Brown (Top Fuel), Hight (Funny Car), Alund (Pro Stock) and Hines (Motorcycle) rule finals of NHRA Four-Wide Nationals

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Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jimmy Alund (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won their respective classes in Sunday’s finals of the fifth-annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.

In the unique four-car, side-by-side format, Brown (3.800 seconds, 317.42 mph) held off No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon (3.800 seconds, 322.11 mph), J.R. Todd (3.799, 318.32) and Doug Kalitta (4.587, 172.04).

Even though Langdon had a higher mph, a great jump at the starting line by Brown earned him his second race of the season, 27th Top Fuel win, 43rd overall NHRA win and his first-ever four-wide victory.

“When you go into a final and there’s two Kalitta cars and an Al-Anabi car, it’s pretty much stacked against you because the Kalitta team and Alan [Johnson]’s team work together,” said Brown, who races for Don Schumacher Racing. “It’s like running three teammates’ car against one, so they definitely had the advantage, but you go out there and do what you do. We just keep our head down and keep it to the grind, and we put our best foot forward today, and we were able to edge out and become the victors.”

In Funny Car, Hight (4.074 seconds, 311.34 mph) won his second race (in four final round appearances) of the season and also his second career four-wide triumph.

He defeated teammate, father-in-law and team president John Force (4.132 seconds, 307.51), Alexis DeJoria (4.098, 301.67) and Tim Wilkerson (6.631, 98.01).

Hight’s winning margin over Force was about 24 feet. He becomes the first two-time Funny Car winner at the Four-Wide event.

“This has been a great weekend,” Hight said. “We love coming to zMAX Dragway. What a better place to bring potential sponsors than this facility. John and I getting to the final made it that much more special. It’s my fourth final in a row and we’ve only missed two rounds in Pomona to start the season.

“You would think three Ford Funny Cars in the final would be pretty good odds. With the way (DeJoria has) been running and winning races it’s no gimme. That was a big one.”

It was the 31st win of Hight’s career. During the week, he serves as president of John Force Racing and is the husband of Force’s oldest daughter Adria.

John Force earned his 89th runner-up finish and is seeking a record 17th Funny Car championship in the final year that he’ll be sponsored by Castrol Oil and Ford Motor Company.

In Pro Stock, series newcomer Alund rallied from a bad start in his first final round to also earn his first career NHRA win.

Alund (6.562 seconds, 211.59 mph) defeated Shane Gray (6.563, 211.69), Vincent Nobile (6.667 209.46) and Erica Enders-Stevens (11.719, 79.19).

Alund’s winning margin was about 14 feet in front of Gray. A native of Sweden, he becomes the first European winner and only the fourth non-American winner in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history.

An eight-time FIA European Drag Racing Pro Stock champ, Alund is filling in this season for four-time NHRA Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson, who is recovering from heart surgery and isn’t expected to return to racing until next month, at the earliest.

“Since I got here (in the U.S.) the very first time I didn’t feel pressure,” Alund said. “I knew if I did my best that I could do much more. They’re [KB Racing] professionals and they gave me a great race car. I think we work well together.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines (6.859 seconds, 196.10 mph) defeated Eddie Krawiec (6.874, 196.13), Scotty Pollacheck (6.966, 191.73) and John Hall (7.547, 133.32).

It was Hines’ first win of the season and his first-ever Four-Wide triumph. He won by less than five feet over Krawiec in capturing his 33rd career NHRA victory.

“This does a lot for my confidence because I’ve never had a round win here [at the Four-Wide],” Hines said. “In fact, Charlotte was bad to me. It took four races before I broke through for a win at the two-wide race in the fall. At this race there is so much going on that you never know what’s going to happen. Some guys take a long time to stage and some guys want to get up there as quickly as they can. You have to be prepared for anything.”

Coming into the weekend offered the possibility that a significant milestone may be reached, but it did not occur, that of 100 all-time pro event wins by female drivers.

