(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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Vettel rides solo en route to ROC Nations Cup win for Team Germany

ROC Nations Cup finalists Team USA NASCAR, Kurt Busch (USA) and Kyle Busch (USA) with ROC Nations Cup winner Team Germany Sebastian Vettel (GER) during the ROC Nations Cup on Sunday 22 January 2017 at Marlins Park, Miami, Florida, USA
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Four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel led Team Germany to its seventh Nations Cup victory at the Race of Champions on Sunday in Miami, picking up his first major honor of the 2017 racing season.

Vettel saw his individual Race of Champions title defence end in the group stage on Saturday as IndyCar star Juan Pablo Montoya took a shock victory on debut.

Vettel had never previously appeared at the Race of Champions without winning one of the two titles on offer, having claimed six straight Nations Cup wins alongside Michael Schumacher between 2007 and 2012.

Following a frightening crash in Saturday’s event, Sauber F1 racer Pascal Wehrlein was forced to withdraw from the event, leaving Vettel to represent Team Germany alone on Sunday.

However, the Ferrari driver made the most of the opportunity, winning all eight of his match-ups en route to an unlikely victory.

Vettel topped Group B after beating Tom Kristensen, Petter Solberg, Jenson Button and David Coulthard, sending Team Nordic and Team GB – the latter out to defend its teams’ title – home in the group stage.

Vettel faced off against Team Colombia in the semi-finals, facing Saturday winner Montoya and coming out on top. The German completed a 2-0 victory after easing past Gabby Chaves in the second heat.

The nature of the draw guaranteed either Team USA or Team Canada would reach the final, with three American teams featuring in Group A. Team USA IndyCar and Team USA NASCAR both made it through, the former courtesy of a last-ditch victory for Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi.

Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay faced off against NASCAR brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch, with the match tied at 1-1 ahead of the decider. Kurt Busch appeared to jump the start, moving into a lead that remained to the checkered flag, securing Team USA NASCAR a place in the final in a controversial manner.

Vettel managed to see off Kurt Busch in the first heat of the final, but a loss in revs gave Kyle Busch an advantage off the line in the second match-up. However, Vettel was able to claw it back and cross the line ahead, wrapping up a 2-0 victory and Germany’s seventh Nations Cup win.

“I had a better day than yesterday,” Vettel said. “It’s a bit of a shame that Pascal is missing, but I did my best.

“In the last round against Kyle I was really nervous. The car nearly stalled. But then I came back so really, really happy.”

Nico Rosberg: More to life than driving around in circles

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates finishing second on the podium and winning the 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 Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg says there is more to life than “driving around in circles” after retiring from Formula 1 at the end of last season.

Rosberg clinched his maiden F1 drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi at the end of November before sensationally announcing his immediate retirement from racing five days later.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this week, Rosberg opened up on his decision to call it quits.

“To do sport at the highest level, it is really 110 per cent focus that is required and there is no room for any compromise whatsoever,” Rosberg said.

“Everything else is secondary and far behind, and that’s even family. I have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter now. Friends and any other fun or exciting projects – everything is way, way behind.

“So, there’s a time for everything and I find that life has more to offer than driving around in circles and it just felt like the right moment. I want to go for new challenges.

“Of course, there is the side now of having more time for family, more time for friends and being in control of my own life as well.

“For the last 21 years of racing, even starting as a 10-year-old, the whole season is planned by other people, telling you where you need to be and especially in F1 – it’s really, really intense. And now all of a sudden I have this complete freedom.”

Rosberg said that he plans to spend some time focusing on charity work, particularly helping children.

“One of the avenues that I want to go down is to give something back, find something that really touches my heart,” Rosberg said.

“Now I have the time, I’m going to go exploring different avenues. I’m going to go to Germany and visit children who are quite ill, especially of the age of children who are really happy to see me.

“I would really like to go and see them at the age where I can give them a great time.”

Pascal Wehrlein withdraws from ROC Nations Cup on medical grounds

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Manor Racing walks in the Pitlane during qualifying for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Sauber Formula 1 racer Pascal Wehrlein will take no part in Sunday’s Race of Champions Nations Cup in Miami after being withdrawn on medical grounds.

Wehrlein sustained a frightening crash during Saturday’s ‘Champion of Champions’ event, rolling his KTM X-Bow with a passenger inside after crossing the line during a heat against Felipe Massa.

Both Wehrlein and the passenger escaped unhurt, but the Race of Champions organizers confirmed on Sunday that the German would not be racing on Sunday as a precaution.

“I’m very sorry to withdraw from today’s ROC Nations Cup. I’d really like to race again and I feel fine, but the doctors have advised me to rest so of course I will take their advice,” Wehrlein said.

“It’s no more than mild discomfort but my real priority for the coming year is my Formula 1 season. So while I’m sad to be missing out on all the action, I send my best wishes to my team-mate Sebastian Vettel and the rest of the competitors here in Miami and I wish them another exciting day’s racing.”

Event officials are yet to confirm who – if anyone – will replace Wehrlein in Team Germany’s line-up.

The Race of Champions Nations Cup takes place later today at the Marlins Park in Miami.

Juan Pablo Montoya victorious on opening day of Race of Champions in Miami

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Juan Pablo Montoya of Columbia, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet prepares to practice on Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya added another trophy to his cabinet on Saturday by claiming a shock victory in the Race of Champions.

The event at the Marlins Park in Miami pitted some of motorsport’s biggest names up against each other in a multi-discipline challenge, with the Race of Champions’ traditional crossover circuit style being used.

Ahead of the battle for national honors on Sunday, the 17 drivers on the entry list in Miami faced off for the individual title.

Defending champion and four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel suffered a shock exit in the group stage after defeats to Helio Castroneves and Travis Pastrana. The German won only one tie against 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who in turn had qualified following a shoot-out against GRC’s Scott Speed.

In the bottom half of the draw, IndyCar stars James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan were eliminated in the group stages, while veteran British F1 racers David Coulthard and Jenson Button made it through. The pair were joined by nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen and NASCAR’s Kyle Busch; the latter’s brother, Kurt, was knocked out at the first hurdle.

Pastrana and Castroneves both fell in the quarter-finals, losing to Felipe Massa and Montoya respectively. Massa advanced through the draw despite a frightening incident in the group stage involving fellow F1 driver Pascal Wehrlein, who flipped his car after crossing the finish line.

Kristensen edged out Button 2-1 in their best-of-three bout to reach the semi-finals, setting up a tie against Coulthard after he eased past Kyle Busch 2-0.

Massa and Montoya’s semi-final went down to a tie-breaker, with the former receiving a time penalty to hitting the wall and gaining an advantage. As a result, Montoya progressed into the final, winning the tie 2-1. Losing 2015 finalist Kristensen followed Montoya through, beating Coulthard 2-0.

Montoya won the first heat of the final in the rallycross car, edging Kristensen out by less than a car length before jumping into a KTM X-Bow for the second match-up. Despite almost jumping the start, Montoya managed to wrestle his car through the two laps before edging out Kristensen by just 0.08 seconds, securing a shock rookie victory in the process.

“Honestly I had a blast,” Montoya said. “It’s pretty amazing. I told my wife, I’ve got to make it through the first round. It just worked out.”

Montoya will race in the ROC Nations Cup on Sunday, teaming up with recent IndyCar racer Gabby Chaves for Team Colombia.