Shawn Langdon was the top  qualifier in Top Fuel Friday at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Concord, N.C.  (Photo courtesy: NHRA)

Langdon (TF), Capps (FC), McGaha (PS) and Ray (PSM) pace first day of NHRA Four-Wide Nationals qualifying

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Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the fastest qualifiers Friday for Sunday’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.

Langdon, the defending 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel champion, drove his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to a stout best run of 3.753 seconds at 321.81 mph.

Langdon was No. 1 qualifier for this event last season and hopes to finish what he started in Sunday’s final eliminations. He has yet to reach a final round in this season’s first five races.

“I don’t know what it is, but I like it,” Langdon said of zMAX Dragway, where he won the 2012 NHRA fall event there. “I wish we could race all 24 here.

“There are some tracks that you go to that it just seems to work your way, and there are some tracks that you go to that you just can’t seem to do anything right. zMAX, fortunately, has been one of those tracks where I was able to get my first victory, and the Al-Anabi car has just run good every time we’ve come here.

“The Four-Wide last year we had a great-running car and smoked the tires in the final. We just like the track. We’re able to make good runs, and we’re able to really put the power down to the track here. It’s a great racing surface.”

J.R. Todd, who took over the Kalitta Motorsports Optima Batteries Top Fuel dragster two weeks ago at Las Vegas, was the fastest in the first qualifying session earlier in the day, but his 3.781 seconds/325.06 mph mark was good enough to keep Todd second in Friday’s qualifying.

Although he won the conventional two-lane fall 2012 race at zMAX, Capps has never won the four-wide configuration. On Friday he paced all Funny Car drivers with a 4.059 second pass at 320.58 mph.

Robert Hight was second fastest in Funny Car at 4.074 seconds at 311.99 mph.

In Pro Stock, McGaha led the field with a run of 6.523 seconds at 213.10 mph. Not only was that an outstanding achievement, it also occurred in the first time McGaha has ever raced in the Four-Wide Nationals.

“That was an experience,” McGaha said. “I guess I got fortunate as I got to go out on lanes one and four so the end lanes helped a lot. I noticed when I got up there it takes some guys longer to stage. We will see how I do when I run lanes two and three (on Saturday).”

Ray is in pursuit of his second No. 1 qualifier spot of the season, having done so last month at Gainesville, Fla. His best run Friday of 6.816 seconds at 197.02 mph topped all other Pro Stock Motorcycle riders.

“When you come out to the Four-Wide Nationals, the conditions are really different,” Ray said. “Being the first pro category, you can get a greener track than you would like.”

Matt Smith, who won the PSM season championship in 2013, set a new track record with a run of 198.32 mph in his second qualifying effort Friday.

The final two rounds of qualifying take place Saturday at 1:15 pm ET and 4:15 pm ET.

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Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the Fifth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Two more rounds of qualifying will be contested Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Shawn Langdon, 3.753 seconds, 323.35 mph; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.781, 325.06; 3. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.793, 324.98; 4. Brittany Force, 3.800, 325.61; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.815, 321.73; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.816, 322.42; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.818, 322.81; 8. Antron Brown, 3.823, 319.45; 9. Spencer Massey, 3.827, 321.42; 10. Pat Dakin, 3.841, 313.15; 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.856, 318.77; 12. Clay Millican, 3.904, 270.54; 13. Richie Crampton, 4.941, 97.52; 14. Bob Vandergriff, 4.949, 145.08; 15. Terry McMillen, 6.484, 106.58; 16. Sidnei Frigo, 6.543, 104.17.

Funny Car — 1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.059, 314.24; 2. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.074, 311.99; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.079, 308.57; 4. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.080, 311.70; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.084, 312.06; 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.086, 314.75; 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.088, 310.91; 8. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.097, 284.56; 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.113, 308.43; 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.119, 303.84; 11. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.145, 306.05; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.167, 261.42; 13. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.206, 286.80; 14. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.317, 220.80; 15. John Force, Mustang, 4.441, 204.08; 16. Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.690, 195.28.

Not Qualified: 17. Chad Head, 4.968, 157.95.

Pro Stock — 1. Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.523, 213.10; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.524, 213.13; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.531, 212.59; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.534, 212.79; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.538, 212.69; 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.542, 212.73; 7. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.546, 212.49; 8. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, 6.550, 212.39; 9. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.560, 212.63; 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.564, 211.93; 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.577, 211.46; 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.577, 210.80; 13. Robert Patrick, Ford Mustang, 6.616, 209.43; 14. Justin Humphreys, Pontiac GXP, 6.690, 208.36; 15. John Gaydosh Jr, GXP, 7.327, 145.45; 16. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 15.375, 66.92.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.816, 197.02; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.825, 196.24; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.843, 197.91; 4. John Hall, Buell, 6.846, 196.07; 5. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.871, 198.32; 6. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.873, 195.19; 7. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.873, 193.29; 8. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.874, 195.31; 9. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.875, 194.02; 10. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.892, 195.59; 11. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.900, 194.10; 12. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.926, 192.69; 13. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.933, 197.48; 14. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.954, 193.99; 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.956, 194.46; 16. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.998, 191.08.

Not Qualified: 17. Freddie Camarena, 7.030, 193.88; 18. Elvira Karlsson, 7.060, 188.33; 19. Joe DeSantis, 7.164, 186.54; 20. Justin Finley, 7.273, 186.69; 21. Junior Pippin, 7.331, 164.03; 22. Katie Sullivan, 7.765, 125.29.

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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.