The NHRA Nationals for Beginners
This is for those that have never been to a drag racing event before from the perspective of a ﬁrst time attendee. So, who exactly is the ﬁrst time attendee? Well, it’s me.
Having lived in Brownsburg, Indiana, where the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals are held, I had heard the sounds of the races several times but never went to check them out. Not being a big sports fan, it really didn’t interest me. But, I’m all about new experiences. So, off I went to Lucas Oil Raceway, not really knowing what to expect. What I found was a very open and family-friendly event.
The event takes place over the span of ﬁve days during the Labor Day weekend, beginning the Thursday before and concluding on Labor Day. Due to previous engagements I was unable to attend on Saturday and Sunday. But what I found is that every day is an experience.
With that said here’s my take on the Nationals as a ﬁrst-timer.
You may have thought that — having previously lived in Brownsburg and having heard the cars from about a mile away — I would have been prepared for this event. I wasn’t. Arriving on Thursday afternoon, I wanted to walk in with no knowledge of drag racing events during this assignment. After acquiring my press credentials, I headed to the stands to get my ﬁrst taste of drag racing. Now I knew it was going to be loud, but I was not prepared at all for how loud some of these cars actually were. If you don’t want to sit with your ﬁngers in your ears, and, honestly, against Top Fuel dragsters that won’t even help much, get some hearing protection. Top Fuel cars literally shook me to the bones when launching off the start line. During the Top Fuel runs, if I wasn’t paying attention to the “Christmas tree” — that’s what the light tower is called that starts the race — I would jump when they took off. And I was not alone in that aspect — almost every time the Top Fuel dragsters took off car alarms would go off in the parking lot.
There are multiple classes in drag racing — from your everyday stock cars, like a Chevy Cobalt, to what is called Top Fuel. Top fuel cars literally burn the same fuel used in rockets — and it shows. When they launch, ﬂames shoot out of the exhaust pipes.
You can watch as they set up or repair their cars and motorcycles for the next run. Oh, and the smell of nitromethane when they start the cars in the bays was also interesting — it stings your eyes a little if your standing right behind the car.
The drivers and mechanics were also very open and accessible when it came to taking pictures and signing autographs. I was able to talk to a few of the smaller teams and their owners. Interesting group to say the least. One team I talked with, their car had at one time set a couple of speed records.
Now, I can’t tell you who won what other than John Force won Top Fuel Funny Car for the ﬁrst time at Lucas Oil Raceway in about 15 years. What is a drag racing article without mentioning John Force?
Overall, the spectators were more friendly than I expected. I ﬁgured this would be a good ole’ boy event. . . But I found the crowd and the drivers were more diverse than I expected and I’d say that anyone who is thinking of attending, regardless of race, gender or knowledge of drag racing, would ﬁnd something interesting over the weekend.
Just be sure to bring earplugs and enjoy the vibrations!
Here are the results thanks to the NHRA.com website.
2019 NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. National Results
Top Fuel - Doug Kalitta
Pro Stock - Alex Laughlin
Top Alcohol Dragster - Megan Meyer
Competition Eliminator - Frank Aragon Jr.
Stock Eliminator - Austin Williams
Super Gas - Nathan Vrooman
Top Dragster - Rusty Baxter
Top Fuel Harley - Randal Andras
Hemi Challenge - James Daniels
Funny Car - John Force
Pro Stock Motorcycle - Jerry Savoie
Top Alcohol Funny Car - Jay Payne
Super Stock - Tyler Cassil
Super Comp - Lynn Ellison
Top Sportsman - Larry Demers
Pro Mod - Mike Castellana
Factory Stock Showdown - Bill Skillman