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Nelson Wins Top Dragster at U.S. Nationals to Take Care of Unfinished Business

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    Danny Nelson earned his first national-event win of the season in Top Dragster at the U.S. Nationals on Sunday, Sept. 6. His car is shown at the Indy special national event in July. / Photo by Fred Noer
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    J.B. Strassweg's hopes for a U.S. Nationals victory ended in the final with a .002 red light. His car is shown at the Indy points meet in August. / Photo by Fred Noer
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    Danny Nelson

TOP DRAGSTER – One accomplishment lacking from Danny Nelson’s outstanding 2019 Top Dragster championship season was a victory at the U.S. Nationals when he succumbed to a rare red light by .011 second in the semifinals.

This year Nelson won in the semis and then the final on Sunday, Sept. 6 at the 66th annual event, which was sponsored by Denso Spark Plugs. The victory was his fifth career national-event win and his first this season. His other 2020 victory is the Division 3 LODRS race on July 17 at National Trail Raceway.

Just as Nelson’s semifinal round at Indy last year was dramatic, so was the one Sunday, as he came out on the right side of a double breakout against Darian Boesch of D4. Their reaction times were almost the same, but the difference was at the top end, with Nelson’s dragster going .005 under at 6.155 at 222.95 to Boesch’s machine hitting a .029-under 6.201 at 206.57.

Nelson’s win set up the final with J.B. Strassweg, who finished 2019 No. 3 in D3 behind Nelson. On Friday, Strassweg participated in the Jeg’s All-Stars race and qualified No. 1 but fouled in round one by .012 second.

Strassweg repeated himself in the main-event final by going .002 red. Nelson was primed for winning the Wally with a .006 light. He slowed to a 7-second run at 139 miles per hour.

Nelson qualified his self-built dragster No. 10 with a 6.124 at 237.55 in the 32-car field, which had a bump of 6.275. Thirty-eight racers attempted to qualify, and they were led by Anthony Bertozzi’s 6.100 at 226.70. Strassweg was No. 11 at 6.125 at 221.52.

In the first round Nelson was beaten off the line by .008 to .026 by Mark Jones from D4, but he broke out by .006 at 6.144. Nelson was safe with a .023-over 6.123.

Nelson was behind at the start in round two to Afton Swanson of D5, but the chutes on his dragster deployed prematurely and slowed it to a 6.698, a half second over his dial. Nelson ran a 6.223 on a 6.10 dial.

Prior to meeting Boesch in round four, Nelson raced Patrick Forster of D3. He was .016 on the tree, to Nelson’s .003, but was just .001 too quick at the stripe on his 6.14 dial at 226.01. Nelson’s numbers were 6.160 at 233.40 on a 6.14 dial.

To reach the final, Strassweg took out Jim Thorp of D4 on a double breakout to start eliminations. A foul by Steve Will of D7 in the second round was followed by D4 racer Dane Ward’s no-show in the third frame and a .003 foul by Zach Sackman of D3 in the semis.

In qualifying, Bertozzi at No. 1 and Swanson second, Christopher Carrico and Mike Coughlin of D3 were third and fourth. Other division racers in the field were Ashley Johnson, Phillip Oakley, Joe Fisher, Al Peavler, Zack Fisher, Tom Fisher, Karma Hopper, and Patty Fisher.