(Photo: AP/NHRA, Teresa Long)

Several marks already set, even more could fall in Sunday’s NHRA finals in Englishtown

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Cruz Pedregon will have at least one more chance to set the NHRA Funny Car elapsed time record in Sunday’s first round of eliminations of the Toyota NHRA Summernationals in Englishtown, N.J.

The former two-time world champ (in photo) recorded the fastest pass down a dragstrip in NHRA history on Friday night, covering the 1,000-foot surface at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at a time of 3.959 seconds at 310.48 mph to lead the field.

The run, the quickest ever in Funny Car, will be certified as an NHRA national record if Pedregon can post a time of 3.999 seconds or quicker on Sunday.

“We had such monster early runs yesterday,” Pedregon said in a NHRA media release. “It’s like a tiger by the tail, a snake by the tail. It was pretty aggressive.”

Pedregon lost traction in the first of two final qualifying rounds on Saturday. He was forced to miss the second round due to a mechanical malfunction when a bracket on the team’s starter prevented him from attempting the final qualifying pass, according to the NHRA.

“It was just a good-old-fashioned breakage,” Pedregon said. “It’s probably one of those things that will never happen again in my career, and it will probably not happen to a lot of people in their careers. It had freak accident written all over it.”

Even without having the opportunity to set a new record, Pedregon remained the No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car heading into Sunday’s four rounds of final eliminations.

It is the 56th No. 1 qualifying position of Pedregon’s career, his fifth at Englishtown and his second No. 1 of the season. He faces Terry Haddock in Sunday’s first round round.

In other classes, No. 2 qualifier Erica Enders-Stevens set the NHRA Pro Stock national speed record with her 215.55 mph pass, the first time that a Pro Stock car has reached 215 mph.

Saturday’s qualifying sessions provided seven of the top 10 fastest speeds in Pro Stock history and 11 of the top 15.

No. 1 qualifier Allen Johnson ran the second quickest elapsed time (6.472 seconds at 214.35 mph) in NHRA history and will attempt to back it up for a new national record in Sunday’s eliminations.

“Our guys put our Magneti Marelli Dodge on kill and it stuck and we went to the top,” Johnson said of his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 33rd of his career.

Johnson, who is seeking his fourth win of 2014, faces Chris McGaha in the first round, while Enders-Stevens, who is seeking her third triumph in 2014, will face Val Smeland.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec not only earned his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season (6.747 seconds at 198.90 mph), he also has his sites set on becoming the first PSM rider to break the 200 mph milestone.

But do does series points leader and No. 3 qualifier Andrew Hines, who set a track record with a speed record of 199.23 mph.

“Obviously it’s great to be back in New Jersey and to be running so well,” said Krawiec, former track manager at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. “Now, I just need to do my job tomorrow.”

Krawiec will face No. 16 Angie Smith in the first round, while Hines will face Adam Arana, and No. 2 qualifier Hector Arana Jr. will face Jim Underdahl.

In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta improved on Friday’s No. 1 qualifying effort with an even better 3.748 second run at 327.66 mph on Saturday.

“So far, the thing has been running strong, going consistently down the track all of our qualifying runs,” Kalitta said of his 40th career No. 1 qualifying position. “I’m just real proud of those guys and looking forward to (Sunday).”

Kalitta will face No. 16 qualifier Clay Millican in the first round Sunday.

“Conditions should be good,” said Kalitta, who is the Top Fuel points leader. “It’s a little cooler than it normally is here, so I think that’s helping everybody with the performance. It should be a fun day.”

 

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Here’s Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 45th Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park:

Top Fuel — 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.748 seconds, 327.66 mph  vs. 16. Clay Millican, 6.081, 108.20; 2. Richie Crampton, 3.750, 326.95  vs. 15. Dom Lagana, 3.894, 316.38; 3. Shawn Langdon, 3.761, 327.27  vs. 14. Terry McMillen, 3.841, 321.19; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.777, 324.67  vs. 13. Morgan Lucas, 3.823, 319.82; 5. Brittany Force, 3.777, 324.44  vs. 12. Spencer Massey, 3.811, 320.36; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.777, 322.27  vs. 11. Bob Vandergriff, 3.804, 319.75; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.779, 321.04  vs. 10. J.R. Todd, 3.787, 321.65; 8. Tony Schumacher, 3.784, 316.75  vs. 9. Antron Brown, 3.786, 319.07.

