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Female drag racers could set NHRA history Sunday; Kalitta to race 82-year-old legend Chris Karamesines in Top Fuel

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History has the potential to be made in Sunday’s final eliminations of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.

Emerging as No. 1 in their respective classes after Friday’s and Saturday’s qualifying sessions, Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) look to become the 100th female in the sport’s history to win a NHRA national event.

Also earning No. 1 qualifying spots heading into Sunday’s eliminations were Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

A two-time winner this far this season, Dejoria earned the first No. 1 qualifying position of her career with Friday’s track record elapsed time of 3.786 seconds at 321.81 mph.

“If it happens tomorrow, great,” DeJoria said of the possibility of earning the 100th female win. “We just want to keep going rounds. First things first, we’ve got to get past first round and get past (first round opponent) Tony Pedregon.

“This has been our turnaround year. We’ve had some great consistent runs, and I’m just hoping we can keep on going.”

Del Worsham, DeJoria’s Kalitta Motorsports teammate, qualified No. 2, followed by 2009 Funny Car world champion Robert Hight, 2011 world champion Matt Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr.

Enders-Stevens also has a good chance of earning the 100th win by a female. Like DeJoria, Enders-Stevens, who leads the Pro Stock points, set an Atlanta Dragway track record for elapsed time (6.493 seconds at 212.69 mph) on Friday, and that mark held up to keep Enders-Stevens No. 1 through Saturday’s two final qualifying rounds.

“I was very confident that we’d be able to stay No. 1,” Enders-Stevens said of her first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and seventh of her career. “The best thing is that we managed to learn a little on every run and improve a little each time.”

Dave Connolly qualified second, followed by Shane Gray, Jason Line and Rodger Brogdon.

As for Top Fuel, Kalitta set both ends of the Atlanta Dragway track record with an elapsed time mark of 3.732 seconds and a very stout speed of 328.86 mph.

It was Kalitta’s third No. 1 of the season and 39th of his career.

“I think the conditions are probably perfect for Atlanta,” Kalitta said. “It’s got its reputation for ‘Hotlanta.’ It’s been great conditions. I think the fans have definitely seen some good action. … It’s real exciting to be going into eliminations with that kind of car.”

Kalitta is seeking his second win of the year (he also has two runner-up finishes). In the first-round, he’ll face 82-year-old Chris Karamesines.

Yes, you read that right, Karamesines is 82 years old, and has been drag racing now for more than six decades.

Also setting a new track record was three-time PSM champ Krawiec, whose 6.796 second pass (at 196.62 mph) on Friday held up Sunday, putting him at the top of the bike qualifying ladder.

“Coming here to Atlanta, the air was not at all what we’re used to,” Krawiec said. “It was cool and crisp and that was just right for our combination. We did struggle to get off the starting line, but that was a problem for the whole class. It was so sticky up there that it was hard to generate any wheel speed.”

Eliminations for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals begin on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET.

 

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Here are Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 34th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel — 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.732 seconds, 328.86 mph  vs. 16. Chris Karamesines, 4.388, 177.74; 2. Bob Vandergriff, 3.757, 324.05  vs. 15. Clay Millican, 4.189, 206.32; 3. Antron Brown, 3.764, 322.19  vs. 14. Ike Maier, 4.007, 281.30; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.765, 323.04  vs. 13. Terry McMillen, 3.841, 321.04; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.771, 325.30  vs. 12. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.836, 319.60; 6. Brittany Force, 3.777, 326.71  vs. 11. Pat Dakin, 3.828, 314.53; 7. J.R. Todd, 3.777, 323.66  vs. 10. Spencer Massey, 3.828, 316.82; 8. Shawn Langdon, 3.786, 324.44  vs. 9. Richie Crampton, 3.803, 309.06.