The amount heading into the Four-Wide Nationals was 98, and it remains that number afterward. The next chance to get closer to, if not achieve that milestone, will be in two weeks in the NHRA O’Reilly Auto Parts SpringNationals, April 25-27, at Royal Purple Racway in Baytown, Texas.

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Here are the final statistics for professional categories at the fifth-annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

FINAL FINISHING ORDER (1-16):

TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Shawn Langdon; 3.  J.R. Todd; 4.  Doug Kalitta; 5.  Tony Schumacher; 6.  Spencer Massey; 7.  Khalid alBalooshi; 8.  Brittany Force; 9.  Steve Torrence; 10.  Clay Millican; 11.  Bob Vandergriff; 12.  Richie Crampton; 13.  Leah Pritchett; 14.  Terry McMillen; 15.  Sidnei Frigo; 16.  Pat Dakin.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Robert Hight; 2.  John Force; 3.  Alexis DeJoria; 4.  Tim Wilkerson; 5.  Del Worsham; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 7.  Blake Alexander; 8.  Matt Hagan; 9.  Courtney Force; 10.  Ron Capps; 11.  Jack Beckman; 12.  Bob Tasca III; 13.  Chad Head; 14.  Tony Pedregon; 15.  Jeff Arend; 16.  Cruz Pedregon.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Jimmy Alund; 2.  Shane Gray; 3.  Vincent Nobile; 4.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 5.  Jason Line; 6.  Chris McGaha; 7.  Jeg Coughlin; 8.  Allen Johnson; 9.  V. Gaines; 10.  Dave Connolly; 11.  Rodger Brogdon; 12.  Jonathan Gray; 13.  Larry Morgan; 14.  Justin Humphreys; 15.  Robert Patrick.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines; 2.  Eddie Krawiec; 3.  Scotty Pollacheck; 4.  John Hall; 5.  Hector Arana Jr; 6.  Chaz Kennedy; 7.  Mike Berry; 8.  Hector Arana; 9.  Jerry Savoie; 10.  Shawn Gann; 11.  Angie Smith; 12.  Michael Ray; 13.  Matt Smith; 14.  Adam Arana; 15.  Jim Underdahl; 16.  Katie Sullivan.

 

FINAL ROUND RESULTS:

Top Fuel — Antron Brown, 3.800 seconds, 317.42 mph def. Shawn Langdon, 3.800 seconds, 322.11 mph and J.R. Todd, 3.799 seconds, 318.32 mph and Doug Kalitta, 4.587 seconds, 172.04 mph

Funny Car — Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.074, 311.34 def. John Force, Mustang, 4.132, 307.51 and Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.098, 301.67 and Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 6.631, 98.01

Pro Stock — Jimmy Alund, Chevy Camaro, 6.562, 211.59 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.563, 211.69 and Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.667, 209.46 and Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 11.719, 79.19

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.859, 196.10 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.874, 196.13 and Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.966, 191.73 and John Hall, Buell, 7.547, 133.32

 

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 3.801, 323.04 and Brittany Force, 3.814, 323.19 def. Clay Millican, 3.983, 285.05 and Leah Pritchett, 4.537, 194.83; Tony Schumacher, 3.815, 324.12 and Khalid alBalooshi, 3.926, 289.88 def. Richie Crampton, 4.517, 237.00 and Sidnei Frigo, 4.970, 148.46; J.R. Todd, 3.783, 324.51 and Doug Kalitta, 3.795, 325.69 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.173, 89.05 and Pat Dakin, 6.779, 97.50; Shawn Langdon, 3.791, 321.27 and Spencer Massey, 3.840, 322.65 def. Steve Torrence, 3.860, 315.27 and Terry McMillen, 4.621, 170.62;

