Robert Hight, second from bottom, won the Funny Car class in Sunday's finals of the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. (Photo courtesy of NHRA)

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

1 Comment

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.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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.

 

‘Fast Jack’ Beckman back to living up to his nickname at Gateway

Leave a comment

“Fast Jack” Beckman came into this weekend’s AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park in a big predicament.

He didn’t live up to his colorful nickname during last week’s Carolina Nationals, the opening race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

Beckman was actually more like “Slow Jack,” as he failed to advance past the first round at Carolina in last Sunday’s eliminations.

He also failed to advance past the first round in the final pre-Countdown qualifying race, the U.S. Nationals, which he won last season.

All those things combined have put even more pressure on Beckman. He left Charlotte eighth in the 10-driver Funny Car Countdown standings.

2016_Jack_Beckman headshot

Being scored 110 points behind Funny Car points leader Ron Capps, Beckman had his work cut out for him heading into this weekend’s race at Gateway, in Madison, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

And as he has done numerous times in his career, when the pressure was on him, Beckman responded, qualifying No. 2 on Saturday for Sunday’s eliminations.

Robert Hight earned the No. 1 qualifier position (3.893 seconds at 328.38 mph), but Beckman wasn’t far behind (3.907 seconds at 325.22 mph).

That’s a big start for Beckman, who won at Gateway in 2012 and ended up second in last year’s championship battle that was won by fellow veteran Del Worsham. Beckman will face Dale Creasy Jr. in the first round of eliminations.

Last season, Beckman won seven races in the 24-race NHRA national event schedule. This season has been much different, as he has just one win (Chicago in July).

But that doesn’t mean he still can’t win each of the five remaining Countdown races – which obviously would go a long way towards earning him his second career Funny Car championship (and in five seasons).

Beckman isn’t panicking after Charlotte. He’s finished first, third and second in three of the last four seasons. He knows he and his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger have the capability to make a serious championship run.

In addition to hoping he wins Sunday, Beckman is defending champion of next week’s Dodge Nationals at Maple Grove (Pa.) Raceway.

“Since you can’t control how the leading cars do, really the goal is simple: you just need to win the race,” Beckman said in a media release. “At some point we have to win the race if we have a chance.

“There’s not any other path to a championship. We lost ground we couldn’t afford to lose (at Charlotte) and we can’t afford to lose any more ground. I don’t see those teams not continuing to perform well and the only way we win the championship is to outperform them. It’s imperative we get back to our capabilities.”

A major change for Saturday’s qualifying effort paid off handsomely with his No. 2 spot for Sunday – although admittedly it was a gamble of sorts for Beckman and crew chief Jimmy Prock.

“We’re still running a five-disc clutch and we have one disc on there that when it works it’s great and when it doesn’t it smokes the tires instantly and becomes too aggressive,” Beckman said. “We’re going to take that one out and take our chances with a brand new disc. We’re taking a calculated risk but I think it’s the only choice we have.

“We have to take baby steps but we have to take them quickly or we run out of races. Before we can go quick consistently we have to get back our predictability and we have to do that by the end of (this weekend’s race at) St. Louis.

“All we can control right now is our lane. Because we’re running out of rounds, every single pass becomes more important. But if you dwell on that, there’s a high likelihood you’re not going to do as well as you want.

“As the season winds down, the pressure goes up, but if you let it affect you, you’re not going to be at your best. The only thing you can do is take a positive mindset every time you go up there.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Touring car legend Yvan Muller to leave WTCC after 2016

STRASBOURG, FRANCE - OCTOBER 04:   Yvan Muller of France attends the FIA pre event press conference at rally headquarters after the Shakedown of the WRC France on October 04, 2012 in Strasbourg , France.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Touring car racing legend and four-time world champion Yvan Muller will leave the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the end of the 2016 season.

Muller made his name in the British Touring Car Championship before making the switch across to WTCC in 2006 with Seat.

The Frenchman claimed his first world title in 2008 before enjoying further successes in 2010, 2011 and 2013, the latter three championships won while behind the wheel of a Chevrolet.

Muller joined Citroen following its arrival in WTCC for the 2014 season, but has been unable to add to his haul of championship as teammate Jose Maria Lopez romped to three straight crowns.

