Just How Important is Winning at Indy?
Rieff: ‘Instant Immortality. Just Ask Those Who Have Won It…and Those Who Haven’t’
CHARLOTTE – Every single NHRA drag racer has Labor Day weekend circled on their calendar. If there is any race that stands above the others for the straight-line crowd, it’s the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, affectionately and respectfully known as “The Big Go.”
FOX Sports offers live coverage throughout the weekend, with Monday’s Labor Day coverage airing live on FS1 from 11:00 AM ET to 1:00 PM ET and live on the FOX broadcast network from 1:00 PM ET to 4:00 PM ET.
The FOX NHRA broadcast crew of host Dave Rieff, analyst and two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon, analyst and two-time NHRA champion Bruno Massel and reporters Jamie Sellers and Amanda Busick, offers its perspective on what a win this weekend means for every driver that pulls up to the line.
“Every race has history, but none at the level of the U.S. Nationals. The higher the stakes, the more desirable winning becomes. More prize money on the table, more points and its history all add to the prestige. Increased buildup means higher pressure for teams and drivers, because it’s the last race before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship (playoffs). The timing for winners can really set the tone for a championship run. I believe, in a driver’s career, a championship would be the ultimate goal, but a win at Indy would rank next.”
“Instant immortality. Just ask those who have won it … and those who have not. It is, perhaps, the only thing that supersedes a championship. Ask anyone, the ultimate goal is to have both on your mantel. If a championship slips through a driver’s grasp, a win at the U.S. Nationals, his or her legacy is secure, simply by a Monday win, Labor Day in Indianapolis. As far as pressure goes, it definitely goes to the next level. Just like ‘points,’ drivers can say they don’t count them or don’t pay attention to them, but there is a simple word for those drivers that say the ‘Big Go’ is just another race … liar!”
“A win at Indy can right a season of wrongs. People usually remember who won the Championship and who won INDY! An Indy victory is an invitation to an exclusive club that only is earned by beating the best of the best, on the biggest stage, at the one event that everyone has earmarked on their calendar. I lost the Indy final in 2010 by 1/1,000th of a second! It was the sickest I had ever felt in my career. So, in 2014, when I rolled into the final round again, the level of pressure was more like my career was on the line rather than just another drag race. I can tell you first hand, that victory was special … more so than my first, more so than the one I won in 2009 to clinch my first World Championship, I’d finally won the race that I gave up on winning years ago.”
“I can’t say what it means to them, but the drivers are different at Indy. They have shorter verbal responses to questions and more body language. They show that there is more on the line. They carry themselves with more pride. They walk more-determined lines. They don’t seem to ever really relax.”
“In order of importance, raising a Wally (trophy) at the U.S. Nationals would be listed right after being crowned a NHRA Mello Yello Champion to a drag racer. It is the premier race of the season … every driver is looking to add a win there to their resume. Won by the biggest names of the sport throughout time — Prudhomme, Garlits, Muldowney, McCulloch, Glidden, Force, Schumacher — have you really made it if you haven’t won Indy?”