INDIANAPOLIS – Brittany Force became the first female driver to be the No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis on Sunday.
Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also earned No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the final regular-season race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Force became the first female to qualify No. 1 in Top Fuel history at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals thanks to her track-record time of 3.645 seconds at 332.26 mph 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 the year 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 seconds at a track-record speed of 333.33 mph 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.
Funny Car’s Beckman earned his first No. 1 qualifier of the year, as his 3.861-second pass at 330.07 mph 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 the year 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 seconds at 327.66 mph from Saturday, while John Force is a spot behind in third. 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 of his career after his run of 6.559 seconds at 210.28 mph 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-second run at 210.64 mph and will also try to win at Indy for the first time. Erica Enders begins race day from the third position.
“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.”
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 in Pro Stock Motorcycle. It’s her first No. 1 qualifier since 2016.
“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.”
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 seconds at 197.25 mph, while points leader Andrew Hines finished third in qualifying.
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 seconds at 251.34 mph in his nitrous-powered Camaro. He’ll face off with Eric Latino in the first round of eliminations.