Kalitta, Force and Nobile all qualify No. 1 for NHRA season-opening Winternationals

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Calling conditions “perfect,” Doug Kalitta set a Auto Club Raceway track record Saturday to earn the No. 1 qualifying spot for Top Fuel heading into Sunday’s final eliminations of the NHRA Mello Yellow Series’ season-opening Circle K Winternationals in Pomona, Calif.

Kalitta covered the drag strip in his Mac Tools dragster in 3.713 seconds at 327.98 mph for the 37th top qualifying spot of his career and the fourth time he’s been No. 1 at the Winternationals over the years.

“We came out of the box strong,” Kalitta said. “It’s great to have four strong runs in qualifying at the start of the year. We’re really looking forward to seeing what we can do with it tomorrow.”

Behind the wheel of his signature Castrol GTX Ford Mustang, defending Funny Car champion John Force grabbed the No. 1 spot in his category for Sunday’s eliminations by virtue of Friday’s national record-setting run of 3.966 seconds at 324.12 mph.

It was the 147th career No. 1 and 10th top spot at the Winternationals for Force, at 64 the oldest pro champion in NHRA history.

“We pushed it hard,” Force said. “We got the record, it’s points, and that’s all we can say.”

While Force was happy with his effort, it was not a good day for one of Force’s former drivers, Tony Pedregon. A former two-time Funny Car champ and two-time Winternationals winner, Pedregon failed to qualify for the final 16-driver field in his four attempts.

Also of note, Alexis DeJoria became the first female Funny Car driver in NHRA history to run a sub-4.0 second time, covering the track in 3.997 seconds at 318.32 mph.

Rounding out the top three pro categories, Vincent Nobile and his Mountain View Tire Chevrolet Camaro earned the No. 1 spot atop the Pro Stock ladder for Sunday’s eliminations at 6.510 seconds at 212.73 mph. Nobile is going for a second consecutive Winternationals title, having won last year’s event, as well.

“It’s definitely a great start to the season, we put four great runs together,” Nobile said. “Tomorrow’s a new day though and we need to put together another four good runs and hopefully come home with a trophy.”

Pro eliminations begin Sunday at 11 am PT. The first round pairings for all three classes are:

Top Fuel — 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.713 seconds, 328.86 mph vs. 16. Sidnei Frigo, 3.872, 313.58; 2. Shawn Langdon, 3.715, 328.70 vs. 15. Troy Buff, 3.850, 309.34; 3. Antron Brown, 3.731, 326.00 vs. 14. Clay Millican, 3.843, 307.86; 4. Bob Vandergriff, 3.743, 328.14 vs. 13. David Grubnic, 3.830, 321.96; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.768, 324.51 vs. 12. Leah Pritchett, 3.817, 320.05; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.773, 329.02 vs. 11. Terry McMillen, 3.806, 323.66; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.774, 324.59 vs. 10. Tony Schumacher, 3.793, 322.73; 8. Brittany Force, 3.778, 326.24 vs. 9. Richie Crampton, 3.786, 320.28. Did Not Qualify: 17. Steven Chrisman, 4.093, 286.44; 18. Steve Faria, 4.154, 225.41; 19. Scott Palmer, 9.507, 94.55.

Funny Car — 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 3.966, 324.12 vs. 16. Paul Lee, Dodge Charger, 4.162, 271.41; 2. Robert Hight, Mustang, 3.996, 319.67 vs. 15. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.150, 316.23; 3. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.997, 318.32 vs. 14. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.147, 301.67; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.001, 311.49 vs. 13. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.132, 311.20; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.014, 304.67 vs. 12. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.097, 309.06; 6. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.040, 317.27 vs. 11. Chad Head, Camry, 4.079, 303.23; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.046, 320.13 vs. 10. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.077, 316.01; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.049, 312.86 vs. 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.069, 316.82. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 4.213, 253.04; 18. Bob Bode, 4.241, 264.29; 19. Tony Pedregon, 4.258, 245.58; 20. Phil Burkart, 5.523, 139.76; 21. Jeff Diehl, 6.064, 182.85.

Pro Stock — 1. Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.510, 212.73 vs. 16. Shane Tucker, Chevy Cobalt, 6.594, 210.50; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Avenger, 6.512, 212.96 vs. 15. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.589, 210.73; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.514, 212.63 vs. 14. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.574, 210.14; 4. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.515, 212.83 vs. 13. Greg Stanfield, Camaro, 6.567, 210.97; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.516, 212.53 vs. 12. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.566, 211.20; 6. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.519, 211.86 vs. 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.552, 211.69; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.528, 211.89 vs. 10. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, 6.546, 211.86; 8. Jeg Coughlin, Avenger, 6.531, 212.39 vs. 9. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.541, 211.79. Did Not Qualify: 17. Paul Pittman, 6.676, 208.10.

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F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, NBC Sports App this week

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After five years and 98 Grands Prix broadcast since 2013, NBC Sports Group’s coverage of Formula 1 concludes with the 2017 season finale from Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit this week.

The lights come on for the day-into-night Grand Prix of the year as the sun sets on five years of broadcasts, original content and additional digital specific features such as Paddock Pass.

For Abu Dhabi this week, all of the race, qualifying and second free practice will be live on NBCSN with first and third free practice live on the NBC Sports App. The race returns is back in the usual morning a.m. time slots after three mid-day races in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and a pair of overnight affairs in Kuala Lumpur and Suzuka. Formula 2 coverage of its season finale from Abu Dhabi also airs both on NBCSN and online.

With this the final race of the season before F1’s winter break, there’s still a handful of things to get sorted even though Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have wrapped their respective championships.

Sebastian Vettel (Brazil) and Max Verstappen (Mexico) have won the last two races, with Hamilton’s most recent win coming at Circuit of the Americas. Will it be any of these three that wrap the year on a high or could any of their teammates – Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo or Valtteri Bottas – upend the script?

Mercedes has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton winning in 2014 and 2016 with Nico Rosberg taking the 2015 crown.

Vettel and Hamilton have three wins apiece in Abu Dhabi, Vettel having taken all of his with Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and Hamilton adding a 2011 McLaren triumph to his last two with Mercedes. Raikkonen (2012, Lotus) and Rosberg are the other Abu Dhabi winners, and while both Vettel and Raikkonen have won in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari never has in the first eight races here.

The last place up for grabs in the constructor’s battle is for sixth, with Toro Rosso (53 points), Renault (49) and Haas (47) separated by only six total points. Toro Rosso and Renault got into a nasty war of words in Brazil, and will part ways after the weekend.

Felipe Massa signs off his career in F1 for the second and expected final time at Williams, and with Toro Rosso having confirmed Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley last week, his seat is one of only three left to fill for 2018, and the most attractive.

McLaren and Honda also bring to an end their partnership after three troubled seasons, but on the bright side will look to score points for a third straight race together, which hasn’t happened since the Hungarian, German and Belgian Grands Prix of 2016.

As ever, and perhaps for the final time as a collective unit, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Nov. 24, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Nov. 25, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Nov. 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)