this weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway as he’s competing in Pro Stock and Pro Mod.

“Absolutely not, they are completely different,” said Laughlin of his Pro Stock and Pro Mod cars. “But every run I can get, no matter what it is in, I will take. We’re just a couple of points behind Greg (Anderson) for second and I would like to pass right here in qualifying before we go to first round.”

Laughlin qualified No. 5 at 6.576 seconds at 207.94 mph.

 

 

 

SHANE TUCKER TALKS ABOUT HIS SEASON – Life, more specifically business commitments have got in the way of Pro Stock racer Shane Tucker.

Tucker, from Queensland, Australia, has competed in seven NHRA Mello Yello Series races this season, getting one round win in Gainesville, Fla.

Shane Tucker and Rob Tucker Racing have had primary sponsor Auzmet/StructGlass all season and at the U.S. Nationals, Tucker’s Camaro was flying the colors and logo of Houston, Texas based ELFS Freight.

Tucker did qualify for the prestigious U.S. Nationals in the No. 15 spot with a 6.635-second ET at 208.07 mph.

“We took a few races off this year for business commitments,” Tucker said. “We worked more on the motor side of things. The motor came up really, really good. We just jumped into this new car in Norwalk (Ohio, June 20-23) so we’ve only just put our 10th run on it just then in Q1. It made a really good run. We finally qualified in Indy. It’s been quite a few years.”

After this weekend, Tucker is unsure what the remainder of his 2019 NHRA race schedule will be.

“If we have some success here, I’ve got some sponsors coming this weekend that could help us out for the rest of the year,” Tucker said. “We definitely won't do St. Louis. We will do Charlotte (Oct. 11-13). We’ll probably do Dallas (Oct. 17-20) and whether we do Reading (Pa., Sept. 12-15), Vegas (Oct. 31-Nov. 3), and Pomona (Calif., Nov. 14-17) is still up in the air.”

Tucker said he plans on competing in the NHRA Pro Stock class again in 2020, but his schedule is unclear.

“At what capacity, I'm not sure,” he said. “I’m building a house back in Australia at the moment. I got some personal commitments back home with my family in Queensland on the Gold Coast. So that's always a bit of a stressful task. I want to be home for that a little bit. Spend a little bit more time with my girls.”

Tucker has two daughters – Sayla-Rose, 9 and London, 3. Tucker owns Auzmet Architectural in Dallas and all that business is now in the United States.

STEVE GRAHAM GETS IN INDY FIELD – Competing in the ultra-competitive world of NHRA’s Pro Stock class is a daunting task.

Even more daunting when you’re an independent single-car team like Steve Graham.

Graham, however, flexed his muscled in his Camaro and qualified No. 12 at 6.624 seconds at 207.30 mph.

Graham’s motors are supplied by Chris McGaha.

“This weekend the main goal was just get qualified first, then worry about eliminations afterwards because it's so hard to qualify here just in itself,” Graham said. “It's almost like two different races for us at least.”

Indy was Graham’s seventh race of the season. He also plans to compete in St. Louis (Sept. 27-29), Las Vegas (Oct. 31-Nov. 3) and Pomona (Nov. 14-17).

“We’ve done a lot better than we did last year,” Graham said. “Every time we come out, we're learning something different and we haven't yet been able to put the majority of the package together for one run. We miss something big on every run and it hurts us.

"We had a pretty decent run (Friday), but it's hard because you want to make sure that you get on the on the page. But at the same time, you have to be aggressive enough to try and make a good run. It's just a balance and we don't have the data that other teams have to where if we miss that run, we can go back to something today and make a nice run. I would definitely say our season is going better. It's the best one that we've had so far since we started about two and a half years ago.”

Despite making improvements this season, Graham isn’t committed to running in the class in 2020.

“It all depends,” Graham said. “I don't know what the schedule is going to be with Phoenix and Pomona at the beginning of the year. There were rumors that Pro Stock wasn’t going to be there and for us West Coast guys, I'm not going to spend all the money and do all this to only run four races and start in July. So, it really depends on what NHRA does. Our schedule hinges on what they want to do. If NHRA takes the races away from the West Coast next year then I'll run Comp and go back to where I started.”

WALLY STROUPE ENJOYING LIFE, PRO STOCK – Wally Stroupe failed to qualify for the prestigious U.S. Nationals.

This was Stroupe’s second time racing Pro Stock at the U.S. Nationals the first time coming in 2015.

Although Stroupe didn’t make the field, he’s brimming with optimism about his Pro Stock future.

“I’ve got new sponsors, new power,” Stroupe said. “We’re over at KB Racing now. Now we're working on the car to make it match their motors. We were with Elite (Motorsports) last year and the first of this year and we just couldn't get the power we needed. A new sponsor came in (Strutmasters) and I really have to thank them. It took a load off us. He told me to go get some power. I went and got some power. Greg (Anderson) and Jason (Line) have been really good to us. We're excited. KB's helping us a bunch. We picked up a bunch. We actually went and tested.”

Stroupe joined forces with KB Racing starting in Chicago May 30-June 2.

