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

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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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MONDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS:

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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Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.