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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Pirelli confirms tire picks for Hungarian Grand Prix

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Pirelli has confirmed its tire selection for July’s Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, with super-soft, soft and medium compounds to be made available to teams.

As in 2016, this year sees teams be given the choice of three compounds for each grand prix. The softest is reserved for qualifying, while at least one of the two hardest sets must be used in the race.

Pirelli announced on Thursday that it would be mirroring its selection from 2016, taking super-soft, soft and medium tires to the Hungaroring.

Drivers who make it through to Q3 will be required to complete the session on super-soft tires, and must use one set of either the soft or medium compound rubber in the race.

By way of comparison, the majority of drivers completed the race on a two-stop strategy through 2016, with Lewis Hamilton winning the grand prix.

Here’s a complete run-down of Pirelli’s tire picks so far this season.

Hamilton, Vettel return to lend their voices to ‘Cars 3’ (VIDEO)

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With less than one month to go until the release of Pixar’s new movie, Cars 3, Formula 1 world champions Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have both been confirmed in voice-acting roles.

The latest installment of the animated film series sees main character Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) face a new rival in the form of Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) and consider his racing future.

As in the first two instalments of the franchise, a number of racing figures are set to lend their voices, with three-time champion Hamilton being confirmed in the role of ‘Hamilton’, a voice command assistant to McQueen’s technician, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo).

Hamilton shared a clip of his role on Twitter on Thursday, which you can watch below.

Hamilton previously appeared in 2011’s Cars 2 in a short segment as himself alongside NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon.

Four-time F1 champion Vettel will also be making a return in Cars 3, appearing in the German and Italian-language versions of the film in the same role as Hamilton.

“Since the first Cars film, I am a big fan and I found it very funny. When I had the opportunity in the second part to participate, I said: ‘Yes, gladly!'” Vettel said on his official website.

“I had never done something like this before. When I heard there was a third part, I was, of course, interested in being there again.”

A number of NASCAR drivers will also be appearing in Cars 3, with their characters being confirmed earlier this week.

Ford chooses Sebastien Bourdais replacement for 24 Hours of Le Mans

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CONCORD, N.C. —  Ford has chosen a replacement for injured Sebastien Bourdais at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is expected to announce the driver soon – but don’t hold your breath NASCAR fans.

It isn’t Tony Stewart, who has indicated his desire to run the renowned event.

While taping an upcoming episode Thursday of the NASCAR on NBC podcast, which you can subscribe to here, Ford Performance director Dave Pericak said the three time champion who returned from NASCAR’s premier series last year still is lobbying “every time he sees us” to race a Ford GT car.

“We love Tony, and he wants to get behind the wheel of that GT but not at LeMans” in 2017, Pericak told NBC Sports at the Ford Performance Technical Center.

However, the new driver will be relatively inexperienced on the famous Circuit de la Sarthe road course in France. Pericak said Ford’s high-tech simulator (which mainly is used for NASCAR but also is used for sports cars and street models) at its North Carolina facility would help prepare the replacement.

“We haven’t made the announcement yet, but we have picked the driver, and we will be using the simulator heavily between now and then for that driver to become fully up to speed not only in the GT but at Le Mans,” Pericak said. “There’s a great example of where we’re going to get tons of hours behind the wheel before that driver gets on an airplanes and heads over the France.

“The realism is unbelieveable. It’s a fantastic tool to have with this situation. Otherwise, you pick a driver, send him to Le Mans and take your chances. We’re going to be much more prepared. We already have the simulator ready to run that track because we ran it all last year.”

Returning to France last year, Ford won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Chip Ganassi Racing GT driven by Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller.

Bourdais, who suffered pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in an Indianapolis 500 qualifying crash last Saturday, was released from an Indianapolis hospital Wednesday.

“Thank God, he’s going to be OK,” Pericak said. “We’ve talked to him, he’s in good spirits, but we’re really pleased he’s going to make a full recovery.”

Pericak said the announcement of Bourdais’ replacement was likely Thursday or Friday.

Button enjoys ‘natural’ F1 return in Monaco, but hasn’t missed driving

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Jenson Button felt his return to a Formula 1 car in practice for the Monaco Grand Prix was “natural”, but admitted he hasn’t missed driving since stepping away from the sport.

Button appeared to have made his final F1 start in Abu Dhabi last November after stepping back from his McLaren race seat for 2017, only to be drafted in for the Monaco Grand Prix following Fernando Alonso’s decision to enter the 101st Indianapolis 500.

Button passed on the opportunity to test the McLaren-Honda MCL32 car in Bahrain last month, making his run in FP1 on Thursday in Monaco his first taste of a new-style 2017 F1 car.

Nevertheless, the transition appeared seamless for Button, even though he has not driven an F1 car in seven months.

“As soon as I exited the pits, everything felt very natural,” Button said.

“The weirdest thing is when you’re behind a car or when you let a car past, because you look at it and it’s gigantic. Then you feel really uncomfortable because you think, maybe I am too close to the barriers.

“I’ve really enjoyed practice, both the long and short runs. FP2 was a bit of a struggle to really find my feet with the car. I’m braking so much later than what I’m used to here and carrying so much speed into the corners.

“Adjusting to that takes time, so with another day with the engineers and a look through the data, I’m confident that I can improve for Saturday.”

Button finished 14th in FP1 and 11th in FP2, lapping less than one-tenth of a second off the pace of teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in the afternoon, giving McLaren hope of its first points of the season.

Button remains coy about his chances, though, insisting there is still more pace to be found.

“I haven’t really thought about where I hope to finish. It’s a very mixed-up grid at the moment which I’m sure will all change again on Saturday,” Button said.

“The guys understand where I’m coming from. They know what they need to do to improve the car to suit me a little bit more and to give me a little bit more confidence. Hopefully we’ll see a step in performance on Saturday.”

Will this one-off return stir a desire to be back racing full-time for Button? Don’t count on it.

“It was funny when I did the install lap this morning, I had a little giggle to myself,” Button revealed.

“Have I missed it? No, but when you jump in the car, you definitely enjoy the moments that you have.”