“We went and tested with Greg right after Chicago and we went a 6.58, Greg went a 6.52, so I was really happy with that,” Stroupe said. “Since then, we've been fighting the car. We had pretty decent air in Darlington (S.C.). Since then we've been in junk ever since. So now we're figuring out what to do with the shocks and the car and tires and stuff like. We made big gains.

"We're going to finish the season and if everything looks good, he's on board for next year to go full-time.”

Full-time racing is something Stroupe hasn’t done in 20 years since his IHRA days. Stroupe was a standout IHRA Pro Mod competitor from 1989-99 winning 58 races. Stroupe raced Mountain Motor Pro Stock from 2000-2007.

Stroupe has built race cars for nearly four decades.

“This is a dream come true,” Stroupe said. “This is what I've always wanted to do. Only regret is when I got burned in Pro Mod in 1998 down in Bradenton, Fla., and I quit. I was a year out of work and three years of rehab. But it took everything.”

On March 28, 1998, he had a nitrous explosion in his 1963 Corvette during the first round of qualifying at Bradenton, Fla.

“I suffered third-degree burns on my hands and my face,” said Stroupe about the accident. “They actually lost me twice at the race track and they airlifted me to the Tampa burn center and I spent a few days in critical condition there, and I was transferred to Charlotte.

"When we got to Charlotte, I had the same doctor all the NASCAR guys have. He's a very good doctor and he told me upfront, ‘do what I tell you or you won't have any hands anymore.’ I did everything that they said. I mean you think because of a burn it wouldn't matter. Two days after, I couldn't move anything. They were locked up and he gave me this little balloon with sand in it. He said, ‘squeeze it every day as much as you can take.’ You would think you could do it. You can’t. You have to take this hand and make this hand work and then use this hand to make that hand work. They didn’t do any skin grafts, they let it grow on its own. It took four to six months to get all the skin grown back on and then it was thin as paper. You could actually just take your finger and go across it and it would just come off. I had three years of rehab. I thought a lot about it (not racing again).”

For good reason, Stroupe cheated death.

“The doctors came in and they worked on me two hours in the emergency room,” Stroupe said. “Then, they cleared emergency room out and they called a preacher. He came in and wanted to know if there was anything, he could do for me.”

The presence of the preacher had Stroupe’s full attention.

“That scared the crap out of me because we're in bad trouble,” Stroupe said. “He started to pray with me, and the doctor came in and said, ‘you’re not supposed to be here.’ I said, ‘what do you mean? In the hospital?’ He said, ‘no. You aren’t supposed to be here. I've had people come in half this bad and they’re dead. This wasn’t your time.’ They kept me in critical condition all weekend and Sunday they transferred me to Charlotte. It was no fun. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. It changed things. My wife was nine months pregnant with my son. Luckily, she didn't go to that weekend.”

Stroupe took the leap into the Pro Stock ranks in 2009.

“We built a new GXP in 2009 and we ran a couple Pro Stock races in that, with our own engines,” Stroupe said. “Then the economy killed us, and we ran again in 2012. Then I sold that car and we built this car in 2014. We ran it four or five races in 2015. In 2016, we didn't run at all because they (NHRA) changed over to the fuel injection. It took us a year to get all of our stuff. So, we didn't get to race again till 2017. Then we ran 2018, nine races last year and we're going to have 12 this year. Full schedule next year. It’s been a roller-coaster.”

Stroupe can’t hide his enthusiasm about 2020.

“We'll go wherever Greg and them go. We’ll go test with them and they've got a lot of stuff on the new car they want done,” Stroupe said. “So, it will be interesting. Brand new 2020 Camaro.”

FERNANDO CUADRA SR. TALKS FAMILY AFFAIR – A year ago, Fernando Cuadra Sr. said his family was coming NHRA racing in 2019 and he was right.

Fernando Sr. and Fernando Jr. compete in Pro Stock, along with son, Cristian. David, Cristian’s brother, competes in Top Sportsman.

“Well, let me tell you it's a mission accomplished,” Cuadra Sr. said. “The most important thing is that they got involved and committed to me full time without me telling them what to do. So, they do their own. I released the Mustang this time to David who is a Top Sportsman, and he’s jumping into the Pro Stock once we figure out how to make the Mustang run correct.”

The twins – Cristian and David are 20. David is five minutes older. They were born April 26, which is my Fernando Sr.’s birthday.

“They were born Monday and mine was Monday and they were born at 10:30 and I was at 10:30,” Fernando Sr. said. “I mean if you plan this, it doesn't exist.”
Cuadra Sr. knows this season has been a learning curve for his family.

“We pushed really hard to go to the Western Swing (Denver, Sonoma, Calif., Seattle) to see how tight can be,” Cuadra said. “A lot of mistakes happened, but a lot of people told me that it was crazy. They said, ‘if you don't learn now, when are you going to start to learn it and how to communicate?’ Today, after five races, we communicate a lot nicer and everybody knows what to do. You see Fernando he’s doing the clutch disc, David is helping his twin on the clutch and then Fernando comes and helps them to finish setting up the Mustang. Without me saying anything. Now the Mustang is getting closer (with Cristian driving). They want to keep the Mustang. I don’t want to make any of the GM guys mad but before we got the deal with KB he was already in the Mustang. They love the Mustang. So, let me tell you, he can cut the light now. He stays very shallow and you see the process. Jason and Greg went to look at it and they said, ‘wow, that's a big improvement,’ They really work for it.”

