Robert Hight is No. 1 in Funny Car heading into Sunday's final eliminations in New Hampshire. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

Brown (TF), Hight (FC), Gray (PS) and Krawiec (PSM) all No. 1 for Sunday’s NHRA finals in New Hampshire

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Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) earned the No. 1 qualifying positions in their respective classes Saturday ahead of Sunday’s final eliminations of  the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway and Motorsports Park in Epping, N.H.

The four-round eliminations begin at 11 am ET Sunday at the track north of Boston.

Brown qualified No. 1 Friday with a track record 3.770 seconds at 323.58 mph and was able to hold on to that advantage through Saturday’s two additional qualifying rounds. It was Brown’s second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 37th of his career in both Top Fuel and previously in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“We got a lot of confidence for tomorrow,” Brown said in a NHRA media release.

The 2012 Top Fuel champ is seeking his fourth win of 2014; he’ll face Todd Patton in the first round Sunday.

“It’s going to be a good race,” Brown said. “Everybody is running so close. Everyone has their work cut out for them. We have to definitely be on our A game and attack each round.”

Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta qualified No. 2 (3.773 seconds at 323.89 mph) and will face Terry McMillen in Sunday’s opening round.

Like Brown, Hight laid down a great run Friday (3.998 seconds at 321.58 mph, both track records) that held up through Saturday’s two rounds and put him at the top of the Funny Car heap for the first time this season heading into Sunday (and the 36th No. 1 of his career).

“Tomorrow’s a new day, and [crew chief] Mike Neff’s the best,” said Hight, who faces Mike Smith in Sunday’s first round. “He’ll race it one round at a time. He’s not going to go up there first round and try to set low E.T. of the round. We’re going to look at each opponent and race smart. That’s why we’ve won a lot of rounds this year.”

Gray, meanwhile, joined the Brown and Hight parade by riding his best qualifying round Friday (6.485 seconds at 212.79 mph) through Saturday and holding on to the No. 1 spot heading into Sunday.

“We will see if we can get by first round,” said Gray, who faces Val Smeland in Sunday’s first round. “There’s always a chance that you will, always a chance you won’t. It’s always 50/50 out there.”

Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens qualified No. 2 (6.489 seconds at 213.98 mph) and will face Larry Morgan in Sunday’s first round.

The only shakeup from Friday’s No. 1 qualifiers was in Pro Stock Motorcycle, where Krawiec overtook provisional polesitter Hector Arana Jr. in Saturday’s final two qualifying rounds with a track record of 6.794 seconds at 193.32 mph.

“We went back and looked at all the data last night,” Krawiec said of his third No. 1 qualifying position in 2014 and 17th of his career. “When we came off the truck, both bikes were running well. We were struggling a bit though, in going down the track and making good runs. …We had to make a couple changes to make some more power.”

Krawiec squares off with Justin Foley in Sunday’s first round of eliminations. Arana set the track speed record Friday (198.50 mph) and is qualified second going into Sunday, where he’ll face Jerry Savoie.

 

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Here’s Sunday’s first-round pairings for final eliminations in the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway and Motorsports Park in Epping, N.H.:

Top Fuel — 1. Antron Brown, 3.770 seconds, 323.58 mph  vs. 16. Todd Paton, 4.258, 230.29; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.773, 323.89  vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 4.180, 229.00; 3. Richie Crampton, 3.774, 324.90  vs. 14. Dom Lagana, 3.915, 319.29; 4. Brittany Force, 3.776, 325.92  vs. 13. Clay Millican, 3.887, 315.64; 5. J.R. Todd, 3.778, 324.83  vs. 12. Bob Vandergriff, 3.877, 76.43; 6. Spencer Massey, 3.796, 326.63  vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, 3.841, 321.50; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.803, 318.77  vs. 10. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.819, 320.81; 8. Tony Schumacher, 3.815, 322.65  vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.817, 324.51.

Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 3.988, 321.58  vs. 16. Mike Smith, Dodge Stratus, 7.016, 89.77; 2. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.026, 307.44  vs. 15. Jeff Arend, Dodge Charger, 4.550, 208.39; 3. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.031, 323.35  vs. 14. Dave Richards, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.371, 247.02; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.033, 318.24  vs. 13. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.221, 278.92; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.053, 315.27  vs. 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.217, 294.18; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.061, 313.80  vs. 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.105, 312.50; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.063, 312.50  vs. 10. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.102, 308.92; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.073, 314.17  vs. 9. John Force, Mustang, 4.092, 316.60.

Pro Stock — 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.485, 213.03  vs. 16. Val Smeland, Chevy Cobalt, 22.409, 198.23; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.489, 213.98  vs. 15. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 7.251, 207.40; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.493, 212.96  vs. 14. Kenny Delco, Cobalt, 6.729, 207.30; 4. Shane Tucker, Cobalt, 6.496, 213.94  vs. 13. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.705, 206.95; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.497, 214.25  vs. 12. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.528, 213.40; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.503, 213.74  vs. 11. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.525, 213.23; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.512, 213.16  vs. 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.523, 213.13; 8. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.519, 213.77  vs. 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.521, 213.94.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.794, 197.88  vs. 16. Justin Finley, Suzuki, 7.046, 192.38; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.796, 198.50  vs. 15. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.963, 196.04; 3. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.816, 194.58  vs. 14. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.938, 194.04; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.842, 195.17  vs. 13. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.935, 192.93; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.846, 197.19  vs. 12. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.917, 193.63; 6. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.850, 196.13  vs. 11. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.901, 195.05; 7. John Hall, Buell, 6.864, 195.22  vs. 10. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.895, 193.29; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.876, 194.74  vs. 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.895, 197.02.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Sam Hurwitz, 7.353, 182.97; 18. Brian Pretzel, broke.

