Ready, set, Big Go: Field set for Monday’s NHRA U.S. Nationals final eliminations

(Photo and videos courtesy NHRA)

BROWNSBURG, Indiana – Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will be the drivers to beat in Monday’s final eliminations of the 62nd Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

All four drivers qualified No. 1 in their respective classes at Lucas Oil Raceway in the NHRA’s biggest event of the year, nicknamed the “Big Go.”

This will be the 18th race of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule and is also the final “regular season” race before the NHRA’s six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff begins in two weeks in Charlotte.

In Top Fuel, Millican’s qualifying run Saturday night (a track record 3.692 seconds at 316.82 mph) held up through Sunday’s two final qualifying rounds to earn his fourth career No. 1 qualifier.

“It is really a proud moment for this small team to be able to go out here and be the No. 1 qualifier at the U.S. Nationals,” said Millican, who is seeking his first career Top Fuel win. “This is my fourth No. 1 qualifier with the NHRA but this is certainly the biggest one, no doubt about it.”

But Millican cannot rest on his No. 1 qualifier laurels. He comes into Monday’s race one point behind Leah Pritchett for the 10th and final qualifying spot for the Countdown to the Championship.

In Funny Car, Hagan’s first qualifying round performance (a track record 3.858 seconds at 330.80 mph) on Friday night held up over the subsequent four additional qualifying sessions Saturday and Sunday to give him the top spot heading into Monday’s eliminations.

“I didn’t think it was going to stick, but I’m glad it did,” said Hagan, who earned the 25th No. 1 qualifier of his Funny Car career. “We’ll get focused for tomorrow. Woke up this morning with a sore throat and running a fever but whether you got a cold or not, you got to get in the racecar focused.”

Also of note, former two-time Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon’s season-long struggles continued. Pedregon failed to qualify for Monday’s finals. By missing the race, he’s eliminated from potentially still making the Countdown to the Championship.

In Pro Stock, Butner grabbed the top spot Sunday with a run of 6.571 seconds at 210.24 mph, his third career No. 1 qualifier.

Butner has four runner-up finishes thus far this season, but is definitely looking for a win Monday.

“Hopefully we will get some of this hometown love,” said Butner, who is from nearby Floyds Knob, Ind. “We have a very fast car and we’ve had a very fast car all year long.

“This is the toughest class ever and it’s hard to win. You have to have a little luck and some breaks but I feel good about this weekend so I think we’ll maybe finish it up like we need to and win.”

Butner, Millican and Hagan are all seeking their respective first career wins in the U.S. Nationals.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, two-time U.S. Nationals winner (2001 and 2002) Sampey earned her 48th career No. 1 qualifying spot (a track record 6.812 seconds at 196.62 mph).

It’s also Sampey’s third No. 1 qualifier of 2016 and fifth of her career at Lucas Oil Raceway.

“When they told me I (qualified No. 1), I lost it down there like I had won the race,” Sampey said. “I was hootin’ and hollerin’ because I didn’t expect it. I was very proud of my team and very proud of myself because I did a very good job of driving it that run, which usually doesn’t happen every single run.”

Monday’s eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET.

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Top Fuel — 1. Clay Millican, 3.692 seconds, 318.77 mph  vs. 16. Terry McMillen, 3.895, 316.45; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.702, 328.62  vs. 15. Bruce Litton, 3.829, 319.14; 3. Brittany Force, 3.706, 326.00  vs. 14. Pat Dakin, 3.799, 311.70; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.717, 330.31  vs. 13. Tripp Tatum, 3.796, 326.00; 5. Antron Brown, 3.725, 326.00  vs. 12. T.J. Zizzo, 3.772, 319.82; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.726, 328.54  vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.772, 324.90; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.731, 327.11  vs. 10. Leah Pritchett, 3.738, 329.75; 8. Morgan Lucas, 3.732, 326.63  vs. 9. J.R. Todd, 3.734, 319.37.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Wayne Newby, 3.897, 308.85; 18. Terry Haddock, 4.009, 299.86; 19. Chris Karamesines, 4.662, 165.78; 20. Luigi Novelli, 4.820, 305.29.

Funny Car — 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.858, 330.80  vs. 16. John Bojec, Toyota Solara, 4.136, 299.86; 2. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.859, 333.08  vs. 15. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.103, 310.84; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.861, 325.30  vs. 14. Bob Bode, Solara, 4.095, 310.77; 4. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.867, 327.66  vs. 13. Jim Campbell, Charger, 3.977, 315.56; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.868, 329.99  vs. 12. John Hale, Charger, 3.969, 478.89; 6. John Force, Camaro, 3.872, 329.58  vs. 11. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 3.953, 325.92; 7. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.874, 328.86 vs. 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.945, 325.45; 8. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.881, 330.31  vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.914, 328.46.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Cruz Pedregon, 4.753, 222.99; 18. Justin Schriefer, 5.881, 276.58; 19. Tim Gibbons, broke.

Pro Stock — 1. Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.571, 210.24  vs. 16. Curt Steinbach, Camaro, 6.674, 206.13; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.576, 209.92  vs. 15. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.659, 207.82; 3. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.577, 209.52  vs. 14. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.648, 208.14; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.582, 210.31  vs. 13. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.640, 208.07; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.593, 209.88  vs. 12. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.634, 208.23; 6. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.598, 209.62  vs. 11. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.633, 208.30; 7. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.610, 208.71  vs. 10. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.626, 209.46; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.612, 208.94  vs. 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.624, 208.88.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Alan Prusiensky, 6.703, 206.10; 18. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.714, 205.98; 19. Shane Tucker, 6.752, 207.02.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.812, 197.02  vs. 16. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.918, 195.11; 2. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.841, 196.85  vs. 15. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.913, 195.34; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.848, 195.00  vs. 14. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.907, 194.83; 4. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.849, 196.53  vs. 13. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.897, 195.39; 5. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.853, 196.04  vs. 12. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.887, 194.80; 6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.860, 196.44  vs. 11. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.876, 193.52; 7. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.864, 195.31  vs. 10. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.875, 194.38; 8. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.868, 196.07  vs. 9. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.872, 195.56.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Mark Paquette, 6.962, 194.07; 18. Joey Gladstone, 7.018, 193.49; 19. Angie Smith, 7.038, 191.59; 20. Kristen Ashby, 7.275, 183.77; 21. Lance Bonham, 7.606, 180.96; 22. Joe DeSantis, 8.551, 190.40; 23. Anthony Vanetti, broke.

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Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.