Funny Car — 1. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.012, 313.95  vs. 16. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 9.302, 178.59; 2. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.014, 320.05  vs. 15. Chad Head, Camry, 8.463, 79.47; 3. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.030, 318.39  vs. 14. Bob Bode, Camry, 4.565, 193.74; 4. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.049, 318.32  vs. 13. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.208, 296.24; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.051, 315.49  vs. 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.184, 299.80; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.077, 311.20  vs. 11. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.158, 303.30; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.095, 309.20  vs. 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.150, 271.35; 8. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.098, 316.67  vs. 9. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.103, 305.08. Did Not Qualify: 17. Dave Richards, broke.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.493, 212.69  vs. 16. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 9.358, 204.39; 2. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.496, 212.86  vs. 15. Warren Johnson, GXP, 8.147, 207.98; 3. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.513, 212.86  vs. 14. Kurt Johnson, GXP, 6.610, 204.45; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.514, 213.00  vs. 13. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.576, 210.93; 5. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.523, 212.59  vs. 12. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.547, 212.56; 6. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.526, 211.89  vs. 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.542, 211.53; 7. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.536, 212.13  vs. 10. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.541, 212.66; 8. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.537, 211.79  vs. 9. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.540, 212.29.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.796, 196.62  vs. 16. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.005, 191.38; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.833, 195.22  vs. 15. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.960, 193.16; 3. John Hall, Buell, 6.860, 193.21  vs. 14. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.949, 192.77; 4. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.861, 195.65  vs. 13. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.938, 191.89; 5. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.875, 195.90  vs. 12. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.931, 192.19; 6. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.878, 194.18  vs. 11. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.918, 192.14; 7. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.895, 193.21  vs. 10. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.912, 194.24; 8. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.907, 194.60  vs. 9. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.908, 195.14. Did Not Qualify: 17. Mike Berry, 7.011, 189.23; 18. Freddie Camarena, 7.064, 192.11; 19. Elvira Karlsson, 7.090, 185.92; 20. Junior Pippin, 7.140, 184.35; 21. Brian Pretzel, 7.163, 184.93; 22. James Surber, 7.207, 182.28; 23. Justin Finley, 7.282, 187.23; 24. Redell Harris, 7.284, 192.25; 25. Joe DeSantis, 11.719, 185.28; 26. Michael Phillips, broke.

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Force India gives Renault tips ahead of Hulkenberg’s arrival for 2017

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 11:  Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 11, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Force India has sent Renault an early Christmas present by giving tips on how to look after Nico Hulkenberg ahead of his arrival at the team for the 2017 Formula 1 season.

Hulkenberg announced back in October that he would be leaving Force India at the end of the 2016 season, joining Renault for its second year back in F1 as a constructor.

In a tongue-in-cheek post on Force India’s Twitter account, the team gave Renault some advice on how to look after Hulkenberg.

“He answers the name of ‘Nico’, but ‘Hulk’ will do in public,” it reads.

“He has been a beloved member of our family for longer than we can remember, but it is time for him to go and find his own feet.

“Nico is friendly and of good nature, but there are just a few, simple rules to follow to take care of him:

  • Do not feed him after midnight.
  • Do not get him wet. Actually, just kidding. He’s pretty good in the wet.
  • Even though the resemblance can be uncanny, do not refer to him as ‘Johnny Bravo’ (if you do, let us know how it goes.

“And most importantly, and we can’t stress this enough…

  • Do NOT make him angry.

“Best of luck for your life together, your friends at Sahara Force India.”

Force India had previously left Hulkenberg’s helmet and race suit under its Christmas tree as a gift for Renault.

Porsche was quick to chip in on the claim that you shouldn’t feed Hulkenberg after midnight, with the German having ran pretty well in the early hours at Le Mans en route to victory in 2015.

The F1 season may be over, but the Twitter fun between the teams will continue through the winter.

Ricciardo: Verstappen’s arrival at Red Bull pushed me on

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 02:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates with Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing after their 1-2 finish during the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on October 2, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Daniel Ricciardo says that Max Verstappen’s arrival at Red Bull four races in to the 2016 Formula 1 season helped him to raise his game as a driver.

Verstappen  swapped seats with Daniil Kvyat after the Russian Grand Prix in May, with Ricciardo’s former teammate moving back down to Red Bull’s feeder team, Toro Rosso.

Ricciardo and Verstappen enjoyed a strong 17-race stint as teammates through 2016, each taking one win and enough points to lift Red Bull up to second place in the constructors’ championship.

Reflecting on his season, Ricciardo admitted that he was unsure about how quickly Verstappen would fit in at Red Bull and get up to speed, but that he soon realized the quality of the Dutchman.

“It was a big thing. Especially that first weekend in Spain which was pretty crazy, and not just because he won,” Ricciardo said.

“I suspect the team didn’t know how good Max was and where he was going to fit. His win really gave us good energy and pushed us on to get stronger.

“In Spain everybody was watching, wondering if we’d made a mistake swapping Dany and Max around. I think his win was a relief more than anything. And it definitely pushed us on. Certainly it pushed me on.

“I think I’d been at the right level from the start of the season, which may have caused some of the commotion in the first place because I had a better start than Dany.

“With Max, I felt we were pushing each other from the off. He was closer to me in qualifying and so naturally that provides a spur because you’re looking at each other’s data and finding an extra bit here and there. It makes you better.”

Ricciardo conceded that the amicable relationship with Verstappen could become tense in 2017 should the pair become embroiled in a title fight, but hopes they can retain their mutual respect.

“Well, I’m not naïve. If we’re fighting for wins I’m sure the pressure and tension will rise,” Ricciardo said.

“But hopefully we’ll be able to look each other in the eye and say ‘good job’ afterwards.”

