Antron Brown, Ron Capps, and Matt Smith successfully defended their 2022 Indy titles in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock Motorcycle while Matt Hartford earned his first Pro Stock victory at the 69th annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals.

Winning the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals is a dream come true for every drag racer and the only thing that beats an Indy victory is multiple Indy victories. Antron Brown, Ron Capps, and Matt Smith know that feeling well as they each defended their 2022 titles at the sport’s biggest and most historic drag race, while Matt Hartford got his first taste of Indy glory with a win in Pro Stock.

In many ways, Capps was the star of the show as the reigning and three-time Funny Car champ not only won his second-straight Indy title, but did it with a special edition paint scheme honoring legend Don “the Snake” Prudhomme. Capps’ win will return NHRA legend Don Prudhomme to the Indy winner’s circle after Capps steered his Hot Wheels/Prudhomme tribute Toyota to a final-round 3.98 to 4.13 victory over J.R. Todd. Capps’ car celebrated seven-time U.S. Nationals winner Prudhomme’s Indy win 50 years ago, when “the Snake” became the first driver to win the “Big Go” in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

“You can’t dream this big. I mean, you could hope and you can put all this stuff together and we did it to have some fun to do something cool for Indy,” said Capps. “This just doesn’t happen. You just put this together and hope that it’s going to have some success and you end up winning.”

“I’ve been wanting to do a real throwback and thankfully the people that make decisions at NAPA Auto Parts for the motorsports teams understood the legacy and understood how cool this thing was and they stepped off the car and made sure that we did it the right way, and with Toyota, the same thing. They wanted to be a part of it and then I called ‘Snake,’ and sent him the picture and have just been talking on the phone and how cool he thought it was.”

“It’s just amazing,” said Prudhomme. “When he first sent me the paint scheme it brought a tear to my eye I thought ‘This thing’s beautiful.’ It’s just this is something I’m gonna remember for a long time.”

The win also was Capps’ second straight after winning two weeks ago in Brainerd and the 76th of his career, 75 of which have come in Funny Car.

After a solid first-round 3.89 that dispatched Dale Creasy Jr., Capps had to tip-toe his way to his third straight Indy final with sketchy wins over Matt Hagan – a win that guaranteed he’d be the points leader at the end of the regular season — and low qualifier Robert Hight. Capps won with elapsed times of just 4.58 and 4.02 while battling for control on a hot track. The final was Capps’ sixth of the year and 146th of his career.

Following a redeeming summer in which he went to the semifinals in five straight race — including a win in Sonoma and a runner-up in Seattle –- Todd came into the Big Go on the heels of a disappointing first-round loss in Brainerd but recovered quickly and qualified his Jon Oberhofer-tuned Toyota with a pair of three-second passes.

Todd, who won the U.S. Nationals back-to-back in 2017-18, powered to a 3.91 in round one to end Blake Alexander’s playoff hopes and followed with a huge holeshot win over No. 2 qualifier Bob Tasca III, a race that Todd won by just .002-second. Todd reached the final, his fourth of the season and 45th of his career, by beating fellow past world champ Cruz Pedregon. The drama didn’t end there though as Todd’s mount had a brake pressure sensor on the master cylinder fail, and he was forced to drive off into the grass in the shutdown area to avoid a collision. After checking the car over, the team determined that the chassis and body were fine to run in the final.

Brown’s second straight and fifth overall victory at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals may certainly be his most memorable as he went from being not qualified Sunday afternoon to standing in the Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park winner’s circle Monday following his 3.77 to 3.87 final-round victory over No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence. The victory is the 74th of Brown’s career, which now includes three Indy wins in Top Fuel to go with two in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“This is one that was a getting-dirty win,” Brown summarized. “We went through all the trials and tribulations and that’s what makes this one so special, that through all the pain, all the stuff all the way through qualifying, we found a way as a team. Whether I was down, or Brian [Corradi, crew chief] gets down, the only one that’s got ice in your veins was [crew chief Mark] Oswald; he’s just like, ‘We still can do it.’ But we were down and out, brother, we had two strikes in that final qualifying section, we just hit an RBI and brought in the runs.

“We made a change to the clutch in Brainerd and thought we could work with it here, but it just wasn’t having it. Everything that we thought we were doing was wrong. We kept making changes until the end. Once we figured it out on that qualifying run — basically taking one [clutch disc[] out and another one in, we knew we had it for raceday and we had a package we could tune on.”

Both Top Fuel finalists entered raceday with concerns as Brown’s Matco car, beleaguered by clutch woes, had not qualified for the field until the final run, and Torrence’s team had to switch to a backup chassis after the team found a kink in the pipe of their primary car.

Brown reached the final round, his fifth of the season and the 135th of his career, by taking down world champ Brittany Force, Clay Millican, and points leader Justin Ashley. His opening 3.74 win over Force boosted his first-round record against her to 8-1 and was his best run of the day as he followed with a 3.79 to beat Millican then won a wild pedaling race with Ashley with a 4.92.