Fernando Sr., Fernando use KB Racing engines and Cristian is using a motor supplied by Rob Tucker, Shane’s father.

Fernando Sr., Fernando Jr. and David will all be competing in Camaros next season and using KB Racing power.

“They (KB) trust what we do and we're capable to handle the power and also to respect their engines,” Cuadra Sr. said. “You see a lot of guys they put in a cheap limiter and they ruin the engines. The first rule they learned is not to abuse the engines. So, if you see the burnouts that they do, clean, not on the limiters and they stay on 8,500 to 9,000 tops. So, it is getting along great and they have good mentors. Jason (Line), Greg (Anderson) and Rob (Downing). I cannot ask for more.”

 

SATURDAY NOTEBOOK

PRO STOCK

BUTNER TAKES PROVISIONAL NO. 1 QUALIFYING SPOT IN PS – After three qualifying sessions at the U.S. Nationals in Pro Stock, Bo Butner is setting the pace in the Pro Stock class.

Butner, the points leader and 2017 Pro Stock world champ, clocked a 6.559-second elapsed time at 210.28.

Butner knocked his Ken Black Racing Summit Racing Equipment teammate off the top spot at 6.570 seconds. Line clocked a 6.561-second ET and is second on the qualifying sheet.

“I’m going to have a hard time sleeping (Saturday night) taking that from Jason,” Butner said with a chuckle. “It was a very good pass, but I’ve had the car for weeks now and I just had not driven it well. I think I drove it easy that time and I’m very happy. Our Jim Butner Auto Group, Speed Dog, Summit Racing Camaro was awesome. It has been and I’m just ready to go racing. I think this feels like Day 20 of Indy.”

Butner has never won at the U.S. Nationals in his career in the Sportsman and Pro Stock ranks. The Indiana native has two chances to get his first Indy win this weekend as he’s competing in Pro Stock and the Factory Stock classes. Winning that, just to win Indy, I don’t care what it is,” Butner said. “I have not won (in Indy). I have been close a few times and I’m just happy to have the ability and have the chance to race at the U.S. Nationals. The more you sit and think about it, you get goose bumps. It’s cool.”

Butner didn’t want to make any bold predictions of whether his 6.559-second lap would hold the top spot through the final two qualifying sessions Sunday.

“I think it is going to will be tough to get around it, but again we have some KB cars behind us,” Butner said. “All the cars are pretty close. We made a good run and if gets hot (Sunday) it will be tough (to beat that time). I think a lot of teams will go more into race day (Sunday) for Monday, I know we will. Who knows, if it holds up it is good and if were to be bumped out of the top four, I would be very shocked.”

Greg Anderson is No. 6 on the qualifying ladder with a 6.580-second elapsed time at 209.01.

FREEMAN SAYS BROGDON DONE FOR SEASON WITH ELITE MOTORSPORTS – Back at Mile-High Nationals July 19 in Denver, Elite Motorsports boss Richard Freeman was filling in for driver Roger Brogdon because Brogdon was skipping in the three-race Western Swing in Denver, Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle because of business commitments.

Fast-forward to the U.S. Nationals this weekend, and Freeman told Competition Plus that Brogdon is no longer driving an Elite Motorsports Mustang.

Brogdon, who 13th in the points standings, competed in seven races this season, his last being at Norwalk, Ohio, June 21-23. Brogdon had a 3-7 record in elimination rounds. His best race was a semifinal loss to Bo Butner in the semifinals at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., March 17.

The Camaro Brogdon was driving is what Freeman is driving at the U.S. Nationals.

“I’m just running it for fun,” said Freeman, who qualified No. 1 at the Mile-High Nationals. “I think our team is going to peak at the right time. Erica (Ender’s) car is really good right now and Jeg (Coughlin) is going to be OK and Alex (Laughlin) is really good. We just have to do our job. If we can do what we have to do here (in Indy) and go into the (six-race) Countdown into the Top 5, it is anybody’s game, it is so tight. I may run a few (races in the Countdown). I will just see where we are at.”

Enders, who won world championships in 2014-15, is No. 4 on the qualifying ladder with a 6.575-second ET at 208.94 mph. Laughlin is fifth, at 6.576 seconds at 207.94 mph. Coughlin is No. 7 at 6.586 seconds at 207.59 mph.

The last win for Enders was at Charlotte, N.C., in the spring of 2018.

“I’m way more than ready,” said Enders about getting her next Wally. “It has been a really long time and I think we are picking up momentum at the right time coming off a runner-up in Brainerd (Minn.). I think we have a really good race car. I think we will be a force to reckoned with, not just here in Indy, but for the entire Countdown and that’s our goal. Our goal here in Indy is to position ourselves the best way that we can heading into the Countdown. We are sitting seventh in points, which is not cool. We will do our best here and we will just fight it out until the end. I think anything is possible and we just have to execute like we know how.”

DAVE CONNOLLY ENJOYING BEING PART OF KB RACING – A year ago, Dave Connolly showed how valuable he was as an NHRA Pro Stock crew chief.

