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.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.