John Force

Ageless drag racing wonder John Force sets national record in Winternationals qualifying

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Choose your adjective: Whoa! Damn! Unbelievable! Incredible!

All of those words would definitely fit the bill to describe how ageless wonder and 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force powered to a national elapsed time record during Friday’s qualifying for the season-opening Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Force, who will be 65 in less than three months, made it very clear that he intends on winning a record-breaking 17th Funny Car championship this season by flying down the dragstrip in a record time of 3.966 seconds at 324.12 mph.

While he has pretty much rewritten almost all of NHRA’s record books, it’s the first time in more than a decade that Force’s name has been attached to a national elapsed time or speed record in the Funny Car class.

“(Crew chief) Jimmy Prock has his stuff together,” Force said. “I never thought it would run 96. That impressed me. I told ’em, check the clocks. When we saw (teammate) Robert (Hight) run that 99 (3.999 seconds), Jimmy knew it was there.”

Force laid the groundwork for the record-setting run Friday evening by covering the track at 3.983 seconds on his first qualifying run earlier in the day.

Antron Brown led Top Fuel qualifying with a time of 3.731 seconds at 326.00 mph, while Allen Johnson led Pro Stock drivers with a top qualifying effort of 6.517 seconds at 212.53 mph.

Two more pro qualifying sessions take place Saturday at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. PT. Sunday’s final eliminations start at 11 a.m. PT.

Here are Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the season-opening 54th annual Circle K NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

Top Fuel — 1. Antron Brown, 3.731 seconds, 326.00 mph; 2. Shawn Langdon, 3.746, 328.70; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.753, 328.38; 4. Bob Vandergriff, 3.761, 322.58; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.775, 321.50; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.781, 324.05; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.788, 322.73; 8. Tony Schumacher, 3.808, 322.73; 9. David Grubnic, 3.830, 321.96; 10. Leah Pritchett, 3.843, 319.98; 11. Terry McMillen, 3.863, 322.58; 12. Troy Buff, 3.866, 303.50. Not Qualified: 13. Sidnei Frigo, 3.899, 312.57; 14. Brittany Force, 3.916, 279.15; 15. Clay Millican, 4.084, 249.76; 16. Steve Faria, 7.441, 81.87; 17. Scott Palmer, 8.246, 94.55; 18. Richie Crampton, 8.582, 89.46; 19. Steven Chrisman, 12.623, 70.60.

Funny Car — 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 3.966, 324.12; 2. Robert Hight, Mustang, 3.996, 317.94; 3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.014, 304.67; 4. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.040, 317.27; 5. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.046, 320.13; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.077, 316.01; 7. Chad Head, Camry, 4.079, 303.23; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.082, 314.75; 9. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.104, 309.06; 10. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.199, 289.20; 11. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.303, 236.46; 12. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.306, 244.43. Not Qualified: 13. Terry Haddock, 4.358, 224.77; 14. Bob Tasca III, 4.577, 194.63; 15. Jeff Diehl, 4.617, 182.85; 16. Jack Beckman, 5.409, 103.74; 17. Tim Wilkerson, 6.454, 113.40; 18. Cruz Pedregon, 6.531, 103.66; 19. Phil Burkart, 7.955, 90.47; 20. Alexis DeJoria, 8.285, 82.74; 21. Bob Bode, 8.396, 73.27.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.517, 212.53; 2. Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.528, 212.29; 3. Jeg Coughlin, Avenger, 6.541, 212.39; 4. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.541, 211.79; 5. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.543, 211.53; 6. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.547, 211.79; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.547, 211.73; 8. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.549, 212.36; 9. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.554, 211.96; 10. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.569, 210.60; 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.573, 211.26; 12. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, 6.574, 211.39. Not Qualified: 13. Larry Morgan, 6.576, 210.73; 14. Deric Kramer, 6.593, 210.05; 15. Matt Hartford, 6.634, 208.78; 16. Paul Pittman, 7.338, 143.05; 17. Shane Tucker, 9.059, 99.25.

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Astronaut has different kind of out of this world experience in an Indy car

HOUSTON, TX  - MARCH 4: NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly speaks to the media after returning from a one year mission in space aboard the International Space Station, at the Johnson Space Center March 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Kelly's his record-breaking yearlong mission was intended to provide critical data to understand how to keep astronauts healthy during long space voyages.  (Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images)
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Retired astronaut Cmdr. Scott Kelly has had a number of out of this world experiences, particularly serving three stints on the International Space Station.

There’s not much that can top that.