Brown is only the second Top Fuel driver to reach the U.S. Nationals final from the No. 15 spot. The only other driver to do it was Gary Clapshaw, who was runner-up to Tony Schumacher in 2000.

Brown is just the fourth driver in Top Fuel history to win from the No. 15 spot and a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Cristen Powell won in Englishtown in 1997 and this is just the third time that the No. 1 and No. 15 Top Fuel qualifiers have met in a final round at any event.

The No 15 Top Fuel qualifier has only been to the final round 19 times in the 969-race history of the class and Brown has now done it twice, both times this year; he was runner-up in Bristol to Justin Ashley.

Torrence’s long day also assured that he would finish the regular season in the No. 2 spot in points as he guns for a fifth world championship. Torrence reached the final, his fourth of the season and 85th in Top Fuel, starting with a reassuring opening 3.71 victory over Will Smith. But things then got interesting for Torrence as he won his next two rounds, over Toyota teammates Shawn Langdon and Doug Kalitta, with four-second elapsed times after his Capco entry shut off early on both runs but his opponents battled traction woes that allowed him to turn on the win light.

From Friday’s first qualifying session through Monday’s pressure-packed final round one thing that never changed was Hartford’s confidence in his Total Seal Camaro. As the low qualifier, Hartford knew he had the car to beat, and he delivered the seventh and biggest Pro Stock win of his career at the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals.

Hartford’s edge over the rest of the field wasn’t huge, but he made all the right moves including a 6.624 in the final to stop Fernando Cuadra Jr., who shook the tires and slowed in his Corral Boots entry. The win helped Hartford seal the No. 2 spot in the Countdown to the Championship behind Dallas Glenn.

“When I came up here on Friday after we qualified No. 1 I said that if we made four good runs, we’d be back again on Monday,” said Hartford. “That [Friday run] allowed us to try stuff and in the final, we used what we tested so it helped quite a bit. Then,I got to the final and hey, it’s Indy so there’s no pressure and I forget how to do a burnout but we figured it out. I put it in second gear and I didn’t see [Cuadra]. When I got to the other end and realized I’d just won Indy, I just sat in the car for a few moments to take it all in. I won Norwalk this year and I’m not saying it wasn’t good; that ice cream scoop is really cool, but this is Indy.

Hartford posted a 6.569 to qualify in the top spot for the fourth time this season, and he rode that advantage to wins against Mason McGaha, Camrie Caruso, and Erica Enders. The win over Enders was particularly impressive as Hartford got off the starting line first against the five-time world champ.

“We didn’t play any games. I just made a good run and my win light came on,” Hartford said. “Everyone says that Dallas Glenn has had the best car this year but that’s not true. He’s been the best driver but I’ve got the best car. I just need to continue to focus and not make mistakes and you’ll see that in the Countdown.”

For Cuadra, an Indy runner-up capped off what was his best day as an NHRA pro. The No. 7 qualifier, Cuadra topped Indy Super Gas winner Bo Butner in round one and then took out another former Indy winner, Troy Coughlin Jr., in the quarterfinals. In the semi’s, Cuadra won a strange 7.27 to 7.30 race against Kyle Koretsky where both drivers shook the tires and had to make a quick recovery.

Smith joined the short list of racers with three U.S. Nationals titles when he stopped rival Hector Arana Jr. in the final round. Smith, the 2022 champ, ran his Indy win streak to eight-consecutive rounds when he rode his Denso Suzuki to a 6.846 after Arana fouled by three-thousandths of a second. Smith previously won Indy in 2006 and 2022. With the win, Smith also moved into second place as the field is set for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

As big as Smith’s win over Arana was, his semifinal victory against Gaige Herrera might have been even more gratifying. Herrera has dominated the class this season, but a cracked spark plug slowed his Vance & Hines Suzuki, allowing Smith to get to the final for the third time this season.

Smith also rode to wins against John Hall and Chase Van Sant as he reached the final for the 74th time in his career, which now spans 306 events.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said Smith. “I’ve got good power. This is our second year with the Suzuki program and we’ve got great power. The problem is that I can’t figure out how to make the clutch work. I need the parts to test because we’re not getting our 60-foot times where we need them. I think a 1.09 was my best and that’s not good enough. I’ve always said you need to be good at the last six races to win a championship so now it’s time to turn it up.

“If I go on and win my seventh championship, I will take next season off. I’m not saying I’m gonna retire but I will take a year off and focus on [teammates] Jianna [Evaristo] and Angie [Smith]. The way I see it, this championship is Gaige’s to lose. No matter if he won this race or lost first round, he was going to come out of here as the biggest loser because he’s going to lose the most points [with the Countdown reset]. The whole class gained on him. Now, we just need to get him out early. I wasn’t sure if a seventh [championship] was possible this year but now I know I can do it.”

Arana Jr. wasn’t able to match Herrera’s elapsed times, but his GETTRX Buell was the fastest bike in Indy with multiple 200 mph runs. The former Indy champ scored wins against Chris Bostick, Kelly Clontz, and Angie Smith to reach his 32nd career final.


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