SEMIFINALS — Langdon, 3.821, 315.86 and Brown, 3.988, 280.84 def. Massey, 4.066, 238.34 and Force, 5.802, 145.50; Todd, 3.822, 322.73 and Kalitta, 3.847, 323.81 def. Schumacher, 3.847, 317.94 and alBalooshi, 4.154, 254.71;

FINAL — Brown, 3.800, 317.42 def. Langdon, 3.800, 322.11, Todd, 3.799, 318.32 and Kalitta, 4.587, 172.04.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.109, 311.70 and Blake Alexander, Dodge Charger, 4.137, 304.25 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.310, 256.36 and Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, broke; John Force, Mustang, 4.046, 312.71 and Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.113, 312.57 def. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.104, 315.12 and Jeff Arend, Charger, 5.068, 151.75; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.089, 307.72 and Del Worsham, Camry, 4.096, 311.34 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.125, 309.98 and Chad Head, Camry, 4.146, 304.25; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.087, 314.75 and Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.115, 311.34 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.138, 310.41 and Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.436, 97.55;

SEMIFINALS — DeJoria, 4.087, 310.84 and Wilkerson, 4.125, 308.21 def. Worsham, 4.128, 308.14 and Alexander, 4.151, 299.20; J. Force, 4.123, 309.63 and Hight, 4.139, 305.98 def. Johnson Jr., 4.164, 289.14 and Hagan, DQ;

FINAL — Hight, 4.074, 311.34 def. J. Force, 4.132, 307.51, DeJoria, 4.098, 301.67 and Wilkerson, 6.631, 98.01.

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.681, 210.28 and Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.566, 211.69 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.947, 165.56 and Robert Patrick, Ford Mustang, DQ; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.579, 210.70 and Jason Line, Camaro, 6.560, 211.76 def. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.650, 211.76 and Justin Humphreys, Mustang, 6.679, 207.05; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.546, 212.33 and Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.554, 211.46 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.598, 210.77; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.545, 212.56 and Jimmy Alund, Camaro, 6.554, 211.53 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.606, 210.57 and Larry Morgan, Mustang, 6.641, 208.62;

SEMIFINALS — Enders-Stevens, 6.559, 211.30 and Nobile, 6.603, 210.21 def. Line, 7.482, 141.71 and Johnson, 17.414, 49.25; Alund, 6.563, 211.43 and S. Gray, 6.555, 211.96 def. McGaha, 19.450, 43.54 and Coughlin, 6.542, 211.63;

FINAL — Alund, 6.562, 211.59 def. S. Gray, 6.563, 211.69, Nobile, 6.667, 209.46 and Enders-Stevens, 11.719, 79.19.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Scotty Pollacheck, Buell XB12R, 6.885, 193.46 and John Hall, Buell XB9R, 6.835, 195.96 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki TL1000, 6.899, 193.88 and Adam Arana, XB9R, 6.943, 192.08; Andrew Hines, Harley V-Rod, 6.820, 196.27 and Hector Arana, XB9R, 6.933, 196.70 def. Shawn Gann, XB9R, 6.927, 193.29 and Matt Smith, XB9R, 6.831, 196.85; Chaz Kennedy, XB9R, 6.903, 192.33 and Mike Berry, XB9R, 6.928, 192.22 def. Michael Ray, XB9R, 10.233, 80.79 and Katie Sullivan, TL1000, DQ; Hector Arana Jr, XB9R, 6.805, 196.22 and Eddie Krawiec, V-Rod, 6.817, 196.53 def. Angie Smith, XB9R, 6.943, 192.52 and Jim Underdahl, Suzuki GSXR, 8.632, 111.13;

SEMIFINALS — Hall, 6.869, 193.38 and Pollacheck, 6.901, 193.43 def. Kennedy, 6.920, 190.35 and Berry, 6.968, 191.16; Krawiec, 6.840, 194.91 and Hines, 6.851, 194.83 def. Arana Jr, 6.879, 195.14 and H. Arana, 6.980, 195.28;

FINAL — Hines, 6.859, 196.10 def. Krawiec, 6.874, 196.13, Pollacheck, 6.966, 191.73 and Hall, 7.547, 133.32.

