Sampey, B. Force, Beckman, Butner & R. Smith Claim No. 1 Spots At U.S. Nationals
Angelle Sampey earned her first No. 1 qualifier since 2016 and the 50th in her career, as she raced to the top spot in Pro Stock Motorcycle on Sunday at the 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Brittany Force (Top Fuel) Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Bo Butner (Pro Stock) also earned No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the final regular-season race of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. It is the 18th of 24 events in 2019.
Sampey, a three-time world champion, used her 6.816-second run at 195.53 mph on her Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson FXDR from Saturday to gain the top qualifying position. A two-time Indy winner, Sampey will face off with Joey Gladstone in the first round of eliminations. Defending world champ Matt Smith will start from second after going 6.820 at 197.25, while points leader Andrew Hines finished third in qualifying with a 6.823 at 195.87.
“I just never imagined that I would get a No. 1 qualifier at this race, this year,” said Sampey, whose two Indy wins came from the No. 1 spot. “It’s been a rough year, and I came here just thinking I was going to do whatever I can. Getting a No. 1 qualifier and getting a confidence boost like this is what I really, really needed right now. I’m feeling much more comfortable going into tomorrow than I did coming into qualifying, and I’m just going to try to keep that momentum going.”
Force became the first female to qualify No. 1 in Top Fuel history at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals thanks to her track-record time of 3.645 at 332.26 from Saturday in her Advance Auto Parts dragster, also accomplishing it in the quickest qualifying field in NHRA history. It is her sixth top qualifier of 2019 and 16th in her career, and Force, trying for her first win at the Big Go, will face T.J. Zizzo in the opening round of eliminations.
“That’s pretty awesome to be able to accomplish that with the Advance Auto Parts team,” Force said. “That’s a big accomplishment, but we want to do more. We want to win tomorrow. To win Indy, it’s joining a list of legends. My dad is on there, and so are so many drivers that I’ve looked up to. Everyone wants to win Indy and our team wants to as well.”
Billy Torrence, who entered the weekend 12th in points, qualified second with his run of 3.655 at a track-record speed of 333.33 as he tries to make a run into the top 10 and secure his first birth in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship. Defending world champ and points leader Steve Torrence took the third spot with a 3.656 at 331.12.
Funny Car’s Beckman earned his first No. 1 qualifier of 2019, as his 3.861 at 330.07 in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat from Saturday held up. It is Beckman’s 25th career No. 1 qualifier in what is the quickest qualifying field in Funny Car history. He will face Justin Schriefer in the first round, as Beckman seeks his first win of 2019 and second at Indy.
“I think we’ve been as close to perfect as a Funny Car has been lately,” Beckman said. “Everyone on our team is revved up and I think it’s so important to set the tone that you know you can be the best. I feel like I’m doing the best I can, and tomorrow is raceday and you’ve got to be flawless. Tomorrow is not about E.T. slips, it’s about win lights. You don’t even have to be good, you just have to be better than the car in the other lane.”
Beckman’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan qualified second thanks to his run of 3.874 at 327.66 from Saturday, while John Force is a spot behind with a 3.876 at 332.67. Back-to-back Indy winner J.R. Todd starts from the fifth position, while points leader Robert Hight qualified sixth. In all, 15 of the 16 qualified cars made 3-second runs.
In Pro Stock, points leader Butner picked up his third No. 1 qualifier this year and 11th in his career after his run of 6.559 at 210.28 in his Jim Butner Auto Group Camaro held up. Butner will aim to be the sixth straight first-time Pro Stock winner at Indy and will face Kenny Delco in the opening round of eliminations. His KB Racing teammate, Jason Line, will start from second with his 6.561 at 210.64 and will also try to win at Indy for the first time. Erica Enders begins raceday from the third position after going 6.575 at 208.94.
“We have a very good car that can turn win lights on, and we’re happy with that,” Butner said. “We tried a lot of stuff throughout the year, but now it’s serious time. I really want to win Indy to top off my career and that’s my goal. It’s our home track and it’s still the biggest race ever.”
In the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service, three-time world champ Rickie Smith qualified No. 1 with a run of 5.717 at 251.34 in his nitrous-powered Camaro. He’ll face off with Eric Latino in the first round of eliminations.
Eliminations at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals begin at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday. Television coverage starts at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), and continues on the FOX national broadcast network at 1 p.m. ET.