Legendary 3-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Shirley Muldowney is grand marshal for this weekend's race at Joliet, Illinois. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

Brittany Force (TF), Robert Hight (FC), Allen Johnson (PS), Eddie Krawiec (PSM) first day NHRA No. 1 qualifiers in Joliet

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John Force Racing held the top spots in both Top Fuel and Funny Car after the first two rounds of qualifying Friday for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois.

Brittany Force was the provisional No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel, recording a pass of 3.791 seconds at 324.51 mph. Force is seeking to enter Sunday’s final eliminations with her third No. 1 qualifying spot of the season.

“It felt like a quick run,” Force said in a NHRA media release. “I felt it pull me to the center line so I never thought we were going to be No. 1. But we got it down there. When I jumped out at the other end I was excited and just crossing my fingers it would hold.”

Two-time 2014 event winner Spencer Massey was second-quickest at 3.804 seconds at 324.83 mph.

* In Funny Car, JFR president Robert Hight was the provisional No. 1 qualifier (4.026 seconds at 317.64 mph) after overtaking No. 2 qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.038 seconds at 318.32 mph) in the second run of the day.

“[Crew Chief] Mike Neff was actually very happy with that run,” Hight said. “We were No. 1 after the first session, and No. 1 again tonight, that’s six small points today.

“Tomorrow we’re going to get all over this thing. We’re going to get after it.”

Hight, who leads the NHRA Funny Car points standings, is going for his fifth win in the first 12 races of the 24-race season.

* In Pro Stock, 2012 NHRA world champion Allen Johnson earned the provisional No. 1 with a strong 6.574 second run at 209.43 mph.

“It was perfect, there was nothing left,” Johnson said of his run. “Actually both of the runs I made today were two of the best I’ve made this year, maybe even in my career. We left nothing on the table.”

Points leader Erica Enders-Stevens was No. 2 qualifier (6.594 seconds at 209.65 mph).

* In Pro Stock Motorcycle, three-time champ Eddie Krawiec rode his two-wheeler to the provisional No. 1 spot with a run of 6.872 seconds at 194.86 mph.

Krawiec is in pursuit of his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season, as well as seeking both his first career No. 1 qualifying spot and victory at Route 66.

“The key is that we made two good passes today,” Krawiec said. “On the first run I ran a 6.93, which was good, but we also left a lot on the table. We used that run and came up with a good tune-up for Q2. The track is really good here and we can get after it.”

Hector Arana Jr. was No. 2 qualifier (6.941 seconds at 192.74 mph).

Two final rounds of qualifying take place Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s final eliminations at the track, located 45 miles southwest of Chicago.

 

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Here’s Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals:

Top Fuel — 1. Brittany Force, 3.791 seconds, 324.51 mph; 2. Spencer Massey, 3.804, 324.83; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.805, 320.13; 4. Antron Brown, 3.808, 319.75; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.812, 323.81; 6. J.R. Todd, 3.837, 300.86; 7. Steve Torrence, 3.840, 322.65; 8. Bob Vandergriff, 3.840, 316.01; 9. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.844, 316.60; 10. T.J. Zizzo, 3.852, 318.39; 11. Shawn Langdon, 3.865, 315.93; 12. Terry McMillen, 3.868, 321.50.

Not Qualified: 13. Billy Torrence, 3.932, 316.08; 14. Pat Dakin, 3.944, 308.50; 15. Richie Crampton, 4.725, 156.75; 16. Tim Cullinan, 5.082, 133.78; 17. Chris Karamesines, 5.675, 114.29; 18. Clay Millican, 6.722, 86.58; 19. Luigi Novelli, 10.736, 80.24.

Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.026, 317.64; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.038, 318.32; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.040, 312.50; 4. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.047, 319.75; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.048, 315.64; 6. John Force, Mustang, 4.049, 316.38; 7. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.051, 315.12; 8. Chad Head, Camry, 4.067, 312.21; 9. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.093, 303.50; 10. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.095, 311.92; 11. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.101, 307.72; 12. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.146, 307.23.

Not Qualified: 13. Tony Pedregon, 4.264, 260.51; 14. Bob Tasca III, 4.335, 236.09; 15. Brian Stewart, 4.901, 167.88; 16. Bob Bode, 5.360, 135.66; 17. Justin Schriefer, 6.189, 109.97; 18. Dale Creasy Jr., 6.515, 108.75.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.574, 209.82; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.594, 209.65; 3. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.604, 209.30; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.604, 209.14; 5. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.605, 208.39; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.610, 208.94; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.611, 208.81; 8. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.612, 208.91; 9. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.619, 208.01; 10. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.628, 209.14; 11. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.637, 208.81; 12. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.643, 209.01.