Connolly helped guide Tanner Gray to the world championship. When Gray departed to pursue a NASCAR career, Connolly wasn’t out of work for long as he signed on with KB Racing and the Summit Racing team of Greg Anderson and Jason Line.

“There’s a lot of unknowns when you change teams,” Connolly said. “It’s actually been a very easy transition. These guys are great to work with. Dedicated and hard-working and they like to get in there and just grind away and make things happen. Rob (Downing) has been a pleasure to work with, Greg, Jason all these guys over here. They have a well-established team obviously before I showed up and I’m just trying to put my input in there and help as much as possible.”

Connolly said he doesn’t just focus on one car for KB Racing.

“Rob and I, we look at all five cars now,” Connolly said. “We have Greg’s, Jason’s, Bo (Butner), Fernando (Cuadra) and now Fernando’s son (Fernando Jr.) as well. There’s definitely things to get used to and going from focusing full attention on one car to looking at five runs in between rounds. It's a little bit different. Took some adjusting but it's getting easier and easier as the year goes.”

Connolly knows the goal at season’s end is to crown someone on his team as the world champ.

“Oh, absolutely,” Connolly said. “That's the goal of any team when you start that season is the championship, so it's still on the table and that’s what we're shooting for.”

This weekend, Tanner Gray, is roaming around the Summit Racing pits as he has break from his NASCAR racing duties.

“I told him that we used to kick Cody (Anderson) out of our pits last year and now we have to kick Tanner out,” Connolly said. “They’re just messing around. They've been good friends for a long time and he's text me there earlier this week and said that he's coming out and hanging out this weekend. It’s to see him back out here at the drag track.”
Connolly, a former standout Pro Stock pilot and Top Fuel racer, still dabbles in driving.

“I do some bracket racing here and there obviously with the bracket racing thing kind of popping up with these big purses it’s intriguing and I get to do that a lot,” Connolly said.

WJ “THE PROFESSOR” TALKS STATE OF PRO STOCK – This weekend at the U.S. Nationals Pro Stock legends Johnson and Greg Anderson were scheduled to race Chevrolet Camaro 2SS machines during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for a one-time-only, best-of-three match race, appropriately titled, “Back To School,” to reveal plans for the upcoming 50th anniversary of Pro Stock.

Johnson, Pro Stock’s winningest driver with 97 career victories, had a forgettable run in a time trial practice run Friday evening in the Camaros he was driving powered by a 6.2-liter V-8 pumping out 455 hp.

Johnson staged and launched the car from the starting line, and the wheels were already spinning and smoking.

Then, about 200 feet the Camaro started getting loose in the right lane and looked like it was like it was sliding on ice. The Camaro began to spin into the left lane and hit the left wall around 330 feet down track.

Johnson walked away from the wreck. The car has some damage on the left passenger side, and it left the track on a flatbed tow truck.

As a result of Johnson’s accident, the one-time-only, best-of-three match race, appropriately titled, “Back To School,” in Indy was canceled.

Johnson was still in town in Indy and talked about the state of the Pro Stock class.

“I think next year if they get a few more independent teams in there so we don’t have all the cooking cutter cars out there it could be real exciting,” Johnson said.

Back in 1999, Johnson won the U.S. Nationals, but it was far from an ordinary win. Johnson has 97 career national event wins, second only to John Force’s 150 wins.

“We qualified low on Friday night and broke a cylinder head and I had to fly back to the shop, repair that cylinder head and bring it back and we were fortunate enough to win that race, so it was kind of a highlight for us. Actually, ask anybody, any Indy win is big.”

Competing against the Who’s Who of Pro Stock racers in his career is something Johnson remembers well, especially his battles with the late great Bob Glidden.

“Bob and I probably raced for 30 years together and I don’t think we spoke 20 words between the two of us,” Johnson said. “It’s not that we hated each other. We had so much respect for each other and we were racing to make a living. It wasn’t somebody out there playing with their toys on a weekend. We actually had to win races to make a living. We didn’t have to talk about it.”

ROBERT RIVER MAKES INDY PS DEBUT –  Robert River grew up in the sport of drag racing. His father, Dave has competed part-time in NHRA’s Pro Stock class for years.

Late in the 2018 season, Dave gave Robert the keys to his Pro Stock machine, a Chevrolet Cobalt.

This weekend, Robert is unchartered territory as he’s making his U.S. Nationals debut in the Pro Stock class at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Robert’s best run through three qualifying session at Indy was 6.814 seconds at 200.80 mph, which is 19th quickest.

“I've actually never raced at Indy (in any class),” said Robert, 26. “I’ve probably been here for five years as a crew member but never driven a car here myself. My dad is still driving and still with a license. I’m just fortunate enough that he’s letting me drive the car for a while. We still kind of switch off and on driving are Top Sportsman car.”

For this weekend, River is trying to calm his nerves.

“I’m just focused on getting the car ready,” River said. “As long as we can manage the power that we've got now, I'm looking forward to heading on down the track. I talked to some other former racers that have been here and they kind of gave me a little heads up on kind of what to expect. I'm trying not to put Indy as a label on it, but it does feel very special. I'm extremely happy to be here.”

The Top Sportsman car the Robert and Dave drive is a 1989 Pontiac Firebird with a clutch, and five-speed Lenco.

