(Photo courtesy NHRA)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (FC), Shawn Langdon (TF), Erica Enders-Stevens (PS) are winners at Bristol

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Tommy Johnson Jr. was patient while waiting on the sideline for several years for a new ride that would contend.

Returning to the NHRA Funny Car class earlier this season, Johnson’s patience paid off in Sunday’s final round of the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.

Johnson won his first NHRA national event since 2007 and his 10th career win overall, with a final round time of 4.156 seconds at 302.14 mph, defeating Tim Wilkerson.

“I’m thrilled that we were able to get it done and all that work paid off,” Johnson Jr. said. “The guys did a great job today. We’ve qualified great, we just couldn’t get it to go our way on race day.

“We’ve been competitive and we just couldn’t close the deal. It’s tough out here. I wanted to prove that we’re not in a slump and we needed to step it up a little bit and we did.”

In Top Fuel, 2013 NHRA champ Shawn Langdon finally broke through for his first win of the 2014 season.

Langdon also earned his first career win at Bristol and his ninth overall victory with a final round run of 3.819 seconds at 320.51 mph, defeating Doug Kalitta.

“With the stiff competition in Top Fuel, one thing you have to learn is patience and not to take anything for granted,” Langdon said. “We knew it was going to be tough. We’re still learning. Fortunately, we got this win and most importantly, we hope to continue earning those Mello Yello points.”

In Pro Stock, points leader Erica Enders-Stevens earned her series-high third win of the season and first-ever triumph at Bristol with a final round run of 6.698 seconds at 207.15 mph, defeating rookie Jonathan Gray.

“We had to dig deeper this weekend,” Enders-Stevens said. “Everybody out here is hungry. As a driver, I knew I had to step up to the plate and get up on the wheel.

“Momentum is huge in this sport and we just need to continue to carry it. To get it done today meant the world to me and my team gave me a car to drive to the winner’s circle.”

The circuit moves to the northeast part of the country this coming weekend (June 19-22) with the second annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.

Results information and quotes provided by NHRA media release.

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Here’s the final finishing order order (1-16) in Sunday’s final eliminations of the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Shawn Langdon; 2.  Doug Kalitta; 3.  Antron Brown; 4.  Bob Vandergriff; 5.  Chris Karamesines; 6.  Tony Schumacher; 7.  Terry McMillen; 8.  Spencer Massey; 9.  Steve Torrence; 10.  Billy Torrence; 11.  Richie Crampton; 12.  Leah Pritchett; 13.  J.R. Todd; 14.  Khalid alBalooshi; 15.  Brittany Force; 16.  Clay Millican.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 2.  Tim Wilkerson; 3.  Matt Hagan; 4.  Tony Pedregon; 5.  Del Worsham; 6.  Courtney Force; 7.  Robert Hight; 8.  Alexis DeJoria; 9.  John Force; 10.  Cruz Pedregon; 11.  Jack Beckman; 12.  Bob Tasca III; 13.  Justin Schriefer; 14.  Ron Capps; 15.  Chad Head; 16.  Jeff Arend.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 2.  Jonathan Gray; 3.  Jeg Coughlin; 4.  Jason Line; 5.  Vincent Nobile; 6.  Shane Gray; 7.  Greg Anderson; 8.  Dave Connolly; 9.  Rodger Brogdon; 10.  Chris McGaha; 11.  V. Gaines; 12.  Larry Morgan; 13.  Kenny Delco; 14.  Curt Steinbach; 15.  Shane Tucker; 16.  Allen Johnson.

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Here’s Sunday’s final results in the top three professional series:

Top Fuel — Shawn Langdon, 3.902 seconds, 316.08 mph  def. Doug Kalitta, 4.128 seconds, 260.97 mph.

Funny Car — Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.156, 302.14  def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.423, 227.34.

Pro Stock — Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.698, 207.15  def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 13.480, 64.40.

Pro Modified — Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 6.087, 240.51  def. Steve Matusek, Chevy Camaro, 6.971, 152.61.

Top Fuel Harley — Tommy Grimes, Harley, 6.413, 221.45  def. Damian Cownden, Harley, 6.454, 214.04.

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Here’s the final round-by-round results from Sunday’s final eliminations:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Doug Kalitta, 3.838, 321.58 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.862, 161.42; Shawn Langdon, 3.895, 310.20 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 5.041, 147.96; Tony Schumacher, 3.857, 323.89 def. Billy Torrence, 4.008, 305.84; Chris Karamesines, 5.215, 118.87 def. Brittany Force, 5.558, 122.66; Terry McMillen, 4.038, 304.39 def. J.R. Todd, 4.902, 183.47; Antron Brown, 3.829, 318.39 def. Richie Crampton, 4.398, 196.79; Spencer Massey, 3.892, 317.05 def. Clay Millican, broke; Bob Vandergriff, 4.456, 212.83 def. Steve Torrence, foul;

QUARTERFINALS — Langdon, 5.338, 289.14 def. McMillen, 5.603, 210.70; Vandergriff, 4.453, 289.88 def. Schumacher, 5.027, 171.45; Kalitta, 4.171, 296.76 def. Karamesines, 4.977, 145.00; Brown, 3.883, 315.19 def. Massey, 10.460, 76.70;

SEMIFINALS — Langdon, 5.110, 149.85 def. Vandergriff, foul; Kalitta, 3.905, 312.64 def. Brown, 3.952, 304.74;

FINAL — Langdon, 3.902, 316.08 def. Kalitta, 4.128, 260.97.