 

OVERALL POINTS STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 485; 2.  Antron Brown, 460; 3.  Steve Torrence, 347; 4.  Shawn Langdon, 330; 5.  Tony Schumacher, 316; 6.  Khalid alBalooshi, 290; 7.  Spencer Massey, 288; 8.  Brittany Force, 246; 9.  Richie Crampton, 189; 10.  J.R. Todd, 183.

Funny Car: 1.  Robert Hight, 488; 2.  John Force, 453; 3.  Alexis DeJoria, 375; 4.  Ron Capps, 282; 5.  Del Worsham, 277; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 264; 7.  Matt Hagan, 257; 8.  (tie) Courtney Force, 244; Tim Wilkerson, 244; 10.  Jack Beckman, 234.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 426; 2.  Jason Line, 384; 3.  Allen Johnson, 370; 4.  Vincent Nobile, 339; 5.  Shane Gray, 334; 6.  (tie) Dave Connolly, 308; V. Gaines, 308; 8.  Jimmy Alund, 282; 9.  Jeg Coughlin, 270; 10.  Chris McGaha, 258.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Andrew Hines, 180; 2.  Scotty Pollacheck, 169; 3.  John Hall, 152; 4.  Eddie Krawiec, 151; 5.  Hector Arana Jr, 145; 6.  Steve Johnson, 124; 7.  Michael Ray, 107; 8.  Matt Smith, 97; 9.  (tie) Hector Arana, 83; Chaz Kennedy, 83.

 

Norris made to wait for F3 title after final lap crash in Austria

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Rising British racer Lando Norris has been made to wait to secure the FIA European Formula 3 title after a crash on the final lap of Sunday’s race at the Red Bull Ring ensured the championship battle will go to the final round of the season.

Norris, 17, became part of Formula 1 team McLaren’s junior program earlier this year, and enjoyed his maiden test in a grand prix racer in Hungary over the summer, putting in an impressive display.

Norris has been racing in the highly-competitive FIA F3 series in Europe this year, a championship that has proved crucial in the careers for drivers such as Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi.

After finishing second earlier on Sunday, Norris needed to simply finish ahead of chief title rival Maximilian Günther in the final race of the weekend to clinch the championship with three races to spare.

Norris started second and retained his position throughout the race, only to come under pressure from Ralf Aron in the closing stages, the two drivers making contact on the last lap.

Norris was sent off the track and into the gravel, forcing him to retire from the race, and with Günther finishing fifth, the points gap was reduced to 72 with three races remaining at Hockenheim in three weeks’ time.

While a title win is still likely for Norris given just 75 are on offer, to have come so close to sealing it early will nevertheless come as a blow to the talented youngster.

Norris is set to be placed in Formula 2 by McLaren in 2018, but is poised to be a name that is spoken about for many years to come in F1.

Marquez fights to Aragon MotoGP win, opens up points lead

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Marc Marquez fought through to his fifth win of the 2017 MotoGP season in Sunday’s Aragon Grand Prix, extending his lead in the riders’ championship to 16 points over Andrea Dovizioso.

A fall in qualifying meant Marquez started only fifth at Motorland Aragon, and failed to make any inroads at the start of the race, running only fourth in the early stages as Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo hit the front.

Marquez was able to slowly rise up the order, passing title rival Dovizioso, Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and finally Lorenzo, taking the lead of the race on Lap 16.

Marquez ultimately crossed the line less than one second clear of teammate Dani Pedrosa, who continued his good record at Motorland Aragon to complete a one-two finish for Repsol Honda.

Lorenzo held on to take his second podium in Ducati colors in third, finishing ahead of Yamaha pole-sitter Maverick Viñales, who dropped to fifth on the opening lap and never recovered.