“It's kind of like a time travel to the past kind of car,” Robert said,

Indy is the third Pro Stock race for Robert this season. Dave has yet to compete in a Pro Stock event this year. The team is based in Maquoketa, Iowa.

“I was in Brainerd a couple of weeks ago,” Robert said. “I raced earlier at the end of May, I was in Joliet, Route 66.”

Robert made his Pro Stock debut last season in St. Louis, and he also competed in Dallas.

“I got my Pro Stock license late in the fall of 2017,” Robert said. “I did it driving our current Pro Stock car. I went to a Top Sportsman event and got my licensing passes done there. You know, when you're a little kid, it's something you dream about doing and you kind of looked up to some of the guys that are doing it. It was incredible to have my father get in the sport and just to be able to crew for him, that was already kind of a dream come true.

Then eventually the day came when he said, ‘hey, would you be interested driving the car?’. I’d feel kind of foolish if I said no to that. I'm very fortunate and blessed to be able to drive the car. Just trying to get more seat time, do the best I can. I’m out here with the family, so I’m kind of living the dream, that's the way it feels at least.”

Robert’s day job is as an automation technician for a company that builds electronics. I program and work on automated machinery. That's the normal 40 hours a week.”

Following Indy, Robert mapped out his team’s schedule.

“The plan as of right now is we're going to have our Top Sportsman car out at a divisional race next week and then I believe St. Louis at the end of September will be our next NHRA Pro Stock race. We’ve got to make it through the rest of today before we go tomorrow.”

CRISTIAN CUADRA TALKS ABOUT HIS INDY PS DEBUT – For a Pro Stock racer, there’s no stage as big as the one at the U.S. Nationals.

That’s the one Cristian Cuadra, 20, is on this weekend. David, Cuadra’s twin brother, was competing in Top Sportsman class this weekend. Their older brother, Fernando Cuadra Jr., 23, also competes in Pro Stock as does their dad, Fernando Sr.

Through three qualifying sessions, Cristian is 17th on the qualifying ladder at 6.693 seconds at 205.72 mph. Fernando Cuadra Sr. is eighth (6.587) and Fernando Jr. is 11th at (6.605).

“I know it’s the most important event in NHRA, so it’s exciting but nervous,” said Cristian, who is driving a Ford Mustang. “This year has been It’s been hard. Learning. I didn't qualify in any event. So, I'm just hoping to qualify in this one. I know it's going to be harder, but I'm going to try. I have to do my best and let’s hope.”

The learning curve didn’t come as a surprise to Cristian.

“Yes, it’s really different and difficult because you have to handle guys that have more years in this and they have experience,” Cristian said. “It's really difficult and it’s a lot of work. But it’s an amazing experience to drive the car and to be here, I can’t describe it.”

In 2020, There will be four Cuadras in Pro Stock – Fernando Sr., Fernando Jr., Cristian and David.

“It’s really nice,” said Cristian about getting to race with his family. “In Mexico we don't have that much time together because my dad works in the business and we're starting college but here we are all together and that's the fun part and that's why we like the races because we're all together.”

PRUSIENSKY TALKS SEASON, FUTURE – Alan Prusiensky is an independent racer going up against the powerhouse teams.

Prusiensky keeps battling and he arrived in Indy 14th in the points standings.

“I definitely could run better than I have. Just find some different stuff. Hopefully the last six or seven races we can turn it around and get ready for 2020,” Prusiensky said. “In 2020, we will have two cars at least 14 or 15 races. We could be 16 at 18 races with two cars. I don't even know yet.

If somebody will sign up for the whole season that'll be a different story. It's going to be a lot to put that together. So I think if I raced two or three races and take a race off with the second car then two or three races, I think that'll be a better fit. It’ll be two Dodge Darts.”

Prusiensky is 16th on the qualifying through three qualifying sessions with a 6.656-second ET at 207.56 mph.

Competing in 18-race abbreviated Pro Stock schedule in 2019 from the 24 races is something that has benefitted Prusiensky.

“It helps me,” Prusiensky said. “I get back and get the engines because I'm kind of a one-man band as far as getting the engines ready. I don't have a full team at the shop so it helps me a little bit. But it's never good for the class when somebody else is out here racing in their place, as far as Mountain Motors. But I don't think they really want to travel all over the country so kind of a good fit.”

FRIDAY NOTEBOOK

PRO STOCK

TANNER GRAY MAKES AN INDY APPEARANCE – Tanner Gray, the 2018 NHRA Mello Series Pro Stock world champion is at the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway this weekend.

However, Gray is not competing. He left the NHRA ranks at the end of the season to pursue a career in NASCAR.

“I’m just coming to hang out,” said Gray, 20. “I had a couple of weeks off, so I figured why not come out.”

Gray is hanging out the Summit Racing pits with KB Racing drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line. Gray is good friends with Anderson’s son, Cody.

“The last time I was at a drag race was at Pomona (last November),” Gray said. “It’s cool to be back and see everybody and hang out. I get to watch a little bit and it is definitely weird to be out here and not be running.”

Gray said he was testing (Aug. 28) at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in a truck and he figured “why not come (to Indy)?”

This season, Gray is competing in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East and ARCA Series ranks for the first time.

