Matusek and Thorne Escape Serious Injury at U.S. Nationals
One thing is for certain, when the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod division takes to the track; it is going to be exciting. In the NHRA’s run-whatever-engine you choose class, brute power and explosive speed are never a problem. But, keeping a doorslammer on the straight and narrow for a quarter of mile can be. During the opening round at the 66th running of the DENSO U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway, fans witnessed separate first-round accidents during Pro Mod eliminations in Indianapolis on Sunday. First up was Kristopher Thorne who entered the event with an early season points lead. Thorne lined up next to the Number One qualifier, the legendary Jason Scruggs.
Thorne had a near perfect run that started with an amazing .006 RT to Scruggs .039 reaction time. By mid-track, Thorne had complete control of the race in his 2018 Chevrolet Camaro in route to posting a 5.768 ET at 257.87 mph. After crossing the finish line with a victory in hand, everything started to go wrong in a hurry. When the parachutes on his turbocharged rocket ship failed to deploy, Thorne was forced to get on the binders hard. Unfortunately, the car did not like the hard braking, got out of shape, darted across the track in front of a slowing Scruggs, and made a hard impact with outside retaining wall. The badly damaged Camaro flipped and skidded on its roof before coming to rest on its wheels in the sand trap at the end of the racing lanes.
A very lucky Kris Thorne crawled out of his mangled ride under his own power and told reporters he probably got on the brakes a little too hard. Although the win meant Thorne was automatically advancing to the next round, it took track officials nearly a half an hour to clean up the debris field and one of the hottest drivers for the 2020 Pro Mod season was forced to watch Round Two from the sidelines.
A couple of races after the track was cleared veteran Pro Mod driver Steve Matusek, who qualified ninth, lined up against the number eight qualifier Todd Tutterow. Matusek, driving a brand new turbocharged (the only other turbo in the field) Ford Mustang, left Tutterow (.049 RT) at the Christmas tree with a .012 reaction time. Unlike Thorne’s accident, Matusek’s Mustang drifted from the left lane toward the center dividing line and narrowly missed the AAP Chevrolet as it powered to a 5.767 ET at 249.21 mph. The bright red 2020 Tequila Comisario Mustang rolled and skidded on the driver’s side, then flipped upside down in the middle of the racetrack. Once his car came to a stop, Matusek climbed out under his own power.
Uninjured in the horrific crash, Kansas-native Steve Matusek would join Kris Thorne as a spectator for the remaining rounds of DENSO Spark Plugs U.S. Nationals. Oddly enough, the unexpected pair of Round One crashes took out the only two turbocharged cars in the field at the DENSO U.S. Nationals. Most of the teams that were using turbochargers have switched to the Pro Charger engine setup.