Coughlin, Langdon earn NHRA titles in season finale

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Jeg Coughlin Jr. and Shawn Langdon (pictured) won NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series class championships in this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

Coughlin locked up his fifth Pro Stock title Sunday when Jason Line, the only other driver that was eligible for the title, lost in the second round of eliminations. With that, Coughlin became the eighth driver in NHRA history to win five pro series crowns.

“This was the tightest and one of the most intense championship races I’ve ever been involved with, and it certainly ranks right up there with the previous titles,” Coughlin said to NHRA.com about clinching.

As for Langdon, he won the Top Fuel title on Saturday in qualifying, and on Sunday, he celebrated by taking the Pomona race win over Doug Kalitta with a run of 3.784 seconds at 323.58 miles per hour.

In comments to the Los Angeles Times, Langdon expressed his thrill of winning the title at Pomona, a track where he watched many races while growing up.

“It’s weird to think back to where I started and where I’m at now,” Langdon said to the Times’ Mike DiGiovanna on Saturday. “Coming back to Pomona, where I grew up racing and watching my dad race, winning a championship, it’s a crazy feeling, a great feeling. It’s definitely a dream come true.”

Matt Hagan bested the recently-crowned Funny Car champion John Force in the FC final round, knocking off the legend with a 4.018-second run at 320.66 mph. Also earning event wins were Rickie Jones in Pro Stock (his first career win in the class) and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

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Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.