For this week’s blog, I decided to switch it up a bit and answer your questions about the U.S. Nationals this weekend. I hosted a Q&A on my Instagram story and got a lot of great questions from my followers. I answer my top 10 below:
What’s the most challenging thing about racing and car set-up at Indy to factor in?
With the U.S. Nationals being at the end of summer, it is typically really hot and humid – but we’re used to those conditions living in the Midwest. The hardest part is overthinking the tuneup; with all of the hype of the event and the high car count, history shows that some of the best can ruin a run by overthinking everything and not sticking to their gut.
Can your TAD chassis be certified for TF? Do you like the canopies?
No, our chassis is only certified to run up to 5 seconds. But a Top Fuel chassis can be used in the Top Alcohol Dragster class. I have no preference on the canopies. They are not allowed in our class, so I will never run a car with one of them.
Is there any extra prep your team puts in before going to Indy?
We have extra prep for media, and more travel than normal since this is the start of a three-race tour for us. We have a new layout of sponsor stickers to debut, a Menards retail display on Wednesday, TV interview on Thursday, Instagram takeover for NGK Spark Plugs on Friday and Saturday, and our new Intern will debut this weekend and we will have a couple interviews with him to promote those sponsors. Also, we make one extra qualifying run (four total) so we need more supplies, such as spark plugs, oil, fuel, clutch packs, etc. which adds up to be around $1,000.
How much does it cost to enter the race?
For a national event it is normally $250 plus $120 insurance fee for Top Alcohol Dragster. However, for the U.S. Nationals it is $300 plus $120 insurance fee. Since I was the champion of my region (Central) in 2017, I received a Gold Card for 2018, which means I get free entry to all races, but still have to pay the insurance fee.
How many runs can you make on a set of tires?
Anywhere from 1-30, honestly. We run Top Fuel tires from Goodyear, and no two sets act the same. Besides the compound of the tire, the longevity also depends on what track you run at and how hot the surface is. Typically, tires don’t chunk (have random missing spots of rubber) until after a driver lifts off the gas, usually when they pass the finish line, and that is when the track surface will grab the tire and take out chunks of rubber as it tries to slow down. At some tracks the driver can actually feel this happening if they know what to feel for. Because not all track surfaces are the same, we keep multiple sets with different rollout sizes and run counts stocked in our trailer, so we can change our performance based on the track’s conditions.
Which track means the most to you, and why?
I have a special connection to each track I visit, simply because I have been visiting them for over 20 years. A few of my favorite tracks include Topeka, Brainerd, Chicago, Norwalk, and St. Louis (all close to home). But, I would have to say my favorite track to race at is zMax Dragway in Charlotte, NC. This is the only track I have won at twice in my A/Fuel Dragster, and the facility is second to none. We always have great weather when we race there, the surface has great conditions for our class, and the fans there are great to visit with.
Is the payout better than any other race?
No, it is the same. We get $5,000 if we win plus contingency. (Although it cost 3x that to run at the U.S. Nationals). We also do not get extra points.
What is your mental workout leading up to the race?
The media opportunities we have at this race can be draining and stressful to meet deadlines. But that is also fun to me and why I love working in the media/marketing field. However, when I am at my trailer and working with my crew, I try my best to focus on doing my job as the driver. Hopefully there will be no red lights (or holeshot loses) from us this weekend!
What does it mean to win at Indy to you?
Besides the hype and publicity, it’s just the same as winning any other race. It will mean a lot to our team as we’ve been racing at the U.S. Nationals for decades but have not won it yet (came close last year but settled for second place).
Does your class also have a countdown?
To run in Top Alcohol Dragster, a team will pick any 10 national events that they run TAD at (out of 16). It doesn’t matter which 10, but typically a team picks the ones that are closest to home or that they would have the best chance of winning at based on car count and conditions. If they ran at more than 10 races, they get 0 points even if they win the event. NHRA will take the best 7 out of those 10 (so they get 3 to throw away) at the end of the year, add in 3 regional races, and whoever has the most points wins the championship.
Best 7 national events (out of first 10) + Best 3 regional events (out of first 5) = total points at end of year.
Please stop by my pits if you are attending the race this weekend! We will make two qualifying runs on Friday and Saturday and have eliminations on Sunday and Monday. Julie will be my teammate for the race and this is her first time racing at the U.S. Nationals (and she just finished her last college class this week!).