Funny Car — 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.959, 310.48  vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Chevy Impala, 4.245, 289.51; 2. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.994, 321.04  vs. 15. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.167, 287.17; 3. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.014, 316.45  vs. 14. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.154, 303.64; 4. John Force, Mustang, 4.015, 310.48  vs. 13. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.080, 308.50; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.017, 318.99  vs. 12. Chad Head, Camry, 4.080, 312.28; 6. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.027, 314.31  vs. 11. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.071, 310.63; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.030, 319.14  vs. 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.055, 311.70; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.048, 311.27  vs. 9. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.054, 307.65.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Mike Smith, 6.275, 107.40.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.472, 214.35  vs. 16. Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 11.528, 95.41; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.473, 215.55  vs. 15. Val Smeland, Chevy Cobalt, 8.017, 127.94; 3. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.485, 214.45  vs. 14. V. Gaines, Dart, 7.583, 157.82; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.488, 214.83  vs. 13. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.992, 199.37; 5. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.488, 214.42  vs. 12. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.611, 208.46; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.489, 214.25  vs. 11. Kenny Delco, Cobalt, 6.597, 210.50; 7. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.490, 214.55  vs. 10. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.512, 214.14; 8. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.503, 214.31  vs. 9. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.511, 214.08.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.747, 198.90  vs. 16. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.929, 192.33; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.772, 198.12  vs. 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.929, 193.29; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.778, 199.23  vs. 14. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.880, 193.88; 4. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.793, 198.06  vs. 13. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.872, 195.17; 5. John Hall, Buell, 6.803, 194.63  vs. 12. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.862, 195.82; 6. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.810, 197.36  vs. 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.845, 195.34; 7. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.822, 197.57  vs. 10. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.840, 196.04; 8. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.826, 196.30  vs. 9. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.839, 195.73.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Elvira Karlsson, 6.947, 192.08; 18. Joe DeSantis, 6.967, 191.32; 19. Justin Finley, 6.978, 192.69; 20. Junior Pippin, 7.047, 189.84.

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Oriol Servia believes Sunday may be best chance ever for him to win Indy 500

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(Photos: Getty Images)
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INDIANAPOLIS – In every race car driver’s life, invariably there is one race that stands out the most.

Not surprisingly, Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 stands out to Oriol Servia, but not necessarily for the milestone significance.

Servia truly believes that he has the best opportunity he’s ever had to conquer Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He feels he has the car (the No. 77 Lucas Oil Special Honda), the team (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) and fate in his corner to win Sunday.

Many fans are wondering if Roger Penske will take his record 17th 500 victory, or whether Chip Ganassi will get his fifth as a team owner.

But don’t count out Schmidt Peterson, which has three of the top 10 starting positions in Sunday’s race: James Hinchcliffe on the pole, Mikhail Aleshin starts from seventh position and Servia will start 10th.

“It’s the race of the century, it really is,” Servia said. “It already is the event of the year whenever the Indy 500 happens, just because of the size of the event, the big race at Indy.

“But this year being the 100th, it’s just absolutely off the charts every day. It’s sold out and Hinch got the pole position after his bad crash last year. The whole story is just amazing, and whoever wins this year, it’s not only going to be a big deal, it’s going to change his career.

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“Of course, I want to win it, of course I’m happy I have a ride with a good team. They have great talent, great engineering group and we proved it in qualifying: P1, P7 and P10. There’s still a lot of big teams behind us.”

Sunday’s race will be a one-off start for Servia with SPM, and his second race of 2016 (filled in for Will Power in the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, finished 18th).

He still remembers his first attempt at making the 500.

“The first time is one people don’t remember, but I do – it was 2002,” Servia said. “We did a one-off attempt with Walker Racing and we didn’t qualify, but I loved it (the first experience at Indy).

“I remember my first lap on the track, my eyes opened up big. I had already two years of experience in Champ Car in big power and big ovals, but there was nothing like Indy and the way it felt.

“I did a good job, but we just didn’t have the power. Then we got a car from another team, Conquest, specifically for qualifying. It had the speed, but the fuel pump broke during on my qualifying lap and that was the last attempt. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.”

