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.

 

Bruni, Snow win GT poles for IMSA at Lime Rock

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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A pair of first-time polesitters have the top spot for this weekend’s GT-only IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Northeast Grand Prix from Lime Rock Park. Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole for Porsche while Madison Snow has his first pole of the season.

GT LE MANS

Just 0.535 of a second covered the four manufacturers and eight cars in GT Le Mans in qualifying, but up front, Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole as a Porsche factory driver.

The Italian, in only his third weekend as a factory GT driver and second ever at Lime Rock and sharing the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR with Laurens Vanthoor, posted the ultimate pole time of 50.404 seconds around the 1.53-mile circuit.

“I’m very happy to do my first pole with Porsche, first qualifying. This team has taught me good things and gets the most out of it,” Bruni told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam after the checkered flag. He’s the 23rd different GTLM polesitter in IMSA since the 2014 merger, this surprisingly his first pole in the series.

Richard Westbrook took the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT into second at 50.540 in the car he shares with Ryan Briscoe.

The No. 911 Porsche and No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM are third and fourth, with the pair of Corvettes next.

The No. 4 Corvette C7.R is back in action this week following its accident at the end of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Per Corvette Racing, repairs to the car included: the entire front-right corner (components, bodywork), steering rack, diffuser, wing and changed a chassis tube due to a crease. There were no other cracks or damage to the frame. That car qualified fifth in the hands of Tommy Milner, who shares the car with Oliver Gavin. The pair won Corvette Racing’s 100th race as a team this race last year.

GT DAYTONA

After a run of seven manufacturers scoring pole positions in the first seven races in GTD, the streak was broken Friday at Lime Rock Park.

Not too far from its New Jersey base, the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 was the first car to score a second pole this year, this time in the hands of Madison Snow. Snow joins Bryan Sellers (Long Beach) as polesitters for this car this season, and this at least keeps the streak of different drivers alive.

The Nos. 54 CORE autosport and No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in the hands of Colin Braun and Patrick Long were next. Snow’s 52.508 best lap edged Braun’s 52.699 and Long’s 52.836, with Jack Hawksworth best of the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 brigade in fourth and Jens Klingmann taking the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 into fifth.

The top 15 of the 17 cars in GTD were separated by only 0.992 of a second around the 1.53-mile bullring.

The two-hour, 40-minute race runs late Saturday afternoon, from 3:05 to 5:45 p.m. ET.

Mid-Ohio, Honda Racing go galactic for 2017 at-track camping theme

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Honda Racing will channel a galactic theme for this year’s camping festivities at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a popular camping venue on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar.

This marks the third year of a contest for best campground site, with various Honda Indy 200 gifts on offer. The theme name this year is “May the G-Forces Be With You,” and the hashtag is #CampingWithHonda.  Last year’s was a “Christmas in July” theme, complete with Santa Claus. The full release from the track is linked here.

As this year’s event alludes to a very popular galactic film series in all but name, it will see a number of participants in the weekend festivities by to judge the campsites at the track – potentially in character!

Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in IndyCar, will visit the sites Saturday after qualifying to choose the winners. He did so last year as well.

Photo: PWC

Others, such as last year’s Mid-Ohio race winner Simon Pagenaud and RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 factory driver in Pirelli World Challenge, Ryan Eversley (right), are expected to attend as well – though whether as themselves or potentially in a special character remains to be seen.

“It’s always a thrill and a special part of the Mid-Ohio weekend to take part in Honda Racing fun festivities like ‘May the G-Forces Be With You,'” Eversley told NBC Sports; the Atlanta native finished second in the second PWC GT race here last year in the previous generation TLX-GT, in one of his best drives of the season. “These guys always know how to cook up some fun activities and so if there’s an opportunity to dress up, have fun and play along with it, I’m down!”

Photo: IndyCar

Pagenaud, who was a longtime member of the Honda and Acura family before his move to Team Penske’s Chevrolet-powered, IndyCar program (right), added, “For me, as a fan, this film series is just the best. I love the battle between the light and dark side of the force, because I feel like we can all identify with that. I try to channel the force when I’m in my race car, so this will be a really fun weekend in Mid-Ohio.

“I plan to bring something to show my pride at the track, but I won’t ruin the surprise for you guys in advance!”