Not Qualified: 13. Mark Martino, 6.647, 207.43; 14. Larry Morgan, 6.674, 207.27; 15. Mark Hogan, 6.750, 205.32; 16. Kevin Lawrence, 6.759, 203.55; 17. Dave River, 6.836, 203.68.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.872, 194.86; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.941, 192.74; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.943, 193.40; 4. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.943, 192.11; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.959, 192.99; 6. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.959, 192.36; 7. John Hall, Buell, 6.991, 190.67; 8. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.996, 190.75; 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.006, 190.97; 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.009, 191.10; 11. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.010, 191.38; 12. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.021, 189.26.

Not Qualified: 13. Steve Johnson, 7.030, 190.19; 14. Adam Arana, 7.050, 191.35; 15. LE Tonglet, 7.055, 189.20; 16. Justin Finley, 7.057, 189.47; 17. Joe DeSantis, 7.069, 186.36; 18. Redell Harris, 7.089, 189.95; 19. Elvira Karlsson, 7.113, 183.07; 20. Craig Treble, 7.117, 188.52; 21. Michael Ray, 7.137, 183.10; 22. Mike Berry, 7.204, 182.38.

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Jaguar pleased to support Massa’s FE test, kick-start season four testing

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Felipe Massa of Brazil and Williams in the garage  during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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Jaguar Formula E chief James Barclay was pleased to support Felipe Massa’s first Formula E test earlier this month as the team began its season four test cycle.

Massa previously expressed an interest in moving into Formula E before re-gaining his Williams Formula 1 seat for 2017, but continued to lay plans for his post-F1 days by testing for Jaguar three weeks ago.

The test saw Jaguar begin its season four on-track development, with 15 days of private testing permitted for all teams before the start of the new campaign in December.

“It was a really great opportunity,” Barclay told NBC Sports in Buenos Aires last weekend.

“Formula E asked us to support that, Felipe had expressed an interest so I’m really pleased we could support that. Great to give him the opportunity.

“He enjoyed it which was nice to be part of really. Obviously useful time for us in terms of our season four development as well.”

While Barclay remained coy about the extent of Jaguar’s testing looking to season four, he took heart from the fact that it had commenced running so early in the year.

“Well you can imagine there’s only so much we can say, but the point is that we started our season four development fairly early on, and our focus absolutely is on our performance this year,” Barclay said.

“One of the nice things is we have a longer lead time for season four for development. So the lessons we’ve learned from season three is really how we can apply that for season four.

“There aren’t a lot of test days, so we’re making the most of those. It’s one of those early tests that allows us to ratify where we’re going, nice to get under our belt at this stage.”

The test has led to suggestions that Massa could be in the frame to join Jaguar in Formula E for season four, but Barclay said it was too early to begin discussing its future driver plans.

“Felipe has a Williams Formula 1 drive,” Barclay said.

“We’re really happy where we are with Adam [Carroll] and Mitch [Evans], really early in our program at this point in time. Just nice to give [Massa] the opportunity to be honest.”

Jaguar enjoyed its strongest weekend in Formula E yet in Buenos Aires as Evans qualified seventh and flirted with the points, but the team remains at the foot of the teams’ championship three races into its debut season.

Lewis Hamilton hopes Liberty ‘do something new’ with Formula 1

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP waves to the crowd after qualifying on pole position during qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton hopes Formula 1’s owner Liberty Media will “do something new” with the sport as he believes it has become “outdated”.

Liberty completed an $8 billion takeover of F1 in January, with American executive Chase Carey becoming the racing series’ new CEO and chairman following Bernie Ecclestone’s departure.

Liberty’s plans for F1 remain largely unclear, but areas that have been hinted at include greater fan engagement and a push to expand the sport in key markets such as the United States.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Hamilton expressed his desire to see change from Liberty and make F1 great again.

“I don’t feel Formula 1 is winning, and it hasn’t been for a long time. That is to do with rule changes and not engaging the fans enough,” Hamilton said.

“There still is a great following in Formula 1 and I am excited for the new owners coming in and I hope they do something new.

“Formula 1 is a bit outdated. If you look at other sports, they are further ahead in the entertainment factor. Formula 1 is really catching up and they have a lot of catching up to do.”