Servia has made seven career starts at the 2.5-mile Brickyard – and some may be surprised to learn he actually has a very respectable overall mark there, including a fourth place finish, a sixth and three 11th showings.

He’s coming off a 29th-place finish in last year’s race, which was a career worst, having crashed just past the halfway point of the race, which gives him further incentive to bounce back in a big way in this year’s Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

It’s been a long time since he earned his first and only Indy car win back in 2005 at Montreal in the Champ Car Series. He’s still looking for his first triumph in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

A lot has happened to Servia since he first climbed into an Indy car in 2000. That’s why he’s looking at Sunday’s race as potentially being the race that may become the most unforgettable event he’s ever been part of.

“I’ve been very fortunate all my life with the career I’ve had,” Servia said. “I joke that I’ve been through 14 different IndyCar teams, which is crazy and is not what you want to have consistent results, so I’m not happy about that.

“At the same time, I’m happy because I learned a lot being with so many teams, good and bad ones, and I’m happy somehow teams kept bringing me back.

“I take that as a good thing and hopefully I can land somewhere that I call home and I can go for the championship and the wins that one day I still hope to have.”

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Josef Newgarden channels his inner ‘Ted Crasnick,’ fools almost all IndyCar drivers

"Ted Crasnick," aka Josef Newgarden, in action Thursday. (Photo courtesy ESPN)
(Photos courtesy ESPN)
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INDIANAPOLIS — Ted Crasnick stole the show during Thursday’s Indianapolis 500 media day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Who?

Well, Crasnick’s alter ego is IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden, who dressed up with heavy makeup, a huge fake nose and looked like something out of the 1950s — and then pretended to be a member of the media.

“I wanted to do this idea three years ago,” Newgarden said. “I wanted to first do it as a yellow shirt (track security), but logistically it would have been too difficult.”

Newgarden’s plan finally came to fruition when ESPN agreed to tag along with him during media day for a feature that will be aired Sunday on ABC’s pre-race show before the Indianapolis 500.

“ESPN and I decided together this would be a better idea to do it in the media crowd and I’d be part of the media.”

Newgarden was part of the second scheduled group of drivers that came through later in the session, allowing him to transform into “Ted” for the opening segment – and with no one being the wiser.

Well, almost no one.

Crasnick/Newgarden fooled everyone – with the exception of Will Power. Even one of Newgarden’s best buddies, Graham Rahal, fell for the ruse.

“Will Power was the only guy that knew it was me, and I was shocked he figured it out,” Newgarden said. “No one else knew. Oriol (Servia) didn’t know, Helio (Castroneves) didn’t know, Graham, I don’t think knew. Mikhail (Aleshin) was just awkward to talk to.”

Even Newgarden’s boss, Ed Carpenter, was completely in the dark.

“Ed didn’t know,” Newgarden said. “The one guy that probably should have known it was me didn’t know it was me.”

Newgarden’s alter ego posed as a “reporter” from several outlets, including HarveyWorld.com, Boca Raton Senior Society, ProstateHealth.com and RVWorld.com.

Josef Newgarden begins his transformation into "Ted Crasnick" Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Josef Newgarden midway through his transformation into “Ted Crasnick” Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo courtesy ESPN)

Two of “Crasnick’s” most memorable exchanges were with Oriol Servia and Helio Castroneves.

“Oreo, good to meet you. You’re named after a cookie, I understand,” Crasnick said. … “Oreo, I love that name, it’s so sweet.”

To his credit, Servia played it straight and answered all of Crasnick’s questions, even one that involved, uh, err, “relieving” himself in his race car during a race.

Now, Castroneves was a whole different story.

“Helio lost words about halfway through,” Newgarden said with a laugh. “I’ve never seen him at a loss for words.

“That was the funniest part. I was asking him about peeing in the car and he was so confused about what I was asking him that he just didn’t know what to say.”

Check out a few hits from social media showing “Crasnick” at work:

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Guess who showed up at Indy? New NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 26:  Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, stands in the garage arstands in the garage areaduring practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samuel Deeds 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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INDIANAPOLIS — Newly NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee-elect Mark Martin isn’t even entered in either race, but he’ll be doing the proverbial motorsports “double” on Sunday.

Martin will be in Indianapolis for the start of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. A few hours after the green flag drops on the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, he’ll be on a plane headed for Charlotte to take in the Coca-Cola 600 that evening.

