CLERMONT, Ind – The 2018 edition of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals once again didn’t disappoint. In the top three divisions, Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock, we saw two of the three crown first time winners in the prestigious event and the other a repeat champion.
In Top Fuel competition, Terry McMillen had a dream elimination day as the No. 13 qualifier marched all the way to the final round of action. He had just 18 combined final round appearance in his first 137 races of his career. Plus, entering Indy, McMillen had lost in the first round in each of the last five races of the season.
That didn’t stop him from blowing past Scott Palmer in the first round, points leader and defending US Nationals winner Steve Torrence in Round 2, Blake Alexander in the semifinals and Scott Kalitta in the finals en route to his second win of the season and ninth of his Top Fuel career.
It was a storybook kind of a day for him. It was also mayhem in the Top Fuel division on Monday too. We saw four of the eight first round matchups see the lower seed win. In round two though, the top seed (Calinas), No. 5 (Torrence), No. 3 (Antron Brown) and No. 2 (Clay Millican) all bounced.
The semifinals were Alexander vs. McMillen and Kalitta vs. Billy Torrence.
That set up a very thrilling final round matchup. McMillen becomes the first No. 13 qualifier to win a race this season in any division.
In Pro Stock, we saw another first time US Nationals winner in Tanner Gray. Monday was his third straight final round appearance on the season and seven on the year overall. He bested Jeg Coughln for his 10th career Pro Stock victory, half of which occurring this year alone. Gray, had never won “The Big Go” before until this year. Now, he looks like a legitimate title contender.
He was the No. 1 qualifier and matched by Jason Line and defending winner Drew Skillman to meet up with Coughlin. The road for Coughlin was full of upsets. He beat Alex Laughlin in the opening round then No. 2 seed and points leader Greg Anderson in round two and No. 3 Bo Butler in the semifinals. After winning in Sonoma three races ago, he lost in the first or second round in each of the last two races. Then, he went on a run towards his fourth win of the season and 62nd of his career but was stopped by Gray.
Anderson, has lost in the second round in two of the last three races now.
In Funny Car, J.R. Todd defending last year’s win with another strong showing this weekend. He earned the No. 1 qualifier and marched by Jim Campbell, Robert Hight, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Matt Hagan en route to his third win of the season and 14th of his career. Heading into this weekend, he had lost in either the first or second round in four of his last five events. Instead, he came out with a force and heads into the Countdown with some new found momentum.
Hagan, also entered this weekend cold as he also lost in the first or second round in each of the last four races. But, he defeated Jonnie Lindberg, Courtney Force and Shawn Langdon en route to his sixth final round appearance of the season and 53 of his career. He’d come up just short though.