 

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.148, 303.78 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.890, 169.55; Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.355, 256.21 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 5.330, 142.06; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.191, 299.13 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 12.726, 59.78; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.746, 223.91 def. Justin Schriefer, Chevy Camaro, 5.082, 155.33; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.147, 309.20 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.613, 188.49; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.199, 302.35 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.787, 181.64; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.216, 292.14 def. John Force, Mustang, 4.437, 229.78; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.166, 300.00 def. Chad Head, Camry, 5.498, 143.90;

QUARTERFINALS — Wilkerson, 4.220, 294.95 def. DeJoria, 6.019, 112.71; Johnson Jr., 4.175, 305.84 def. Hight, 6.009, 114.01; Hagan, 4.216, 287.66 def. Worsham, 4.209, 299.53; T. Pedregon, 4.380, 252.14 def. C. Force, 4.770, 211.69;

SEMIFINALS — Wilkerson, 4.240, 293.60 def. T. Pedregon, 4.533, 218.19; Johnson Jr., 4.201, 299.46 def. Hagan, 4.207, 293.54;

FINAL — Johnson Jr., 4.156, 302.14 def. Wilkerson, 4.423, 227.34.

 

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.706, 207.18 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.709, 207.37; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.686, 207.15 def. Shane Tucker, Chevy Cobalt, 7.471, 141.02; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.712, 206.13 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.702, 206.67; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.690, 205.41 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, DQ; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.673, 207.53 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.709, 206.99; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.663, 207.40 def. Curt Steinbach, Camaro, 6.871, 201.52; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.651, 207.78 def. Kenny Delco, Cobalt, 6.869, 202.15; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.665, 207.46 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.770, 205.04;

QUARTERFINALS — Line, 6.707, 206.95 def. Connolly, 17.884, 43.65; Enders-Stevens, 6.697, 207.15 def. Anderson, foul; J. Gray, 6.703, 206.80 def. S. Gray, 6.703, 207.40; Coughlin, 6.671, 207.05 def. Nobile, 6.702, 207.05;

SEMIFINALS — J. Gray, 6.730, 206.23 def. Line, 6.726, 206.39; Enders-Stevens, 6.703, 207.11 def. Coughlin, foul;

FINAL — Enders-Stevens, 6.698, 207.15 def. J. Gray, 13.480, 64.40.

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Here’s the updated points standings after Sunday’s race at Bristol:

Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 902; 2.  Antron Brown, 782; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 751; 4.  Spencer Massey, 652; 5.  Steve Torrence, 617; 6.  Tony Schumacher, 557; 7.  Khalid alBalooshi, 535; 8.  Brittany Force, 502; 9.  Richie Crampton, 464; 10.  J.R. Todd, 429.

Funny Car: 1.  Robert Hight, 905; 2.  John Force, 640; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 627; 4.  Alexis DeJoria, 619; 5.  Del Worsham, 593; 6.  Courtney Force, 581; 7.  Ron Capps, 571; 8.  Cruz Pedregon, 538; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 533; 10.  Matt Hagan, 527.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 908; 2.  Jeg Coughlin, 753; 3.  Allen Johnson, 704; 4.  Jason Line, 698; 5.  Shane Gray, 651; 6.  Vincent Nobile, 617; 7.  Dave Connolly, 587; 8.  V. Gaines, 487; 9.  Chris McGaha, 459; 10.  Rodger Brogdon, 390.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Button ‘almost there’ on deciding Formula 1 future

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 26: Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren Honda sits in his car in the garage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 26, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Jenson Button says he is “almost there” on deciding his future in Formula 1 as McLaren continues to deliberate its driver line-up for 2017.

Button is the most experienced driver currently racing in F1, and has been with McLaren since 2010.

Fernando Alonso is set to remain with McLaren for next season, but the team is yet to decide whether it will retain Button or promote junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne into a full-time seat.

Button has been linked with a return to Williams – the team he made his F1 debut with in 2000 – should McLaren drop him.

The 2009 F1 world champion is yet to decide whether or not he will continue in F1 next year, but feels he is close to a decision.

“I am almost there with my thought process and you will hear about it soon. I can’t put a timescale on it, but it will be soon enough,” Button told Press Association.

“I did think about it lot [over the summer]. I didn’t have a lot of time to lie on a sun-lounger and think about it to be fair.