But to hear Kelly tell it, his recent visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and taking a ride around the legendary 2.5-mile oval in a two-seat Indy car – may have come pretty close.

Kelly and NASA PR rep Amiko Kauderer both took to Twitter to tout their respective rides that day, along with another tweet from IMS president Doug Boles.

Check them out:

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Congratulations to IndyCar driver JR Hildebrand on marriage to Kristin Paine

Indianapolis 500 - Practice
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While he’s still in the market for a full-time IndyCar ride in 2017, JR Hildebrand is officially off the market when it comes to the single life.

The Sausalito, California native, who now lives in Colorado, tied the knot on Oct. 16 with long-time girlfriend Kristin Paine in Boulder.

We wish the new Mr. & Mrs. Hildebrand all the best.

In the meantime, now back from their honeymoon, JR posted a few photos from before and after the wedding (photos are via @JRHildebrand on Twitter):

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Perez: “This year’s Mexican GP will be even better than last year’s”

xxxx during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 31, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.
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Sergio Perez is not expecting a sophomore slump for the second edition of the Mexican Grand Prix back on the calendar since 1992, in its second year at the refurbished, renovated and relaunched Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

If anything, the Sahara Force India driver expects the race to build on what it did last year, when it came back to a Formula 1 calendar after a 23-year hiatus.

“I have no doubt this year’s event will be even better than last year – expectations are huge following the success of 2015,” he said in the team’s pre-race advance.

“For me, the biggest surprise was the passion of the fans: all the affection I received, all the messages and all the incredible moments I experienced are what really made an impression on me. I am so happy to go back there.”

This is very much a home race for Perez, who finished eighth in it last year, but who could be poised to end better this go-around.

He is from Guadalajara and not Mexico City proper, but still holds an affinity for his home country’s capital city.

“Mexico City may be quite far from my city of Guadalajara, but I go there very often for professional reasons,” he said. “It’s a city I love and there’s so much going on: the best restaurants, so many sights and so many things to do. It is a huge city and sometimes traffic makes going from one side of town to the other feel like an adventure!

“It is, not surprisingly, one of my favorite moments in the season and last year’s was special not just for me, but for my team and for anyone who came to the race.”

Perez currently sits seventh in the Driver’s Championship with 84 points, having moved ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas as “best of the rest” behind the top six drivers from Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari at last week’s United States Grand Prix from Circuit of The Americas.

Gutierrez: “It’s a very special week for my whole career”

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 30:  Esteban Gutierrez announced as driver for Haas F1 Team on October 30, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images for Haas)
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Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez will have his first chance to race on home soil in Formula 1, when the Haas F1 Team driver competes in this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Gutierrez, then a Ferrari reserve driver, was announced in Mexico City last year as Haas’ second driver for 2016, alongside Romain Grosjean. But while he was at the track, he hasn’t been in a car here and that will change this weekend.

With the new version of the Haas VF-16 front wing expected to return to his chassis this weekend, Gutierrez is looking for a big weekend on home soil.

“It’s a very special week for my whole career,” he said in the team’s advance release. “It’s probably one of the best two weeks of my career because it represents so much to racing, to motorsports in Mexico in general, and to me. It’s a kind of connection where I can share my passion for racing and what I do with all Mexicans. I feel grateful for their support.”

Gutierrez reflected on what last year in Mexico was like for him.

“Last year was great. I could live the event from a different perspective, but now it will be even better when I will be racing there. I’m very excited to enjoy that.

“The atmosphere was amazing. I enjoyed it so much. Obviously, I would have liked to have been racing, but that was my position and the reality is that I wanted to enjoy in that perspective. It was a very special weekend and I felt very proud to see all the fans having a huge interaction. It turned out to be one of the best events of the season.”

With the new front wing expected and the circuit’s long straights expected to suit the Haas, which doesn’t have a ton of downforce, it could play to his and the team’s benefit this weekend.

“Romain ran the new front wing all weekend. Esteban did 20 laps on Friday and then we discovered a problem with the front wing. We had to go back to the old version because we had no spare because that was damaged in Japan when Esteban had the contact with Carlos Sainz. These wings are very complicated to make and they take a long time, but we should have the new version of the wing again for Esteban in Mexico,” team principal Guenther Steiner said.

Gutierrez added, “It will be important to do the best we can with our car. It’s a track we believe can suit the style of our car, and we’re hoping that will be the case. It’s going to be important to have as much track time as possible to adapt to the circuit.”

Several finishes of 11th have left Gutierrez on the fringes of scoring a point this season, but not yet having cracked the top-10 in any race this season.