Cruz Pedregon (Photo courtesy NHRA)

Cruz Pedregon makes fastest run in NHRA Funny Car history

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For the second straight race weekend, history was made in the National Hot Rod Association during Friday night’s qualifying for the Toyota Summernationals in Englishtown, N.J.

Two-time former series champion Cruz Pedregon recorded the quickest run in Funny Car history, covering the 1,000-foot track at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in 3.959 seconds (at 310.48 mph).

Pedregon’s time will become an NHRA national record if he can certify (also known as “back up”) the run by posting another time within one percent of the mark during the remainder of the weekend in Saturday’s two final qualifying attempts or in Sunday’s final eliminations.

Pedregon has history on his side at setting the record, having four career No. 1 qualifying efforts and two wins at Englishtown.

“It would mean more than words could say,” Pedregon said about possibly setting the national record. “Even if we don’t back it up, to have the quickest time slip for Funny Car is an honor. It’s something that my team and I have worked really hard for.”

Pedregon eclipsed fellow Funny Car driver Ron Capps’ mark of 3.964 seconds, which had stood as the fastest run prior to Friday, and was also set at Englishtown, in 2012.

In addition to seeking the elapsed time mark, Pedregon is also in pursuit of his first win of the season. He’s coming off his first final round appearance – last week at Topeka, where he lost to Courtney Force due to mechanical failure.

Force made NHRA history by earning the 100th win by a female driver in the sanctioning body’s pro ranks.

“We’re on a roll right now, and had it not been for a supercharger issue that we had (at Topeka), the car should have run another 4.09 (seconds) without even a problem,” Pedregon said. “We came out here, unloaded, 4.05 and then 3.95.

“We’re not doing anything different. I guess all those tire smokes, cylinder dropping, and all those runs, they teach you something. We’ve got to get it right eventually.”

Del Worsham also reached the finish line with a 3.959 second effort (at 321.04) on the run prior to Pedregon’s, but the latter driver was slightly quicker, thus giving him the quickest elapsed time mark for now.

Other top qualifiers in Friday’s sessions were Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Kalitta led the Top Fuel field with a best run of 3.756 seconds at 327.03 mph. He’s the current points leader in the class coming into this weekend.

“It’s always good qualifying up front,” said Kalitta, who is seeking his second win of the season. “It just kind of sets the stage for how things are going. I’m just real proud of my guys. They’re working their butts off on this thing, and they’re just really making it run well. That was definitely a good start for today with qualifying so far.”

Having won last weekend at Topeka, Johnson is going for his second straight race win (and potentially fourth overall) in Pro Stock. He led all drivers in his class with a best run of 6.502 seconds at 213.00 mph.

“We picked up where we left off last week but we had completely different conditions,” said Johnson, whose Topeka win was his third of the season. “Last week it was warm and here it was a lot cooler. That’s a testament to my Mopar Dodge crew. Hats off to them.”

As for Pro Stock Motorcycle rider and New Jersey native Krawiec, he set a track record with a 6.801 second run at 197.80 mph.

“I try not to treat this race any differently than usual, but that’s easy to say and hard to do,” Krawiec said. “I like to spend time with my friends and family, but obviously I still have a job to do. Still, it’s always a really good thing to come back here and race.”

Qualifying continues on Saturday at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. ET. Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET.

 

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Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 45th Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, ninth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.756 seconds, 327.03 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.777, 324.51; 3. Brittany Force, 3.777, 324.44; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.784, 316.75; 5. Antron Brown, 3.786, 313.73; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.792, 320.66; 7. Richie Crampton, 3.794, 321.73; 8. Bob Vandergriff, 3.804, 319.75; 9. Leah Pritchett, 3.812, 314.75; 10. Morgan Lucas, 3.833, 319.82; 11. Terry McMillen, 3.841, 321.19; 12. Spencer Massey, 3.865, 315.86.  Not Qualified: 13. Dom Lagana, 3.983, 276.52; 14. Shawn Langdon, 4.022, 223.65; 15. J.R. Todd, 4.533, 166.95; 16. Clay Millican, 6.532, 99.62.

Funny Car — 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.959, 310.48; 2. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.994, 321.04; 3. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.014, 316.45; 4. John Force, Mustang, 4.015, 310.48; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.027, 314.31; 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.030, 319.07; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.048, 311.27; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.054, 313.58; 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.055, 305.49; 10. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.071, 310.63; 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.074, 307.65; 12. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.080, 308.50.  Not Qualified: 13. Chad Head, 4.093, 310.13; 14. Bob Tasca III, 4.129, 303.64; 15. Tony Pedregon, 4.160, 260.31; 16. Mike Smith, 4.364, 84.68; 17. Terry Haddock, 4.383, no speed.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.502, 213.00; 2. Rodger Brogdon, Chevy Camaro, 6.508, 213.00; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.516, 213.40; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.520, 213.27; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.520, 212.66; 6. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.539, 213.33; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.561, 212.76; 8. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.611, 208.46; 9. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 7.792, 128.80; 10. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 8.593, 120.29; 11. Val Smeland, Chevy Cobalt, 10.061, 86.65; 12. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 12.160, 71.90.  Not Qualified: 13. Dave Connolly, 13.456, 98.72; 14. Chris McGaha, 14.718, 77.19; 15. Kenny Delco, 17.677, 45.94; 16. V. Gaines, 19.577, 57.43.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.801, 197.80; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.835, 194.94; 3. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.849, 194.58; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.871, 193.82; 5. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.872, 195.17; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.883, 192.30; 7. John Hall, Buell, 6.884, 194.18; 8. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.929, 193.29; 9. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.933, 192.08; 10. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.961, 191.32; 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.975, 195.59; 12. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.991, 170.54.  Not Qualified: 13. Michael Ray, 6.992, 190.83; 14. Justin Finley, 7.064, 192.25; 15. Junior Pippin, 7.074, 186.48; 16. Adam Arana, 7.133, 153.21; 17. LE Tonglet, 7.360, 189.82; 18. Elvira Karlsson, 7.382, 141.68; 19. Matt Smith, 12.980, 81.36; 20. Joe DeSantis, 16.784, 43.53.

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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.