Ed Carpenter Racing reveals Preferred Freezer liveries for May

driver of the XXX during the Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on April 2, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona.
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With the calendar shifted over to May, Ed Carpenter Racing has taken the wraps off its pair of Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolets for the pair of Verizon IndyCar Series races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Josef Newgarden’s No. 21 car shifts from the 100th anniversary special commemorative livery for Fuzzy’s Vodka to a primarily blue with white trim PFS entry.

Meanwhile JR Hildebrand, who has had the PFS colors each of the last two years at Indy, will continue in the standard white with blue trim No. 6 car. Hildebrand will run at both the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Ocon set for Spanish GP practice run-out with Renault

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Renault Sport F1 Team Test Driver.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Tuesday 1st March 2016. Barcelona, Spain.
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Defending GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will take part in practice for the Spanish Grand Prix next month for Renault.

Ocon, 19, rose to attention in 2014 when he won the FIA F3 European Championship ahead of current Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen.

The Frenchman took part in practice for Lotus in Abu Dhabi that year, and became a member of Mercedes’ development programme in 2015 en route to winning the GP3 title.

Ocon has been loaned to Renault for the 2016 season, with whom he works as reserve driver, and he will now take part in first practice for the Spanish Grand Prix on May 13.

McLaren now targeting regular points after double score in Sochi

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MP4-31 Honda RA616H Hybrid turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button are now targeting regular top-10 finishes after scoring their first points of the season in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

McLaren arrived in Sochi with just a single point to its name so far in 2016 courtesy of Stoffel Vandoorne, who deputized for the injured Alonso in Bahrain.

Alonso and Button missed out on a place in Q3 on Saturday, but both ran trouble-free races en route to sixth and tenth place respectively.

The result marked not only the first points of the year for both drivers, but just the second time that McLaren had got both of its cars to the line inside the top 10 since it rekindled its partnership with Honda at the start of the 2015 Formula 1 season.

“We were lucky in Turns 2 and 3 on the opening lap – due to those accidents, we were able to gain some places for free,” Alonso said.

“But, as we saw last year, we can make a good start but then not be able to maintain those strong starting positions. This year, it’s different, we have the pace. To finish sixth, and set the fifth-fastest lap, shows that our car is still gaining pace.”

Alonso was left to run quite a lonely race to P6, but did take one lap late on to turn the engine up to full power and have some fun by stretching the legs of the McLaren MP4-31.

“The car felt good all race. Obviously, we were saving fuel at some points of the afternoon, but, on one lap, I just decided to go for it – to wake myself up a little bit! – and the lap-time showed the potential is there,” Alonso said.

“Finishing in the points should be our regular target from now on.”

Button managed to take P10 from Carlos Sainz Jr. late on to complete an impressive fightback and score his first point since last year’s United States Grand Prix.

“To get both cars home in the points, and at a track which we didn’t feel would really suit our package, is a fantastic result for the whole team,” Button said.

“As the pack dived into Turn 2, I had to back off because it was mayhem. The bollard at Turn 2 is the problem at the start because people are trying to fight through Turns 2 and 3. I think that needs some looking at.

“From there, I was disadvantaged, but the pace was in the car. After that, it was just a case of fighting my way back – which I really enjoyed. It’s difficult to overtake around here, but I was able to make a few moves and enjoy myself.

“I think the next race in Barcelona will be reasonably difficult for us, but there’s no reason not to look forward to targeting another points haul in Monaco.”

Magnussen scores breakthrough points for Renault in Russia

during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.
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Kevin Magnussen believes that his charge to seventh place in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix was no less than Renault deserved as he score its first points since its return to Formula 1 as a constructor in 2016.

Renault last raced in F1 with its own team back in 2010 before taking over the Lotus operation at the end of last year.

The French manufacturer has said that 2016 is very much a year of rebuilding, yet the chiefs were known to be disappointed with its point-less start to the season.

Magnussen made the most of a messy start to charge from 17th on the grid to eventually finish the race seventh, marking Renault’s first F1 points as a constructor since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The result was also Magnussen’s first top 10 finish since the 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix when he finished ninth for McLaren.

“Feels good. It’s nice to finally get points on the board, and not even just one,” Magnussen told NBCSN after the race.

“I’m really happy. I think the whole team deserves it after the hard work and tough races. We have points on the board now, so it gives us a bit of a boost.”

Magnussen made up a number of positions on the first lap when a number of drivers got caught up in incidents before maintaining his placing throughout the race.

“First lap was really messy, we knew it would be difficult with something like that,” Magnussen said.

“Everyone was spinning and hitting the wall. I went outside all the front wings. But we made it up just before Turn 1 and 2, and gained it back into Turn 3. The guys in front didn’t finish.

“In the end of the day, a bit lucky but we made the best of it and we deserved.”