Richie Crampton (TF), Del Worsham (FC), Allen Johnson (PS) lead after first day of NHRA qualifying in Houston

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Rookie Richie Crampton (Top Fuel) and veterans Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) were the top qualifiers after the first of two days of qualifying for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas (a suburb of Houston) on Friday.

In the sixth event of the 24-race national Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, Crampton – also making only his sixth career Top Fuel start – covered the track in 3.807 seconds at 322.11 mph.

“We’ve been working hard this season and haven’t quite qualified the way we like to,” Crampton said. “To get into the No. 1 spot tonight was just a payoff for all that hard work.”

Crampton is competing in just his sixth career NHRA national event, having replaced team owner Morgan Lucas, who retired from driving after last season.

“It’s still surreal that I get to do this,” said Crampton, a native of Adelaide, Australia. “I don’t know what to say apart from that it’s a great deal.”

Spencer Massey was second-quickest at 3.809 seconds/320.13 mph.

Worsham, who won the 2011 championship in Top Fuel, is back in Funny Car – where he’s spent most of his NHRA career. Friday’s best run of 4.051 seconds at 314.68 mph was impressive despite the humid conditions at the suburban Houston racetrack.

“I’ve been coming here since the track opened up,” Worsham said. “I was with my dad with his Funny Car in 1989, and we were in the semi-finals against Scott Kalitta when he won his first Funny Car race.

“I was 18 years old. … We came back here in 2001, and we were also the No. 1 qualifier. That kind of got my whole career jump-started. We won some races before then, but that was the first one where we won by qualifying No. 1 and running low E.T. of a couple rounds.”

Worsham is seeking his fourth career win at Royal Purple Raceway (two wins in Funny Car, one in Top Fuel), and his second career No. 1 qualifying spot.

Jack Beckman, who won the 2012 NHRA Funny Car championship, was the second-quickest in Funny Car with a run of 4.063 seconds at 314.09 mph.

As for Johnson, he led all Pro Stock drivers with a run of 6.555 seconds at 211.63 seconds. He’s seeking his first-ever win at Royal Purple Raceway.

“We’ve been very fortunate to win at a lot of tracks, and this is one that’s slipped through our fingers many times,” Johnson said. “It presents a challenge to us that we want to win. Tomorrow is April 26, and that’s Happy Hemi Day, so we got a good start towards Happy Hemi Day.”

Johnson, who has wins this season at Phoenix and Gainesville (Fla.), drives a Hemi-powered Dodge Dart.

Erica Enders-Stevens was second-quickest: 6.563 seconds at 211.59 mph.

Qualifying continues Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. CT with eliminations to take place Sunday at 11 a.m. CT.

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Here are Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 27th annual O’Reilly NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway:

Top Fuel — 1. Richie Crampton, 3.807 seconds, 322.11 mph; 2. Spencer Massey, 3.809, 320.13; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.819, 324.51; 4. Larry Dixon, 3.828, 319.14; 5. Leah Pritchett, 3.830, 317.72; 6. J.R. Todd, 3.834, 315.42; 7. Tony Schumacher, 3.839, 324.12; 8. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.841, 319.22; 9. Brittany Force, 3.846, 321.27; 10. Antron Brown, 3.869, 316.75; 11. Bob Vandergriff, 3.878, 313.29; 12. Clay Millican, 4.057, 250.55.

Not Qualified: 13. Shawn Langdon, 4.489, 172.70; 14. Troy Buff, 4.861, 150.53; 15. Steve Torrence, 5.186, 132.52; 16. Terry McMillen, 5.504, 121.74.

Funny Car — 1. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.051, 314.68; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.063, 314.09; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.068, 312.21; 4. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.079, 310.34; 5. Chad Head, Camry, 4.119, 308.78; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.131, 305.77; 7. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.213, 245.36; 8. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.231, 291.45; 9. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.280, 268.44; 10. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.300, 241.15; 11. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.413, 213.50; 12. Gary Densham, Chevy Impala, 4.443, 220.91.

Not Qualified: 13. Terry Haddock, 4.477, 203.52; 14. Todd Simpson, 5.008, 162.53; 15. Robert Hight, 5.403, 135.08; 16. John Force, 5.416, 143.64; 17. Alexis DeJoria, 6.476, 104.39; 18. Jeff Arend, 7.221, 88.47.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.555, 211.63; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.563, 211.59; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.574, 211.03; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.582, 210.44; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.585, 210.57; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.592, 210.47; 7. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.595, 210.14; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.599, 211.26; 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.605, 210.70; 10. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.605, 211.16; 11. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.607, 210.54; 12. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.610, 209.56.

Not Qualified: 13. Steve Kent, 6.612, 209.75; 14. Rodger Brogdon, 6.615, 209.88; 15. Greg Stanfield, 6.641, 208.49; 16. Deric Kramer, 6.649, 209.30; 17. Matt Hartford, 6.671, 208.59.

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Rosberg opens up on post-F1 life, tech investment interests

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Anyone who follows Nico Rosberg on social media will know that he has been keeping very busy since retiring just five days after winning his maiden Formula 1 championship at the end of last year.

As well as announcing he is to become a father for a second time, Rosberg has been travelling plenty, notably spending a lot of time in the United States and, in particular, Silicon Valley last month.

Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University, but has opened up more about his interests in technology and plans to invest in an interview with The Times.

“I recently got back from a trip to Silicon Valley. It was on my bucket list and it was really inspirational to see what happens there; I thought the mentality was fascinating,” Rosberg said.

