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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If Dale Jr. wants a part-time job in retirement, John Force has one for him

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The battle for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s post-retirement services has begun.

And leave it to none other than 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force to be the first to offer Junior a job.

As a Funny Car driver, of course.

Look at the plusses: they both drive for Chevrolet, they both like beer, Junior wouldn’t have to worry about turning left or right (on road courses) any more, he’d be able to stay on the straight and narrow (drag strip, that is) and …

Perhaps the best thing of all, he could ultimately become Force’s replacement as the most popular driver in NHRA drag racing when (or if) Force ever decides to retire himself.

Check out Force’s job offer:

Several current or former Verizon IndyCar Series drivers also took to social media to pay homage to Junior — including another member of the Force family, son-in-law Graham Rahal, who is married to drag racer Courtney Force.

 

 

 

Loftus Robinson Rejoin Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for Indy 500

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Indianapolis-based real estate developer Loftus Robinson will rejoin Dreyer and Reinbold Racing for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. The relationship between Loftus Robinson and DRR goes back to 2015, when they first partnered for the “500.” The partnership continues for 2017, with Sage Karam piloting the effort for the second consecutive year.

“Being an Indianapolis-based company, we felt it has been important to partner with another local company, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, in the famed Indy 500,” said Drew Loftus, co-principal of Loftus Robinson. “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has served as a great backdrop for our business’ growth. We have enjoyed our relationship with Dennis and his racing team. They have built a tremendous infrastructure to assist us and our partners through the event. We’re anxious to see Sage back on track in the No. 24 DRR Chevrolet this May.”

Team co-owner Dennis Reinbold echoed Loftus’ enthusiam. “Loftus Robinson has been one of the Indianapolis area’s top young commercial real estate companies in recent years and we are very pleased to have them back in 2017 with our Indy 500 entry,” he explained. “Loftus Robinson has utilized our racing team’s participation in the world’s greatest auto race to formulate strong relationships with their business partners as well as developing new clients right at the track. We hope to put them in victory lane on May 28 with Sage at the wheel.”

Practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil begins on May 15.

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JR Hildebrand cleared to return for Phoenix

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After sitting out the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama last weekend, JR Hildebrand will be able to return to action for this weekend’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN), after being cleared Tuesday to drive.

The primary driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing sustained a broken bone in his left hand in a final lap accident at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 9, after a collision with Mikhail Aleshin. He was re-evaluated upon returning to Indianapolis and was not cleared to drive for the Barber Motorsports Park race.

Hildebrand was on site in Birmingham, Ala. in a driver coach role for Zach Veach, who filled in for his Verizon IndyCar Series debut. Veach started and finished 19th in his first start.

For Hildebrand, the return to Phoenix comes after he paced the series official preseason open test there in February, and comes as a great opportunity to come back from a challenging start to the year. Hildebrand had nondescript runs of 13th and 11th in the first two races but was 11th in points after Long Beach, although he fell to 21st when he missed Barber.

“It’s been a tricky couple of weeks working through this injury, I’m certainly anxious to get back in the car!” he said in a release. “I feel like I’m far enough along to be able to go for it this weekend in Phoenix. I know we’ve got a good program; I want to be able to come through for the team at an event where we should be strong. The competition there is tough, I expect we will really have to be on our game over the course of the weekend. I’m looking forward to getting back in the Fuzzy’s Vodka car! Everyone has been super helpful and I appreciate the hard work that everyone has put in to be able to get me back in.”

Meanwhile team owner Carpenter makes his first start of the season in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet as part of his oval-only program.

Spencer Pigot will be back in the No. 20 car at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on May 13, before Carpenter’s back in for the rest of the month of May leading up to and into the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

IMSA: Henzler, Bonanomi called up for drives at COTA

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Two fill-in drivers have been confirmed for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s next race at Circuit of The Americas, on May 6.

Wolf Henzler will deputize for Kevin Estre in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, while Marco Bonanomi will make his IMSA Prototype class debut as a fill-in driver for Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson.

Henzler will be in the No. 912 car alongside Laurens Vanthoor in GT Le Mans in the first “standard” two-hour, 40-minute race of the season, the Advance Auto Parts Showdown, as Estre will be on FIA World Endurance Championship duty the same day in the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps with Porsche’s GT Team there.

Henzler’s absence means if TRG runs its Porsche 911 GT3 R at COTA in the GT Daytona class, Kevin Buckler would need a replacement for him.

There’s another potential fill-in-for-WEC driver scenario needed if Alegra Motorsports, the Rolex 24 at Daytona winners, were to run in GTD as well. Thus far Carlos de Quesada’s team has run Daniel Morad and Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen in its No. 28 Porsche in GTD through three races, but with Christensen and Estre set to share the No. 92 car at Spa, a replacement would need to be sourced there.

Bonanomi is the second replacement that is confirmed though. The Italian, who made one prior IMSA start since the 2014 merger with Fall-Line Motorsports in an Audi R8 LMS Ultra, will fill-in for “TKS,” who returns to England to take care of his mother, who is battling cancer.

“Tom will unfortunately miss the next race at Circuit of the Americas. He needs to be able to spend time back in the UK with his mother who is presently undergoing treatment for cancer,” said team principal Bobby Oergel.

“As all the drivers who have driven with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports know, once you’re a part of our team, you’re family, and Tom is a big part of this family. It’s unfortunate that he will miss a round of the championship, but we know that family comes before racing, and we’re happy that he is able to take the time he needs to be with his family during this time.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Tom and his mother, and we are praying that she will be cancer free in the near future.”

Bonanomi has tested with the car and will share the car with Jose Gutierrez, who missed Long Beach as Will Owen filled in for him there.

“I was very happy to receive the call from PR1 to drive at their test at COTA. It was my first time driving the Ligier, but I think the test was very positive,” said Bonanomi.

“We tested some set up changes for the race that I think will be very good. The track itself is very demanding on the car and tires, especially with the extreme temperatures that can be present. The first practices during race week will be very critical to get everything just right in terms of set up, but after the test, I think we should be pretty close.”