“Not bad,” said Gray, when asked about how his NASCAR season is going. “I want to do better. I think we are third or fourth in points and we have some bad luck the last three races with tires going down and last week in St. Louis I got wrecked on the first lap.”

Gray, the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock world champion, won a 100-lap race as part of the Twin 100s at South Boston (Va.) Speedway May 4.

Gray is behind the wheel of the DGR-Crosley team Toyota owned by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran David Gilliland and Crosley Radio CEO Bo LeMastus.

“I going to run three races in the (NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series) at Martinsville (Oct. 26), Phoenix (Nov. 8) and Homestead (Miami, Nov. 15),” he said. “The test session in Martinsville was good and I also tested in a truck in Homestead, I guess two or three weeks ago. I have had a lot of fun and enjoyed it. It is a lot different than the car. You have a lot more side force and everything else.”

Gray won 13 Pro Stock races in just 48 starts, culminating with his world title at only 19 years old.

Still, drag racing isn’t in his future.

“I’m not coming back (to Pro Stock),” Gray said. “I don’t want to do anything this weekend, but hang out,” Gray said. “I’m sure I will go to (the NHRA national event) in Charlotte (N.C., Oct. 11-13 just because it is by my house.”

JASON LINE PROVISIONAL NO. 1 AFTER Q1 – Coming off an emotional win at the Lucas Oil Nationals Aug. 18 at his home track – Brained (Minn.) International Raceway – Jason Line didn’t have a letdown in Q1 at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Line clocked a 6.570-second time at 209.62 mph in his KB Racing Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro.

Line is also is 1970 Buick GS in Stock Eliminator in Indy.

“My cars are really happy the last two places I’ve been,” Line said. “It was a busy day, but a fun day. I love Indy. There’s so much going on, especially with the Stockers and Shootout cars. It was a really, really busy day, but fun and exciting.”

Line holds the Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis Pro Stock track record for elapsed time at 6.538-second, set in 2011. He has also won at all but four racetracks on the current NHRA tour (Epping, Denver, Indianapolis, St. Louis).

Line arrived in Indy fourth in the point standings. He has three Pro Stock world championships on his resume – 2006, 2011, and 2016. He has 49 career Pro Stock wins.
“Right now, I think we kind of have something good right and hopefully we can keep it that way,” Line said. “This is the best is the best Summit Chevy Camaro I’ve had in a couple of years for sure. That’s exciting and fun. I would love to cross (Indy) off (the win list).”

Greg Anderson, Line’s teammate, is No. 8 on the ladder with his 6.611-second lap at 207.94 mph.

Anderson has six career Pro Stock wins at the U.S. Nationals in nine final-round appearances. He has 93 career Pro Stock wins.

WJ UNIJURED AFTER CRASH – This weekend at the U.S. Nationals Pro Stock legends Warren Johnson and Greg Anderson were scheduled to race Chevrolet Camaro 2SS machines during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals for a one-time-only, best-of-three match race, appropriately titled, “Back To School,” to reveal plans for the upcoming 50th anniversary of Pro Stock.

Johnson, Pro Stock’s winningest driver with 97 career victories, had a forgettable run in a time trial practice run Friday evening in the Camaros he was driving powered by a 6.2-liter V-8 pumping out 455 hp.

Johnson staged and launched the car from the starting line, and the wheels were already spinning and smoking.

Then, about 200 feet the Camaro started getting loose in the right lane and looked like it was like it was sliding on ice. The Camaro began to spin into the left lane and hit the left wall around 330 feet down track.

Johnson walked away from the wreck. The car has some damage on the left passenger side, and it left the track on a flatbed tow truck.

BUTNER CRAVES INDY WIN – Bo Butner has accomplished a lot in his Sportsman and Pro Stock racing careers highlighted by him winning the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Series Pro Stock world championship.

Despite all his success, Butner has never won – in any class – at the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.

“I’ve been in the finals, a lot of semifinals and I have won a lot of points meets up here and I’ve won a lot of races here, but just not the U.S. Nationals,” Butner said. “I can’t quit or retire until I do that.”

This weekend at the U.S. Nationals, Butner is running his Pro Stock Camaro which is part of the KB Racing team and he’s also competing in NHRA’s Factory Stock Showdown class.

Butner enters Indy first in the Pro Stock point standings on the strength of four wins at Pomona, Calif., Gainesville, Fla., Las Vegas and Richmond, Va. He was third on the qualifying ladder after Q1 with a 6.592-second elapsed time at 209.95 mph.

“I don’t care if I win Indy in a golf cart, I would be happy,” Butner said. “Just because it is the biggest race. It would be huge if I could win and would finally be very satisfied with my career. I think it would be very important if I could stay No. 1 in points and start the (six-race) Countdown there. I think you need to be top four to really have a shot to win it. We are just trying to get all the KB cars 1-2-3, which we are close. I really want to win that deal (a Pro Stock world championship) again. The last two or three years, the person who started first ended up winning the championship, which is good.”

Butner KB teammates are four-time world champion Greg Anderson (2003-05 and 2010) and three-time world champ Jason Line (2006, 2011 and 2016).