F1 2016 Driver Review: Lewis Hamilton

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates his win on the start finish straight after the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 10, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton

Team: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Car No.: 44
Races: 21
Wins: 10
Podiums (excluding wins): 7
Pole Positions: 12
Fastest Laps: 3
Points: 380
Laps Led: 566
Championship Position: 2nd

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Lewis Hamilton’s year was an odd one. While he was at his brilliant best on a number of occasions, racking up 10 wins – more than any driver not to win the championship in F1 history – there were a handful of costly errors that ultimately cost him the title.

Yes, the reliability woes with the Mercedes power unit through the year hurt his title bid enormously. But that’s racing; bad luck is part and parcel of it, just as Nico Rosberg found out at points in 2014 and 2015.

Instead, Hamilton needs to look at himself to see where he could have done better in 2015. Poor starts in Australia, Bahrain, Italy and Japan were all damaging to his title challenge, as were weekends he was off the boil in Singapore and Baku.

Hamilton proved once again that he has a good balance between his life outside of F1, which he continues to quite clearly enjoy, judging by his Snapchat escapades, and his efforts on-track. He remains the strongest driver in the field. But this year, his old, successful mind-games were unable to knock Rosberg down. Nico had the answer this time around. Let’s see what 2017 brings for the Briton as he searches for a fourth World Championship.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

The year of Lewis revolved as much around him off-track as it did on it. Sometimes, his on-track runs ended through a spate of Mercedes mechanical woes, which were as unexpected as they were frustrating after a flawless winter.

Then there were his spats with the press, his Snapchat antics in Suzuka and his otherwise nonchalant approach to some outside-the-car commitments. From the outside, it seemed Hamilton was less engaged this year until he needed to be, then made peace with the fact he’d done all he could do as the year went on.

The year was defined, performance-wise, by his starts – and how poor some of them were. A number of wins were lost as a result. Even so, he still beat Rosberg 10-9 in wins and 12-8 in poles. The area he beat Rosberg in a category he wouldn’t want is DNFs – that crushing engine failure in Malaysia joined with the pair’s clash in Spain.

Hamilton was his usual peerless self at times though, and his rally to end the season with four straight wins was admirable in the face of a roller coaster year up to that point. His drive at Abu Dhabi was tenacious and smart; he backed Rosberg into the field as his only shot of snatching the title. He remains F1’s most fascinating character and out-and-out fastest driver, if not its current World Champion.

F1 2016 Driver Review: Nico Rosberg

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates with his second place trophy after securing the F1 World Drivers Championship during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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As part of MotorSportsTalk’s review of the 2016 Formula 1 season, Luke Smith and Tony DiZinno look back on each driver’s year, starting today with World Champion Nico Rosberg.

Nico Rosberg

Team: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Car No.: 6
Races: 21
Wins: 9
Podiums (excluding wins): 6
Pole Positions: 8
Fastest Laps: 6
Points: 385
Laps Led: 489
Championship Position: 1st

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Assuming that he doesn’t backtrack on his decision to retire from racing at any point in the future, 2016 will be remembered as the strongest year of Nico Rosberg’s motorsport career. Twice burned by championship defeats to Lewis Hamilton, the German bit back in 2016 with a new approach that yielded the ultimate reward.

Sure, his “one race at a time” rhetoric was boring; we like our champions to have some fire in their bellies. However, it worked wonders. Rosberg was no longer taking baggage and stress from race to race as he was through 2014 and 2015. Each race was a clean slate.

There were low moments, such as the clash with Hamilton on-track in Austria, but Rosberg recovered from his mid-season wobble nicely. Four second places is hardly the way to sign off a championship-winning season, but Rosberg cared little – he’d got the job done.

The greatest shame for 2017 is that we won’t get the chance to see if Rosberg can build on this breakthrough year and beat Hamilton again. Instead, he’s ‘one and done’; that’s it.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

In the last year of the current regulations, Nico Rosberg always needed to win this year’s World Championship if he was to ensure he ever won one in his career. Rare do you think of him as being 31 years old, in the sport 11 seasons, because he still has a fresh face look – albeit not as young as his initial “baby face” days with Williams, and the birth of a potential mullet to match his World Champion father Keke.

Alas, Rosberg had whatever momentum carried over from winning the last three races of last season, and opened the year with four wins on the trot. The 2016 version of Rosberg did not crack despite the contact with Lewis Hamilton in Spain, nor really, through Hamilton’s midsummer run of six wins in seven races. Only in Austria did it ever look like Rosberg was really on the back foot.

His starts helped propel him all season and that crucial post-summer run of form with wins in Spa, Monza, Singapore and Suzuka was what shifted the momentum back in his corner. He trailed Hamilton by as many as 19 points but by Suzuka was up 33. He brought it home as needed to the finish, and is a deserving World Champ.