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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Josef Newgarden channels his inner ‘Ted Crasnick,’ fools almost all IndyCar drivers

"Ted Crasnick," aka Josef Newgarden, in action Thursday. (Photo courtesy ESPN)
(Photos courtesy ESPN)
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INDIANAPOLIS — Ted Crasnick stole the show during Thursday’s Indianapolis 500 media day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Who?

Well, Crasnick’s alter ego is IndyCar driver Josef Newgarden, who dressed up with heavy makeup, a huge fake nose and looked like something out of the 1950s — and then pretended to be a member of the media.

“I wanted to do this idea three years ago,” Newgarden said. “I wanted to first do it as a yellow shirt (track security), but logistically it would have been too difficult.”

Newgarden’s plan finally came to fruition when ESPN agreed to tag along with him during media day for a feature that will be aired Sunday on ABC’s pre-race show before the Indianapolis 500.

“ESPN and I decided together this would be a better idea to do it in the media crowd and I’d be part of the media.”

Newgarden was part of the second scheduled group of drivers that came through later in the session, allowing him to transform into “Ted” for the opening segment – and with no one being the wiser.

Well, almost no one.

Crasnick/Newgarden fooled everyone – with the exception of Will Power. Even one of Newgarden’s best buddies, Graham Rahal, fell for the ruse.

“Will Power was the only guy that knew it was me, and I was shocked he figured it out,” Newgarden said. “No one else knew. Oriol (Servia) didn’t know, Helio (Castroneves) didn’t know, Graham, I don’t think knew. Mikhail (Aleshin) was just awkward to talk to.”

Even Newgarden’s boss, Ed Carpenter, was completely in the dark.

“Ed didn’t know,” Newgarden said. “The one guy that probably should have known it was me didn’t know it was me.”

Newgarden’s alter ego posed as a “reporter” from several outlets, including HarveyWorld.com, Boca Raton Senior Society, ProstateHealth.com and RVWorld.com.

Josef Newgarden begins his transformation into "Ted Crasnick" Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Josef Newgarden midway through his transformation into “Ted Crasnick” Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo courtesy ESPN)

Two of “Crasnick’s” most memorable exchanges were with Oriol Servia and Helio Castroneves.

“Oreo, good to meet you. You’re named after a cookie, I understand,” Crasnick said. … “Oreo, I love that name, it’s so sweet.”

To his credit, Servia played it straight and answered all of Crasnick’s questions, even one that involved, uh, err, “relieving” himself in his race car during a race.

Now, Castroneves was a whole different story.

“Helio lost words about halfway through,” Newgarden said with a laugh. “I’ve never seen him at a loss for words.

“That was the funniest part. I was asking him about peeing in the car and he was so confused about what I was asking him that he just didn’t know what to say.”

Check out a few hits from social media showing “Crasnick” at work:

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Guess who showed up at Indy? New NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 26:  Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, stands in the garage arstands in the garage areaduring practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samuel Deeds 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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INDIANAPOLIS — Newly NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee-elect Mark Martin isn’t even entered in either race, but he’ll be doing the proverbial motorsports “double” on Sunday.

Martin will be in Indianapolis for the start of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. A few hours after the green flag drops on the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, he’ll be on a plane headed for Charlotte to take in the Coca-Cola 600 that evening.

Actually, there’s a bit more to all that. Martin felt he had such little chance to be chosen for the Hall that he left his native Arkansas earlier this week to attend the 500.

“It was a bucket list sorta thing,” he said.

But then came Wednesday’s announcement that he had been elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017 – while he was on the road headed to Indy, no less – and Martin’s travel plans suddenly got a lot more complicated.

He was in Indy on Thursday, attending Indianapolis 500 media day. He flies to Charlotte Friday afternoon, returns to Indy on Saturday, and then does the Indianapolis-Charlotte jaunt on Sunday.

“I was speechless, still not sure what to say, other than I’m surprised,” Martin said of his selection for the NASCAR Hall. “If I’d been voting, I’d have voted another way.

“But I’m humbled and honored and not only to be in this class because of the performance of the people in this class and the people, the persons they were. … I just feel really fortunate. It’s like icing on the cake, like the race you never won but always wanted to, and more.”

To further illustrate his total surprise at being chosen for the Hall, Martin quipped, “I did not expect it, or otherwise I wouldn’t have been in the motor home driving up here yesterday.

“I hadn’t been to (the Indy 500) in my lifetime, so now it appears I’m going to be doing the ‘double.’ I’m not driving, but I’m doing the ‘double’ anyway.”

Here’s a few posts from Martin’s Twitter account about his time at IMS on Thursday as well as his selection for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

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Oh, Canada! James Hinchcliffe hopes to repay countrymen for support with Indy 500 win

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Photo: IndyCar
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INDIANAPOLIS — Polesitter James Hinchcliffe wants to obviously win Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 for himself and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

He also wants to win for his family – all 35 million of them.

Hinchcliffe understands very well the huge significance of what his being in the 500 means to everyone in his native Canada.

Since winning the pole, Hinchcliffe has been front-page news from Halifax to Vancouver. He also knows millions of his fellow Canadians will be watching the 500 on television and cheering for the guy who proudly wears the maple leaf.