Hamilton enters 2017 chasing a fourth world title, having tasted success in 2007, 2014 and 2015, the latter two coming with his current Mercedes team.

Mercedes launched its new car for the 2017 season, the W08 Hybrid, earlier today at Silverstone in England, with Hamilton on hand for the unveil.

Force India’s Mallya, Renault’s Abiteboul clash over F1 2017 chances

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director looks at the VJM10 car during the Sahara Force India Formula One team launch at Silverstone on February 22, 2017 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Force India owner Vijay Mallya and Renault Formula 1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul have clashed following comments made by the latter regarding the chances of privateer teams in 2017.

Force India finished as the leading privateer outfit in 2016, securing its best-ever constructors’ championship result of P4 at the end of the season, while Renault struggled during its first year back in F1 as a constructor, ending up ninth.

2017 sees the introduction of new technical regulations that are set to shake up the pecking order, with the rate of development also set to become more intense through the campaign.

Abiteboul told reporters earlier this week that he thought private teams such as Force India would struggle to keep up with its manufacturer rivals, believing that 2017 would become an “arms race”.

“I think this season will also really be an arms race,” Abiteboul said, as quoted by crash.net.

“I really feel for the teams who are under-resourced because clearly when I see this car that we are presenting today is not the car that will test in Barcelona and the car in Barcelona is not the car that will race in Melbourne.

“I think most of the car build budget for Force India will be gone by now just to cope with the new regulations. So that is something that we are also taking into account.

“With the level of resources that we have we should be easily capable of beating teams like Haas, like Force India and so on and so forth.”

Mallya hit back during Force India’s car launch on Wednesday, saying that he hoped Abiteboul would come to regret his comments.

“We have always dreamed big. We have never had conversations even in private that we cannot break into the top three,” Mallya said.

“That is going to be our objective. We will certainly give it our best shot.

“I read an article this morning where Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul said teams like Force India may struggle in an arms race. Good luck to him. He may have to eat his words.

“It’s not the amount of arms you have, but the quality of your weaponry.”

Mallya also fired back at Abiteboul on Twitter late on Wednesday evening.

Force India and Renault will go head-to-head on-track for the first time in 2017 at the Australian Grand Prix on March 26.

Wolff: Mercedes factory ‘buzzing’ over W08 launch

xxxx during the launch of the Mercedes formula one team's 2017 car, the W08, at Silverstone Circuit on February 23, 2017 in Northampton, England.
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Mercedes-Benz motorsport chief Toto Wolff has extolled the new W08 EQ Power+, formally revealed Thursday at Silverstone after months of development and preparation.

The car that will attempt to deliver Mercedes AMG Petronas its fourth consecutive driver and constructor championships is distinctly different from the other three revealed so far, Sauber, Renault and Force India. The nose isn’t stepped and the car first premiered today without a shark fin over the engine cowling.

Wolff said the car’s preparation at Brackley and Brixworth has been a thoroughly exciting process.

“The new rules for 2017 were designed to make the fastest F1 cars ever through a big increase in aerodynamic performance. They should be more physical to drive and hopefully more spectacular for the fans to watch. The proof will come in the opening races but we have probably achieved that target,” Wolff said.

“Of course, in terms of relative performance, it’s clear that any rule change brings with it a big reset but also a big opportunity. This is the time to stay humble and keep our feet on the ground. None of the teams has raced under these rules and we all have the same points right now: zero.

“But the dominant feeling in the team right now is one of excitement – the factory is buzzing with anticipation. It has been a really motivating challenge to develop a brand new car concept and I have never seen our determination to succeed higher than it is right now.”

Wolff continued with his initial positive praise of new recruit Valtteri Bottas, who steps into the seat vacated by last year’s World Champion Nico Rosberg.

“Of course, we had a curve ball from Nico late last year that left us scrambling a little bit in the winter,” he said. “But we found a great solution with Valtteri and I am sure that he will form a strong partnership with Lewis. They have both been working hard in the factory with the technical teams and, although we have a different dynamic to manage than in recent seasons, I don’t expect the competition between them to be less intense. And that’s how we like it.

“This year, in-season development will play a big role in determining the championship outcome. None of us know where we will stand at the first race but I am confident that, whatever that position is, we have the people and the capability to deal with every challenge that comes our way. This will be the season where our full works team can show its true strength.”

Mercedes added the new EQ name to its chassis designation as part of its overall brand launch for electric mobility. Mercedes says the name EQ stands for “electric intelligence.”