Expect similar characters to be present on site on Saturday evening. There’s also going to be a bonfire, live band (Columbus group MidLife Crisis) and s’mores, plus branded lighted batons which should display well at the bonfire on Saturday.

And for James Hinchcliffe, another Honda driver who is no stranger to having fun, he’s also part of the buildup to this event, as evidenced by the event teaser below.

Wehrlein nonplussed by Sauber-Honda speculation

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Pascal Wehrlein is not paying any attention to speculation that Sauber’s planned Formula 1 engine deal with Honda for 2018 could be on the rocks, saying his future remains open as he focuses on his current duties with the team.

Mercedes junior Wehrlein was placed at Sauber for 2017, and led the team to its first points finish of the year at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

Sauber had been given a boost two weeks earlier when it announced a deal to become Honda’s second customer team for 2018, including technical and financial support.

However, the deal was put in doubt following Sauber CEO and team principal Monisha Kaltenborn’s departure, leading to speculation that it had not been finalized.

Kaltenborn’s replacement Frederic Vasseur has made it a priority to resolve the matter, but it has made for a bleak outlook at Hinwil for the future.

With the 2018 driver market beginning to stir, Wehrlein has stressed he is not yet thinking about next season, nor is he paying any attention to the speculation about Sauber’s deal with Honda.

“I have no idea what is happening next year. Of course, I have heard all these rumors as well,” Wehrlein told the official F1 website.

“I cannot influence any of these things, so why worry about them? Whatever rumors there are in the air, it is no distraction for me – that is the bottom line.

“I have a contract for this season so I am only focusing on this year. Decisions are made by others and I am only here to drive, to perform as well as I can.

“Of course I want to see Sauber do well. They have the potential and have already been in good positions in the past and I want them to get back there. How and when? That is on another page.”

Wehrlein expressed his confidence in Vasseur’s leadership, although he expects the team to shift focus to its 2018 plans.

“I do have expectations of Fred and the team. I don’t know how fast Fred can change things or how he can change them, but we now have one race left before the summer shut down,” Wehrlein said.

“In the second half of the season the team will focus on next year, so I don’t think you will see his touch too much this year. So let’s see what we can still do with the tools that we have right now.

“I really respect Fred. I used to work with him in DTM. He had a team when I drove there in 2015. He has so much experience in motorsport and in many other ventures outside racing.

“He is a very successful man. He could help Sauber. He could be very good for the team.”

Keeping Grosjean, Magnussen for 2018 ‘a given’ in Gene Haas’ eyes

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Gene Haas is planning to field an unchanged line-up for his Formula 1 team in 2018, believing it to be “a given” that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will continue beyond the end of the season.

NASCAR team co-owner Haas took his eponymous F1 operation onto the grid in 2016, pairing Grosjean with Esteban Gutierrez.

While Grosjean scored a fifth-place finish in Haas F1 Team’s second race and picked up 29 points across the course of the season, Gutierrez failed to record a single top-10 result.

The Mexican was replaced by Magnussen for 2017, with the Dane taking 11 points through the first 10 races of the season.

Despite the fluidity of the driver market for 2018, Haas revealed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is planning to race with Grosjean and Magnussen together once again next year.

“We will run with the same drivers that we have this year again next year. That is a given,” Haas said.

“And given the other continuity aspects, we should be better racers next season.”

Haas had been tipped to take on a Ferrari junior such as Antonio Giovinazzi or Charles Leclerc for 2018 given its technical ties to the Italian marque.

Grosjean is understood to be a target for Renault should it miss out on re-signing Fernando Alonso, while Magnussen penned a multi-year deal upon arrival at Haas at the start of the season.

Reflecting on Magnussen’s contribution, Haas believes the team has benefitted from his greater race performance that has allowed it to match its debut season points total in just 10 races in 2017.

“Esteban was a good driver. He was as fast as Romain in practice, but I think that Kevin has an edge in terms of race experience,” Haas said.

“He can score points and that was the key for bringing him on board. Kevin can grab points and Romain can too.

“We now have 29 points. Last year around this time we also had 29 points, but did not score for the rest of the season.

“So now if we can score another 29 points by Abu Dhabi, that would be a great position.”