Actually, there’s a bit more to all that. Martin felt he had such little chance to be chosen for the Hall that he left his native Arkansas earlier this week to attend the 500.

“It was a bucket list sorta thing,” he said.

But then came Wednesday’s announcement that he had been elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017 – while he was on the road headed to Indy, no less – and Martin’s travel plans suddenly got a lot more complicated.

He was in Indy on Thursday, attending Indianapolis 500 media day. He flies to Charlotte Friday afternoon, returns to Indy on Saturday, and then does the Indianapolis-Charlotte jaunt on Sunday.

“I was speechless, still not sure what to say, other than I’m surprised,” Martin said of his selection for the NASCAR Hall. “If I’d been voting, I’d have voted another way.

“But I’m humbled and honored and not only to be in this class because of the performance of the people in this class and the people, the persons they were. … I just feel really fortunate. It’s like icing on the cake, like the race you never won but always wanted to, and more.”

To further illustrate his total surprise at being chosen for the Hall, Martin quipped, “I did not expect it, or otherwise I wouldn’t have been in the motor home driving up here yesterday.

“I hadn’t been to (the Indy 500) in my lifetime, so now it appears I’m going to be doing the ‘double.’ I’m not driving, but I’m doing the ‘double’ anyway.”

Here’s a few posts from Martin’s Twitter account about his time at IMS on Thursday as well as his selection for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

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Oh, Canada! James Hinchcliffe hopes to repay countrymen for support with Indy 500 win

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Photo: IndyCar
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INDIANAPOLIS — Polesitter James Hinchcliffe wants to obviously win Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 for himself and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

He also wants to win for his family – all 35 million of them.

Hinchcliffe understands very well the huge significance of what his being in the 500 means to everyone in his native Canada.

Since winning the pole, Hinchcliffe has been front-page news from Halifax to Vancouver. He also knows millions of his fellow Canadians will be watching the 500 on television and cheering for the guy who proudly wears the maple leaf.

“After last Sunday, the amount of support pouring out of home was very overwhelming,” Hinchcliffe said during Thursday’s Indy 500 Media Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “The amount of messages I got that were ‘regardless of what happens Sunday (in the Indy 500), we’re all behind you,’ that’s so nice.”

Now Hinchcliffe hopes to repay the faith his countrymen have had in him throughout his racing career.

“Being the only full-time Canadian driver in the field. I want to do my country proud,” Hinchcliffe said. “I want to give Canadian motorsports fans something to cheer for.”

Hinchcliffe is one of a number of IndyCar drivers that have hailed from north of the border. Among those have been Paul Tracy (from Scarborough, Ontario), Scott Goodyear (Toronto), Alex Tagliani (Montreal) and Patrick Carpentier (LaSalle, Quebec). Tagliani, who starts 33rd, book-ends the field of 33 this year.

And let’s not forget Jacques Villeneuve (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec), the only Canadian to ever win the 500, having done so in 1995, ironically when Goodyear passed the pace car.

“The support I’ve felt from back home from Day 1 of my IndyCar career has just been incredible,” said Hinchcliffe, who hails from the outlying Toronto suburb of Oakville. “We’ve had some good years and bad years, and regardless of the results and in true Canadian fashion, they’re behind you win, lose or draw.

“It’s just incredible. I’ve gotten so lucky to come from that place. To know you have that support and they’re behind you in any situation is huge.”

While Hinchcliffe was a huge Villeneuve fan, the one Indy car driver that he has tried to emulate in his career is the late Greg Moore, who was killed in a crash at Fontana, California, in 1999.

Moore never got the chance to race at Indianapolis, primarily due to the split between CART and the Indy Racing League in 1996.

“Obviously, we lost him too soon,” Hinchcliffe said of Moore. “I was a huge (Jacques) Villeneuve fan. He was really the guy that got me into it (Indy car racing).

“And when he switched to F1, sure, I followed his F1 career very closely, but in IndyCar, his replacement was Greg Moore. And that’s the guy that really connected with me somehow, and not just how he drove.

“There were a lot of bad-fast racing drivers, but Greg was a really great human being. That was the guy that I looked at and thought, ‘Hey, if I ever get to do this for a living, that’s the guy I want to be like.”

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