NHRA: All you need to know about the 61st U.S. Nationals

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Here’s all the information you need to know about this weekend’s 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis:

MORE: NHRA: Year’s biggest race, the U.S. Nationals, ready to roll

WHAT: 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the last race in the NHRA Mello Yello Series regular season. At the conclusion of this event, the top 10 drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – will be locked in to begin the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, leading to 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.

WHERE: Lucas Oil Raceway, Brownsburg, Ind. From I-465, exit Crawfordsville Road (Hwy. 136). Head west for four miles past downtown Clermont. The facility’s main entrance is on the left, one-half mile past Raceway Road. From I-74 go south on Ronald Reagan Parkway, exit 68 and turn south. Turn east on U.S. 136 and entrance on the track will be on the right.

POINTS:  A special world championship points system is in effect at this event, where drivers in the Mello Yello Series categories will earn points based on a point-and-a-half system (150 points to win). A single racer in each category can earn a maximum of 208 points at this event. Teams also will get 15 points instead of 10 for making a qualifying attempt. Qualifying bonus points will remain at 3-2-1 for the five qualifying sessions and the standard 1-8 points will be given for qualifying positions. Drivers who set a national E.T. record will earn 20 points.

WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 7.

SCHEDULE (All times Eastern):

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 2: Lucas Oil Series qualifying

THURSDAY, Sept. 3 – Lucas Oil Series qualifying and eliminations

FRIDAY, Sept. 4 – Lucas Oil Series (featuring Mopar HEMI Challenge): J&A Service Pro Mod Series qualifying at 6 pm, Mello Yello Series qualifying at 6:30 pm

SATURDAY, Sept. 5 – Lucas Oil Series qualifying and eliminations: Pro Mod Series qualifying at 2 and 5:30 pm; Traxxas Nitro Shootout Top Fuel rounds at 4, 5:25 and 7:45 pm; Mello Yello Series qualifying at 2:45 pm and 6:15 pm

SUNDAY, Sept. 6 – Lucas Oil Series qualifying and eliminations: J&A Service Pro Mod Series qualifying at 10:30 am, first round of eliminations at 2 pm; Traxxas Nitro Shootout (Funny Car) rounds at 12:30, 1:55 and 4:15 pm; Mello Yello Series qualifying at 11 am and 2:30 pm

MONDAY, Sept. 7 – Pre-race ceremonies, 9:45 am; Mello Yello Series eliminations begin at 11 am.

TELEVISION:

—Sunday, ESPN, qualifying coverage, 11 am to 1:30 pm ET.
—Sunday, ESPN2, qualifying coverage, 11 pm to 1:30 am ET.
—Monday, ESPN, final eliminations, 4 to 7 pm ET.

2014 U.S. NATIONALS WINNERS: Richie Crampton, Top Fuel; Alexis DeJoria, Funny Car; Shane Gray, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.

MOST CAREER U.S. NATIONALS VICTORIES: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel, 9; Bob Glidden, Pro Stock, 9; Don Garlits, Top Fuel, 8; Don Prudhomme, Top Fuel and Funny Car, 7; Warren Johnson, Pro Stock, 6; Dave Schultz, Pro Stock Motorcycle, 6; Ed McCulloch, Funny Car and Top Fuel, 6; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock, 6; John Force, Funny Car, 4; Larry Dixon, Top Fuel, 4.

EVENT HISTORY: The NHRA’s most historic and prestigious event has been contested annually since 1955. Originally known as “The Nationals” and often called the “Big Go” by drag racing historians and fans, the event was first held at an airstrip in Great Bend, Kan., the event made stops at Kansas City, Mo., Oklahoma City and Detroit before eventually moving to Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Raceway in 1961.

FAST FACTS: The Traxxas Nitro Shootout will offer $100,000 to the winners in special bonus events for qualified Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers. … Tony Schumacher is an 11-time U.S. Nationals finalist in Top Fuel (winning nine). Schumacher’s first career NHRA start came at the U.S. Nationals in 1996 and the then rookie posted a runner-up finish to Cory McClenathan. … John Force, 16-time NHRA Mello Yello Series world champion and winner of a record 143 events, has won the U.S. Nationals four times, his last coming in 2002. …  Four women have earned Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals victories, including Shirley Muldowney once in Top Fuel, Ashley Force Hood twice in Funny Car, Alexis DeJoria once in Funny Car and Angelle Sampey twice in Pro Stock Motorcycle. … Kenny Bernstein, Don Prudhomme, Jim Head and Ed McCulloch have won the U.S. Nationals in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, while Antron Brown has also won the race in Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle. … Eight female drivers representing all four Mello Yello Series categories are expected to compete in the U.S. Nationals. … Several high-profile drivers are looking for their first victory in the world’s most prestigious drag race, including two-time Indy runner-up Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel, defending world champ Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and Tony Pedregon in Funny Car and defending world champ Allen Johnson in Pro Stock.

TRACK HISTORY: In 1958, Tom Binford, Frank Dickie, Rodger Ward, Howard Fieber and 15 Indianapolis-area businessmen and racing professionals invested $5,000 each to fund the development of what would become Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. The group purchased a 267-acre farm about seven miles from Indianapolis Motor Speedway and developed a multipurpose auto racing facility. The original intention was to design a 15-turn, 2.5-mile road course. Nearly as an afterthought, and as an insurance measure against economic problems, the investment group decided to incorporate a quarter-mile drag strip into the long straightaway of the 2.5-mile road course design. Constructed with assistance from the NHRA, the drag strip was the first of the three courses to be completed, with the facility’s first event held on the strip in the fall of 1960. During the 1960 U.S. Nationals in Detroit, a handshake agreement between Binford and NHRA founder Wally Parks promised that the event would move to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961. The NHRA purchased the entire facility in 1979. The first major improvement came in 1983 with the construction and dedication of Parks Tower, the four-story drag strip tower. In 1998, new grandstands, suites and a tower complex on the front straightaway were completed at the oval track at a cost of nearly $2.5 million, which included the repaving of the entire oval surface as part of a three-phase facility improvement project. In 2001, NHRA and Lucas Oil Raceway constructed a new drag strip racing surface, replacing the strip with a 660-foot concrete pad and laying new asphalt on the remainder of the track and shutdown area. In 2006, new soft barrier walls were added to the oval. In 2007, the track announced its first track entitlement with O’Reilly Auto Parts. In 2011, the track announced a new track entitlement with Lucas Oil Products. The track – formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park – is now known as Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. During the winter of 2008, a new main track office building was constructed near the track entrance.

NHRA TRACK RECORDS:

–Top Fuel – 3.740 sec. by Shawn Langdon, Sept. ’13; 328.54 mph by Tony Schumacher, Sept. ’14.

–Funny Car – 3.998 sec. by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’14; 322.73 mph by Courtney Force, Sept. ’14.

–Pro Stock – 6.538 sec. by Jason Line, Sept. ’11; 211.13 mph by Mike Edwards, Sept. ’12.

–Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.815 sec. by Andrew Hines, Sept. ’10; 196.76 mph by Hines, Sept. ’10.

EXISTING NHRA NATIONAL RECORDS:

–Top Fuel – 3.680 sec. by Antron Brown, Aug. ‘15, Brainerd, Minn.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.

–Funny Car – 3.901 sec. by Jack Beckman, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.; 329.58 mph by Matt Hagan, Aug. ‘15, Brainerd, Minn.

–Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders-Stevens, May ‘14, Englishtown, N.J.

–Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., April ’15, Charlotte, N.C.

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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.