With Citroen set to leave WTCC at the end of the year, Muller has decided that the time is right to follow suit and call time on a stint in the series that has seen him score 47 wins, 119 podium finishes and over 2,600 points.

“I am not sure that age is the main factor when it comes to ending a career. It’s more a matter of desire and motivation,” Muller said.

“With all the testing, the simulator sessions, the physical training and the travel to the race venues, a season of professional motor racing requires a level of personal commitment that I am no longer prepared to put in.

“At the same time, I am at a time of my life where I want to do something else and I am happy to be able to make that decision after eleven seasons of FIA WTCC.

“I’ve had some great experiences over my career. These three seasons with Citroën Racing have been particularly special, even though I never managed to be world champion with this team. But I will always be proud of having helped to build our racing programme and develop the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. I have also met some great people who are passionate about their job and have a fierce competitive spirit.

“Driving has been part of my daily life for so long that I can’t see myself stopping racing entirely. But I am going to spend more time with my family and developing my team, Yvan Muller Racing. Before that, though, I am going to put everything I’ve got into meeting the team’s goals.”

Lopez is also set to leave WTCC at the end of the year, having agreed a deal to race for Citroen sub-brand DS in Formula E for the all-electric series’ third season.

The 2016 WTCC season closes on November 25 at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.

Report: Sam Schmidt to receive America’s first driver’s license for semi-autonomous car

2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 29, 2016
© INDYCAR
Leave a comment

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team owner Sam Schmidt is set to receive America’s first driver’s license for a semi-autonomous vehicle, according to a report from Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Schmidt sustained a spinal cord injury in a testing accident at Walt Disney World Speedway ahead of the 2000 IRL season, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Schmidt went on to establish Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with programs in IndyCar and Indy Lights, both of which he still heads up.

Schmidt has previously completed laps behind the wheel of a modified 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray at Indianapolis in 2014 and in Long Beach last year, dubbed the ‘SAM project’ – semi-autonomous motorcar – developed with Arrow Electronics.

Schmidt controls the car using a breathing tube for acceleration and braking, and steers using his head movements that are picked up by infrared cameras.

Now, the SAM project is set to hit the road, with Las Vegas Review-Journal reporting that Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles will grant Schmidt the first road license for a semi-autonomous car in the country.

The report says that Arrow has worked closely with the Nevada DMV to update regulations so that Schmidt is able to drive on state roads.

“Nevada is leading the nation in promoting autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle technologies that can bring mobility and independence to people with physical disabilities, including our wounded warriors,” officials from the Nevada DMV said.

Robert Kubica scores podium finish on Renault Sport Trophy debut at Spa

16 KUBICA Robert (POL) HAMON Christophe (FRA) RENAULT RS 01 Team Duqueine action during the 2016 Renault Sport series  at Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, September  23 to 25  - Photo Eric Vargiolu / DPPI
© Renault Sport
1 Comment

Robert Kubica enjoyed a successful debut in the Renault Sport Trophy at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, finishing third alongside Christophe Hamon.

Former BMW and Renault Formula 1 driver Kubica announced last week that he would be entering the race weekend at Spa after accepting an invitation from the French manufacturer.

Kubica spent five seasons racing in F1 and won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix for BMW before having his stint in the series cut short after a rally crash ahead of the 2011 season.

Severe injuries sustained to his right arm and hand meant left Kubica spending a lengthy spell in rehabilitation before making his return to motorsport in the World Rally Championship.

The Pole made his final WRC appearance in January at the Monte Carlo Rally before making his circuit racing return in the 12 Hours of Mugello with Mercedes.

Kubica enjoyed his first qualifying session since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday ahead of the Renault Sport Trophy weekend, finishing third.

After seeing Hamon complete the first 10 laps of the race and suffer contact, Kubica completed the final 17 behind the wheel of the Renault R.S.01 car.

A late charge saw Kubica rise from P6 with 10 minutes remaining to cross the line third, six seconds behind race winners Raoul Owens and Fredrik Blomstedt.

Curiously, Kubica’s last F1 podium finish also came at Spa in 2010, finishing third for Renault behind Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber.

Kubica will return to Spa on Sunday for the sprint race, where he will race in the Pro class.