 

 

 

SMELAND IN MIX FOR COUNTDOWN – Pro Stock driver Val Smeland has had his ups and downs this season, but with the final regular season race on tap this weekend at the U.S. Nationals, Smeland is still very much in the mix to make the Top 10 and compete in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Smeland arrived in Indy 12th in the points, with 351 points, but he’s only nine points behind 11th place Fernando Cuadra and 12 points behind 10th place Kenny Delco, who also is Smeland’s teammate.

“This is actually going to be my second time racing in Indy,” Smeland said. “I raced here last year, and we just missed the field and I'm hoping my luck changes this year. Hopefully we get it.”

Smeland had a solid run Friday night in Q1 – a 6.627-second elapsed time at 208.26 mph to be ninth on the ladder. Delco had a 6.648-second lap which had him No. 14 on the qualifying ladder. Fernando Cuadro was 12th at 6.637 seconds.

Smeland feels a different vibe when he enters Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis.

“This is crazy,” Smeland said. “This is where it is. This is the big show to go to. This is the one you really want to run good at and now being where we are in the points, we really want to run good because now we're in the mix. We hope for a good showing and you know the engine is in good shape. We made some good calls on the car. We can make some good runs and get it in.”

Making the 16-car field in Indy is something Smeland is trying not to get overhyped about.

“When it comes down to (Monday), it's just another race,” Smeland said. “You've just got to do the best you can, and you got to make a really good run.”

Smeland’s best race was at the Mile-High Nationals in Denver July 19-21. Unfortunately, it was a forgettable event for Delco.

During Q3 July 20 at the Mile-High Nationals, Delco was making a pass in the right lane, against points leader Bo Butner.

When Butner left the starting line, his car laid over and his run was done. Delco’s Camaro kept charging down the quarter-mile and crossed the finished line in 6.972 seconds at 196.27 mph.

Then trouble happened shortly after for Delco. Past the finish line, as the parachutes began to deploy there was some smoke coming out from under Delco’s car and it hung a hard left and went nose first into the left wall. Then, the Camaro rolled three times before it settled on its roof and slid to the left wall and came to a stop.

Less than a minute after the scary crash, Delco climbed out of the car and walked away.

“It sucks that it was Kenny's worst race and it was probably one of my best races,” said Smeland, who lost in the second round at Bandimere Speedway to Matt Hartford. “We ran so good at Bandimere and we were coming together really good. We had the black car running well. The white car was running well. So, to have that happen, and now we’re kind of set back to where we were at the beginning of the year, but we're doing better than we were at the beginning of the year. We're getting a better handle on the car. If we can just keep going forward from here.”

As a result of Delco’s accident, Delco is running the car Smeland was driving in Bandimere.

“I have very high hopes and you know we’ll hopefully give them a good run, and keep Kenny honest,” Smeland said.

Smeland also took a moment to address the Pro Stock’s reduced 18-race schedule in 2019 from 24 national events like the Top Fuel and nitro Funny Cars.

“It’s helpful for the little guy because it costs us a lot to try and make the races,” Smeland said. “We don't have the sponsorships like some of these other guys, but I guess the guys like Greg (Anderson) and Jason (Line) and those guys that have a sponsorship it kind of hurts them because it's less money that they're going to make. It's less money for the sponsors to pay for, it’s less money that they’re going to make because they do this for a living. It's unfortunate that it had to come to that. But with the 18 races, it does make it easier on the little guys.”

Smeland said his team is planning to run 17 of the 18 races this year.

“We’re going to make everyone from here on in,” he said. “That’s our plan. The only one that we didn't make was Las Vegas (in April) because we had just come from Arizona to Gainesville and then to go to Gainesville back to Las Vegas, just financially it didn’t work. We didn’t make the first Vegas, but we'll make the second one because we'll go from Carolina to Dallas to Vegas to Pomona.”

Smeland acknowledged the first Vegas race, would have helped his plight to get into the Countdown.

“If we would have made it to the Vegas race, we would have had a little bit of a cushion (in points),” Smeland said. “I'm 12th right now. I'm 13 behind Kenny. Kenny is 10th and Fernando is in the middle. We’re working with Fernando too. I’ve got a feeling that qualifying should be very close if one of us is outside and gets a couple points more in qualifying, that will make a difference, but I think it's still going to be within one round come race day. You’ve got to get in the field for one. Yeah, and if we have any shot at it, we have to win first round.”

Smeland truly appreciates having Delco as a teammate.

“I have known Kenny since the 1990s, but I was younger at that time and I wasn't closer to them at that time,” Smeland said. “Then when I was running Competition Eliminator, he was also running in Competition Eliminator and then when I got into Pro Stock in 2005, I was racing with Bob Perry and Bob Perry and Kenny were very close friends.

I had just started out driving Pro Stock and it was a lot different than running Comp. Then Kenny came around and he gave me some good pointers on how to drive the car. There are certain things that you would do in a car that you didn’t realize you were doing. If you pay attention to them, you already know not to do them before you did them. It gives you a head start on getting more experience. He gave me a lot of pointers on how to drive and then from then on in anything that he would say, I would just listen. I’ll always look at what he does and then ask him pointers on what it was. You never can get enough experience.”

JEREMY MARTORELLA MAKES CAREER PRO STOCK DEBUT IN INDY – No one can say Jeremy Martorella is afraid of jumping in the deep end.

