The Countdown to the Championship creeps ever closer for the stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, and Sunday’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will prove a pivotal round for those chasing a playoff berth. The annual visit to Brainerd International Raceway is a popular one every single year, not only for the quality of the racing action, but also for “The Zoo,” the infamous on-site campgrounds.
Billy Torrence, Jack Beckman, and Deric Kramer took the Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock victories on offer in last year’s Brainerd finals. Torrence’s win was the first of his Top Fuel career, foreshadowing an even stronger 2019 where he’s won twice more in a limited schedule. While his son Steve remains the dominant force in the championship standings, there’s a good chance that Billy could race his own way into the Countdown thanks to strong performances every time he hits the track.
But it’s Austin Prock who enters the weekend as Top Fuel’s most recent winner, thanks to a victory at Pacific Raceways. It was part of an extra special weekend for John Force Racing, as the team’s namesake finally scored his milestone 150th career Wally after more than a year of waiting. John Force remains one of the top challengers for the Funny Car points lead, currently held by teammate Robert Hight, as he pursues his 17th career NHRA title.
Prock and Northwest Nationals Pro Stock winner Matt Hartford share one thing in common, if nothing else: they’ll both be competing in Brainerd for the first time this weekend. Hartford sits fourth in Pro Stock points, guaranteed a spot in the Countdown but still chasing Bo Butner for the points lead nonetheless.
The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will air live on Sunday at 2PM ET on FS1. From there, it’s on to the final race of the 2019 regular season, the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals from Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.