Rossi’s remarkable return to racing a little over three weeks since suffering a double leg break ended with a run to fifth at the checkered flag, having spent the early part of the race battling at the front before dropping back.

Aleix Espargaro finished sixth ahead of Dovizioso, who slipped to 16 points behind Marquez in the title race by only finishing seventh for Ducati.

Alvaro Bautista crossed the line eighth ahead of Tech3’s Johann Zarco, while Pol Espargaro completed the top 10.

MotoGP returns in three weeks’ time with the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.

Palmer calls breakthrough F1 points ‘a weight off the shoulders’

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Jolyon Palmer has conceded that his march to his first points of the 2017 Formula 1 season last time out in Singapore was “a weight off the shoulders” as he looks to gain momentum for the remaining six races of the season.

Palmer recorded his best finish in F1 under the lights at Marina Bay, crossing the line sixth in the first wet night race in the history of the sport.

The result came at the end of a tough weekend for Palmer that saw Renault confirm it would be dropping the Briton from its F1 line-up for 2018, drafting in Carlos Sainz Jr. from Toro Rosso.

Even without an F1 seat to save, Palmer hopes the result can mark the start of a strong run to finish his time with Renault through the final six races.

“Finally we had a smooth race, which is ironic given what was going on with the safety cars and the tricky weather conditions,” Palmer said.

“We made a good start, and the move on [Valtteri] Bottas was fun; a lot happened in the two hours. It feels
like a weight off the shoulders to get some points.

“I hope to push on now and get some more. I know I can do it.”

Should Palmer wish to remain in F1, his only realistic options lie with Williams and Sauber for 2018, although both teams are understood to be looking elsewhere.

A report from Autosport claims Williams has narrowed its shortlist to partner Lance Stroll next year down to existing driver Felipe Massa, reserve driver Paul di Resta and recent Renault tester Robert Kubica.

Ferrari youngster and runaway Formula 2 points leader Charles Leclerc looks nailed on to take one of Sauber’s seats next year, replacing Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein.

Marcus Ericsson is expected to keep his seat with Sauber for a fourth season, with Leclerc’s fellow Ferrari-backed youngster Antonio Giovinazzi seemingly the only alternative for the Swiss team.

Renault F1 expecting to be ‘best of the rest’ in Malaysian GP

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Renault Formula 1 bosses Cyril Abiteboul and Nick Chester are confident of being the ‘best of the rest’ behind the front-running teams and leading F1’s midfield in Malaysia next weekend.

Renault enjoyed one of its strongest weekends of the season so far last time out in Singapore, with Nico Hulkenberg qualifying fifth and Jolyon Palmer picking up eight points for P6 in the race.

The result saw Renault move up to seventh in the constructors’ championship, and Abiteboul wants to keep the momentum going as part of its bid for a top-five finish come the end of the season.

“A positive we can take from Singapore is that we have moved up a position in the constructors’ championship which means a step closer to our end of season goal of fifth place overall,” Abiteboul said.

“Reliability remains our main focus, maximum effort and flawless execution is required by all in the remaining six races to achieve that target.

“Sepang will be about negotiating the unpredictable climate and getting the best out of the whole package in the heat and humidity. As we continue to develop the chassis side, we will introduce a new engine on Nico’s car at the start of the weekend, his fourth, engine of the season.

“We fully expect to have both cars in the top 10 as we have shown our capability on a number of occasions to be the best team behind the top three.”

Technical chief Chester echoed Abiteboul’s thoughts, believing the strengths of the R.S.17 car will put the team in good stead at Sepang.

“We ought to go quite well in Malaysia with the mixture of low, medium and high-speed corners – we should be the fourth quickest car again. The car has good pace and it looked strong in the wet in Singapore,” Chester said.

“The wet running we had in Singapore is useful information for us, given Malaysia is known to throw up a few surprises with its changeable climate.

“Overall the car is working reasonably well at this stage in the season.”