“After last Sunday, the amount of support pouring out of home was very overwhelming,” Hinchcliffe said during Thursday’s Indy 500 Media Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “The amount of messages I got that were ‘regardless of what happens Sunday (in the Indy 500), we’re all behind you,’ that’s so nice.”

Now Hinchcliffe hopes to repay the faith his countrymen have had in him throughout his racing career.

“Being the only full-time Canadian driver in the field. I want to do my country proud,” Hinchcliffe said. “I want to give Canadian motorsports fans something to cheer for.”

Hinchcliffe is one of a number of IndyCar drivers that have hailed from north of the border. Among those have been Paul Tracy (from Scarborough, Ontario), Scott Goodyear (Toronto), Alex Tagliani (Montreal) and Patrick Carpentier (LaSalle, Quebec). Tagliani, who starts 33rd, book-ends the field of 33 this year.

And let’s not forget Jacques Villeneuve (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec), the only Canadian to ever win the 500, having done so in 1995, ironically when Goodyear passed the pace car.

“The support I’ve felt from back home from Day 1 of my IndyCar career has just been incredible,” said Hinchcliffe, who hails from the outlying Toronto suburb of Oakville. “We’ve had some good years and bad years, and regardless of the results and in true Canadian fashion, they’re behind you win, lose or draw.

“It’s just incredible. I’ve gotten so lucky to come from that place. To know you have that support and they’re behind you in any situation is huge.”

While Hinchcliffe was a huge Villeneuve fan, the one Indy car driver that he has tried to emulate in his career is the late Greg Moore, who was killed in a crash at Fontana, California, in 1999.

Moore never got the chance to race at Indianapolis, primarily due to the split between CART and the Indy Racing League in 1996.

“Obviously, we lost him too soon,” Hinchcliffe said of Moore. “I was a huge (Jacques) Villeneuve fan. He was really the guy that got me into it (Indy car racing).

“And when he switched to F1, sure, I followed his F1 career very closely, but in IndyCar, his replacement was Greg Moore. And that’s the guy that really connected with me somehow, and not just how he drove.

“There were a lot of bad-fast racing drivers, but Greg was a really great human being. That was the guy that I looked at and thought, ‘Hey, if I ever get to do this for a living, that’s the guy I want to be like.”

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Indy 500 Thursday notes: Logos, lights, Lilly, lunches and more

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Photo: Dale Coyne Racing
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INDIANAPOLIS – The beauty of media day for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is that you get a lot of interviews done. The downside of media day is that you then have to transcribe those interviews.

Alas, even though on-track activity was limited to just Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires practice and qualifying, it’s still been a busy day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Quick notes are below:

  • 101st500logoThe logo for the 101st Indy 500 and the “race to renew” were unveiled. Much, of course, is being made about the 100th running of the race and as you’d expect, the powers-that-be are concerned with the retention plan for the 101st race, which will take place May 28, 2017. A full release from IMS is linked here, while the logo is posted to the right.
  • Indy Lights qualifying got canceled. Not from a lack of effort. Practice was shortened from three hours – 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. – to just 90 minutes from 9 to 10:30. Juan Piedrahita led the way for Team Pelfrey. Qualifying then got through the first eight drivers before an accident for Zachary Claman De Melo and then rain hit. Carlin’s Ed Jones will have the pole position, with the field set by points, over Santiago Urrutia and Kyle Kaiser. The race airs live at noon on Friday as part of NBCSN’s Carb Day coverage, which begins at 11 a.m. ET.
  • Other lights announced. “Lights at the Brickyard” was announced late Wednesday, to tentatively run from Nov. 18 to Dec. 31. Here’s that full release.
  • Lilly to Conor Daly’s car. Lilly Diabetes joins Conor Daly’s No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda as co-primary sponsor. From a team release: “Lilly Diabetes of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Company (LLY) will serve as co-primary sponsor of the No. 18 ShirtsForAmerica.com/Lilly Diabetes Honda, driven by Conor Daly, in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29. As part of the sponsorship, Daly’s No. 18 car will run a special patriotic paint scheme with a series of four stars, one colored in blue to recognize the one in four veterans who live with diabetes, which is two and a half times greater than the general population.”
  • Newgarden “wins” media day. My colleague Jerry Bonkowski have a boat load of interviews to get through that you’ll see on NBCSports.com throughout the coming days. But a quick hat tip first to the Indianapolis Star, who already has this post up on Josef Newgarden’s prank as an interviewer himself.
  • Pennzoil, Penske host lunch. Team Penske’s usual Thursday night media dinner shifted to being a lunch this afternoon to pay tribute to its partnership with Shell Pennzoil – Pennzoil adorns the No. 3 “Yelio Submarine” Chevrolet driven by Helio Castroneves – and to prepare for the 100th Indianapolis 500 race. Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya all spoke along with Roger Penske, Tim Cindric and a key Shell executive. Penske said IndyCar has “one of the best products” and is determined for his team to win his 17th Indianapolis 500 with any of its four drivers.
  • So does Townsend Bell with California Pizza Kitchen. Based on the pics below, we’re in for a doozy tomorrow as part of our Carb Day coverage.

  • Which speaking of that coverage… It runs from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on NBCSN and will feature Carb Day practice, the Indy Lights Freedom 100, and the 2016 Pit Stop Competition.

The Pit Stop Competition bracket is below:

PitStopComp16

More to come from Indy later today and tomorrow.