“In our society, we look down on people who fail, whereas over there it’s normal to fail — it’s courageous. If you’re not scared of failing, you can get through to innovation.

“Over here, it’s very money, money, money, but over there people want to reach out to others, make their lives better and look after our planet, too.

“I’ve always been passionate about technology, and investment is of interest to me at this stage. Mobility is what I’m most interested in, because there’s been a huge disruption in that area and it’s going to change the health and future of our planet.

“It’s a fascinating time. I visited Uber and they’re working on their “network in the sky” already. They say that in the space of six years I’m going to be sitting here and my app will tell me which rooftop my drone is going to be on and at what time. That’s just around the corner, it’s pretty insane.

“So I’m starting to get active in that direction. I’m a conservative person, so I need to be careful. I do prefer to go for companies that already have a bit of a track record, but we’ll see.”

The interview cites Rosberg’s net worth as being £23 million ($29.6m), with the German admitting he earned “a lot” during his final year in F1 with Mercedes in 2016.

Nevertheless, Rosberg claimed he is “not a big spender”, instead opting for a number of property investment opportunities, his best being some space in London that has become a convenience store.

One of the big factors in Rosberg’s decision to retire from F1 was becoming a father, and he admitted that it also changed his approach to dealing with financial matters.

“Having [Alaia] really opened my eyes to future planning, because I want her to have all the opportunities I had in my life,” Rosberg said.

Ryan Hunter-Reay cleared to drive at Pocono

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been cleared to drive in today’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) following his accident in qualifying for the race.

The driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda was re-evaluated Sunday morning by INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows after being transported, then released, from a nearby hospital in Pocono on Saturday.

Here’s INDYCAR’s full statement:

Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was re-evaluated by INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows this morning after sustaining injuries to his left knee and hip Saturday following a crash in ABC Supply 500 qualifying. Hunter-Reay has been cleared to drive.

Hunter-Reay will start from the rear of the field and press on in a great comeback after the accident. Last year he drove from the rear of the field – twice – to ultimately finish third. He won this race in 2015, his most recent Verizon IndyCar Series victory.

He posted a couple tweets last night thanking everyone for the support and the Holmatro Safety Team and Pocono’s staff for quick work to help him after sustaining hip and knee injuries from a heavy 138G impact.

 

Steiner: ‘Fantastic’ to have Grosjean, Magnussen firmed up for ’18

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Haas Formula 1 team chief Guenther Steiner is delighted to have drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen firmed up in seats for the 2018 season early, allowing them to focus on their on-track performances under less pressure.

Team owner Gene Haas confirmed in an interview last month that Grosjean and Magnussen would be retained for 2018, the pair signing multi-year deals upon their arrival.

The news stood out as most teams are currently in the process of mulling over their 2018 plans, with Haas set to take no part in the annual ‘silly season’ driver market merry-go-round.

Steiner is happy to have Haas’ 2018 plans already in place, giving Grosjean and Magnussen the chance to build on the team’s impressive start to the year without the pressure of fighting for their futures.

“It’s fantastic. Having our drivers signed up now is the best place to be,” Steiner said.

“They are solid. They work well with the team. There is no uncertainty about who is there.

“They don’t get nervous. They can focus on defending their position and bettering it.”

Haas currently sits seventh in the F1 constructors’ championship after matching the points total from its debut season in less than half as many races in 2017.

Haas’ form has fluctuated at times thanks to the close-knit nature of the midfield fight, with Steiner expecting the momentum to swing between the battling teams when F1 returns from its summer break next weekend in Belgium.

“In Austria, we had the fourth-fastest car, and in Hungary, Renault had the fourth-fastest car. It’s such an up and down in the midfield,” Steiner said.

“Right now, it seems teams like Renault and McLaren have made gains, but maybe it is track specific. Nobody really knows. Everyone is speculating and I don’t want to make a speculation.

“We will do the best job we can in all of these circumstances and try to keep our heads in front of the people behind us and try to catch up to some in front.

“Everybody is trying to do the best they can and we will do the same. To speculate about what others are doing doesn’t help you.

“We just need to work hard and try to make the best out of it.”

Gasly takes maiden Super Formula win at Twin Ring Motegi

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Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly strengthened his case for a Formula 1 seat in 2018 by taking his maiden victory in Japan’s Super Formula series on Sunday at Twin Ring Motegi.

Gasly, 21, was placed in Super Formula for 2017 after winning the GP2 Series title last year, and is vying for a seat with Red Bull B-team Toro Rosso in F1 next year.

The Frenchman started fourth at Twin Ring Motegi on Sunday, but was able to gain two places with a long opening stint before pitting and changing tires.

Toyota LMP1 racer Kamui Kobayashi enjoyed a comfortable buffer over the field, only for a slip up in his pit stop to cause him to drop far behind Gasly.

Gasly eased home to clinch his first victory in Super Formula for the Honda-powered Team Mugen, with Kobayashi left to settle for second place.

Formula E driver Felix Rosenqvist picked up his second podium finish of the season, taking third place ahead of Hiroaki Ishiura and Nick Cassidy.

Gasly is the leading Red Bull youngster pushing to step up to F1 in 2018, with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat currently occupying the seats at Toro Rosso.

Sainz has been linked with a move away for 2018 – relying another team will buy him out of his contract – while Kvyat’s future remains uncertain given his struggles with Toro Rosso.

Gasly could theoretically make his F1 debut this year should Kvyat pick up two more penalty points on his FIA super license between now and the United States Grand Prix in October, which would trigger a race ban.

Gasly’s next racing commitment in Super Formula comes at Autopolis on September 10.