“I was busy, but yes, of course, I thought about it.”

Button’s last race win came at the end of 2012 with McLaren, and has not finished on the podium since the start of 2014 thanks to difficulties with the team’s Honda engine last year.

Although McLaren is on the rise, Button stressed that he wants to be in a car that is capable of battling at the front of the pack in 2017.

“I have always said that if I feel like I can be in a car that is fighting for wins I will definitely stay. I think any racing driver would,” Button said.

“But if I am not and I feel like I am not, there is nothing else for me to achieve. I will go and play darts instead.

“I can’t just sit on the beach. I will do all sorts of racing after F1 whether it is in racing cars, push bikes, or triathlons because I am a competitive person and I always want to win.

“So, that is what I want to do. Something I can fight for wins in.”

Button has been linked with a move into the FIA World Endurance Championship should he decide to call time on his F1 career, and is also likely to take up rallycross in some form, following in the footsteps of his father, John.

A roof popped off a BMW M6 GTLM in IMSA’s VIR first practice

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First practice for this weekend’s Michelin GT Challenge, a GT Le Mans and GT Daytona-only round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at VIRginia International Raceway is in the books.

Fastest times were set by Earl Bamber in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR (1:43.232, GTLM and overall) and Madison Snow in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (1:45.722, GTD).

Bamber told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam, “It’s a good way to start the weekend. It’s a new surface; it already seems quicker than last year. The guys at VIR have done a great job to repave it. It’s been pretty difficult the last couple races for us.”

But the session was more notable because it featured a weird interruption, when the roof off the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM popped off on course.

It left Dirk Werner needing to bring the car, sans the roof and rear window, into the pit lane but luckily without further damage following the inadvertent convertible debut of the car.

Werner’s befuddled co-driver, Bill Auberlen, attempted to explain the situation to Adam.

“I’m telling you… I’m dying to ask if it was cooler inside the cockpit!” Auberlen told IMSA Radio, noting how hot it is on track, as well (ambient temperatures are expected in the mid-90s with track temperatures in the 110-115 range).

“So no, we did not plan on this. This is very odd. It’s bizarre how the roof would blow off the thing.

“I went in the grass once. Couldn’t get the downshfits accomplished. Now this. Maybe we get all the troubles out now.

“But now the roof blew off? No idea how, it’s just bad luck.”

Here’s pics and a few tweets about the abnormal incident:

Dover agrees to sell Nashville track to real estate company

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 15:  Scott Dixon driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda, and Dario Francitti driver of the #27 Canadian Club Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda, lead the field during the IRL Indycar Series Firestone Indy 200 on July 15, 2007 at the Nashville Superspeedway  in Lebanon, Tennessee.  (Photo by  Gavin Lawrence/Getty Images)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Dover Motorsports Inc. has a new buyer for the Nashville Superspeedway in a commercial real estate development company.

The motorsports company said Thursday that Panattoni Development Company will buy the superspeedway for $27.5 million and also take over Dover’s obligations under bonds issued in 1999 to help build infrastructure supporting the track. The bonds currently have a balance of $17.2 million, and Panattoni will replace Dover Motorsports’ letter of credit with its own.

Dover expects the sale to close in 2017 pending zoning approvals.

This is the second time Dover announced a buyer of the 1.33-mile concrete track about 30 miles east of Nashville that closed in 2011. Dover announced in May 2014 a deal selling to NeXovation Inc. worth nearly $46 million, which later fell through.

Rosberg praises Mercedes for ‘great job’ on F1 Halo

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Nico Rosberg has praised Mercedes for doing a “great job” in designing the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection that may be introduced to Formula 1 in 2018.

Following the deaths of F1 driver Jules Bianchi and IndyCar’s Justin Wilson in 2015 from head injuries sustained while racing, the FIA has placed improving cockpit safety high on its agenda in 2016.

The Halo made its public debut in pre-season testing and underwent brief testing on race weekends before the F1 Strategy Group opted to delay its introduction until 2018 at the earliest.

Opening practice for the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday saw the most extensive Halo test yet as Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniel Ricciardo all completed laps with it fitted to their cars.

Rosberg set his fastest practice time using the Halo, and called its trial a “success” when reflecting on his running.

“The team have done a great job on the Halo. It doesn’t disturb me when driving,” Rosberg said.

“I could go fast straight away and even set the best time of the session with it this morning, so I think that was a success.”

Rosberg topped FP1 before focusing on race pace in second practice at Spa-Francorchamps, finishing the session in sixth place.

The German was pleased with his running, believing that tire management will be key come Sunday’s race.

“Car-wise we seem to be quick,” Rosberg said.

“The grid is a bit all over the place this afternoon with people doing different things with the tires. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the race. Long run pace will be important as you can overtake here.

“I don’t know how we’re looking yet – we’ll need to look into that.

“But there was a lot of tire degradation, so managing that on Sunday will be important.”