Martorella, who just received his Pro Stock license Aug. 25 in Atco, N.J., is competing in the Big Go – the U.S. Nationals this weekend as teammate to Alan Prusiensky.
“I never done Pro Stock stuff ever,” Martorella said. “I traveled around with the Fun Ford Series back about 15 years ago with Billy Glidden. So that's where I got most of my experience from. I got three world championships there in the Fun Ford Series in 2001-2003.

I raced several NMRA and NMCA races as well. No championships there but top 10 finishes several times. Back about five years ago I got a driving job on an import car, similar to Pro Stock car, 6.70 to 6.80-second range, a little over 200 (mph), but Billy made the mistake years ago when I raced in Fun Ford, telling me I was talented enough to be able to run a Pro Stock car because we had a small motor but the same transmission, a Liberty 5-speed. So, he got the bug in my ear.”

Fast-forward to this past spring and Martorella formed a fast friendship with Prusiensky.

“I learned of Alan through friends and sponsor eCarMover and decided to fly out to Virginia in May to meet Alan and was just a fly on the wall, just see how their program worked and what makes them tick,” Martorella said. “We hit it off and talked about doing a lease program for the car for a couple of races. We got that all set up and Alan suggested I come out to Brainerd to become a little bit more familiar with the car. I get to Brainerd and they hand me a toolbox. They said let’s take the rear gear out and when we’re done with that, we're going to take the headers out, the engine out and I became very intimate with the car that weekend. Multiple engine changes, multiple rear gear changes. I really like Alan’s family and we hit it off. And even though everything was in a rush, so far so good.”

At Atco, Martorella had a crash course to get licensed in Pro Stock.

“I only needed three to complete my license and we were in a time crunch so that's all we had was three passes,” Martorella said. “I made one full pass. I ran 6.82 at 203 mph. So, we went to Atco, it was a car show test and tune day. Nothing you would remotely run a Pro Stock car on, and it shook and picked the front end up and came down, shook again, but I drove through it. I ran Alan's personal car. There was another amazing thing for Alan to let me do. A Pro Stock guy doesn't just say, ‘hey, here's the keys, hop in.’ He allowed me to do that. This car here is Jeg Coughlin's old car and it was a few states away in Colorado. Jerry Haas went and picked it up for us and really helped us out a ton by picking the car up and transporting it here to Indy.”

Martorella first pass in the car came during Q1 Friday night at Lucas Oil Raceway. He had trouble off the line and slowed to 13.401 seconds. Prusiensky was No. 18 on the ladder with a 6.721-second ET.

“The car and I, we just met each other (Aug. 29) and we got the engine and clutch setup (Aug. 29),” he said.

Martorella resides in West Palm Beach, Fla., which is in the path of Hurricane Dorian.

“I’m anxious as far as the car goes and nervous for my friends and family down there in West Palm,” Martorella said. “It (the hurricane) should hit Monday late afternoon, I believe. But I've got a good group of guys that are putting shutters up and getting the house ready for me.”

Most recently, Martorella was competing in Import cars.

“I held the automatic quarter mile record for the import cars for a few years, 6.86 running a Toyota Solara,” Martorella said.

Now, Martorella is digesting the fact he’s competing at the U.S. Nationals.

“Everybody came up with this plan,” Martorella said. “(Billy) Glidden and a few others said, ‘why don't you wait for another race or do some serious testing first?’ and I'm 46 years old. You don't know what tomorrow holds. If I had the opportunity to play golf against Tiger Woods or any of those boys I would do it. Absolutely. We feel that we're up for the challenge and why not debut at the biggest race of the year. It would make one heck of a David and Goliath story if we ended up conquering here. Through efforts with Alan and my crew chief Bart Tobener, and my wife Tiffany, we feel that we really have a shot even against the big boys here. A great weekend would of course just be to qualify here. We know our role here in Pro Stock. So, if we qualify it would feel like I won the lottery.”

Martorella said following Indy, he plans on competing at Carolina Nationals Oct. 11-13.

“We're working with some sponsors now that actually wanted to see me in the car,” Martorella said. “I had a number of companies step up to the plate for me to get me here. And our goal is to put a deal together at least for half the season for 2020 to run with Alan.

I like Alan. I like Alan's perseverance. He's not necessarily, let's say, a team car with huge funding. He does this all on his own. He's a one man show, and he's got a shop with just one employee and comes to the track with one other guy here and that says a lot to me.”

ELITE MOTORSPORTS ROUND-UP – Elite Motorsports Pro Stock team is loaded with talent.

There’s five-time world champion Jeg Coughlin, two-time world champ Erica Enders and the head of Elite Motorsports Richard Freeman all made the one qualifying run Friday night and some fared better than others.

Enders is second on the qualifying sheet with a 6.590-second elapsed time at 207.24 mph. Coughlin was sixth at 6.607 seconds.

Freeman, who is making his Pro Stock U.S. Nationals debut, slowed to 10.723 seconds. Alex Laughlin, who runs Elite Motorsports power was fourth at 6.593 seconds and Matt Hartford who has an Elite powerplant was fifth at 6.602 seconds.

 

 

 

 

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