Gremlins and Weather Prevail at NHRA Midwest Nationals
Living through 2020 will be remembered as the year we all had to adapt. The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series series for drag racing is no exception, as races have been halted, postponed, rescheduled, and changed again. Event uncertainty continued this weekend for the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis. Although racers and fans were able to beat the heat in the shadows of the Gateway Arch, cooler weather and a rising dew point had race teams searching for grip. Saturday’s qualifying round for the elite Nitro classes saw tuners take turns at trying to find the right amount of grip on a loose racing surface.
Due to the Saturday afternoon rains, only one round of qualifying was completed in Top Fuel and Funny Car. Tony Schumacher, who just returned to NHRA Top Fuel after retiring with 84 wins, had a three-hour rain delay before posting a track record for speed. The 50-year claimed his 88th career number one qualifier at 332.92 mph with a 3.680 ET. Paul Lee posted a 3.913 ET at 326.95 mph in his Toyota Camry Funny for first ever number one qualifier award. In Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycles, racers were unable to make a run and elimination ladders were determined by the season’s points standing. Jason Line was awarded number one qualifier in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Gremlins continued to haunt the NHRA’s top competitors on Sunday at the ninth annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA Midwest Nationals presented by Pennzoil. In Funny Car during second round eliminations, the body work on Alexis DeJoria’s ABK Toyota Camry disintegrated when the engine blew near the end of her run. Her car stayed upright on all fours and the driver walked away. Pro Stock driver Kenny Delco lost control crossing the finish line and crashed into the retaining wall and was also uninjured. After Leah Pruett left the start, her Don Schumacher Racing MOPAR dragster began to buckle nose down and bent in half before breaking into two pieces. Pruett was a bit shaken but was not injured in her spectacular crash.
Although Tony Schumacher was cocked and loaded to take on Doug Kalitta in the semi final round, the throttle on his Sandvik and Okuma Toyota dragster stuck during his burnout and ended his quest for victory. Veteran Doug Kalitta won for a fourth time in St. Louis by defeating points leader Steve Torrence. Torrence holds a slim two-point lead going into the next event at Dallas. Tommy Johnson Jr. also claimed victory at the eighth race of the 2020 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season at World Wide Technology Raceway. Johnson picked up his second win of the 2020 season and his 21st career Wally by the narrowest margins in his MD Anderson Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. He posted a 3.884 ET at 326.88 mph to edge out Matt Hagan with a 3.886 ET at 333.00 mph.
Racing in the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle was postponed at the NHRA Midwest Nationals. Officials have not announced dates, times, or venues for completion of the top tier classes. Pro Stock Motorcycle is down to the final four of Matt Smith, Steve Johnson, Scotty Pollacheck, and Andrew Hines. Pro Stock is currently midway through class quarterfinals. The 2020 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series continues Oct. 14-18 with the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex outside Dallas, TX.