The biggest event of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season will have more than 10 hours of coverage on ESPN2 this weekend with the running of the 55th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis. Expanded qualifying and eliminations coverage will culminate with six consecutive hours on Labor Day Monday, the final day of competition.
Each Labor Day weekend, NHRA racers and fans descend on O’Reilly Raceway Park for the biggest, oldest, richest and most prestigious drag race in the world. The fabled strip is regarded by many as one of the smoothest on the circuit. The event is the last in the NHRA Countdown to 10 that sets up the final battle for championships in the four NHRA professional classes.
ESPN2’s coverage begins Sunday, Sept. 6, at 11 a.m. ET with NHRA RaceDay to bring viewers up-to-date with the latest NHRA news and set up the day’s action. Immediately following at 11:30 a.m., ESPN2 will telecast 2 ½ hours of U.S. Nationals qualifying. More qualifying coverage airs for two hours starting at 5 p.m.
NHRA RaceDay returns on Monday with a special one-hour episode at noon, followed at 1 p.m. by coverage of eliminations. ESPN will make use of Hi-Motion technology in its U.S. Nationals coverage, a system also used on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. Shooting at 600 frames per second, the system produces dramatic starting-line shots showing the flexing bodies and tires of drag racing machines as they launch onto the strip.
Paul Page anchors ESPN2’s coverage at Indianapolis with analysis by 22-time NHRA winner Mike Dunn. Reporting from the pits will be Gary Gerould, Dave Rieff and John Kernan. Rieff and Dunn also host NHRA RaceDay.
Some quotes from ESPN drag racing analyst Mike Dunn leading into the U.S. Nationals – Dunn scored a Funny Car win at the U.S. Nationals in 1986 and is one of only three drivers in NHRA history to score 10 or more wins in both Funny Car and Top Fuel.
Q – What’s been the biggest surprise of the NHRA season?
MIKE DUNN: “Antron Brown. After all the turmoil in the off-season, what they went through before Mike Ashley came in, basically Mike brought guys from his Funny Car team, Mark Oswald and Brian Corradi, they just stepped up and never looked back. That’s a bit of a surprise. I knew they would do well, but they’ve done really well.”
Q – Who did you think would do better this year?
MIKE DUNN: “Team Force. They’ve struggled quite a bit, but it’s not a huge surprise. I kind of felt when they put the moratorium on testing, which Force’s teams did a lot of testing over the years, that would probably hurt them more than anybody else. And I think that’s why they’ve been struggling. Ashley’s had a very good car pretty much all year but other than that the rest of the team has been struggling, although they do appear like they’re starting to turn around a little bit in the last few races.”
Q – How do NHRA teams ramp it up for the U.S. Nationals?
MIKE DUNN: “With the new format that they have for the championship, you go to Indy and it’s the last race to get into the Countdown. You’ve got guys who are locked into the Countdown testing coming into this race, trying different things, getting ready for the Countdown to the Championship. But Indy will be the place where they say ‘ok, we’re not really testing any more,’ because they want to win Indy, they want to get that momentum with an Indy win to really give them a shot in the arm to really go for that championship.”