Antron Brown (foreground) defeated Brittany Force in the final round to win the Top Fuel class Sunday at Joliet, Illinois. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) lead Don Schumacher Racing onslaught in NHRA race at Joliet

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JOLIET, Illinois – For the second straight race, Don Schumacher Racing dominated the NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car classes in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago.

DSR driver Antron Brown earned his fourth Top Fuel win of the season, while teammate Matt Hagan won in Funny Car, defeating yet another fellow DSR teammate, Tommy Johnson Jr.

“Winner, winner, chicken dinner, can I get some gravy,” Brown laughed in his post-race press conference after defeating Brittany Force in the final round of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in suburban Chicago.

“It just feels good to bring it home for Don Schumacher, with (Chicago being) his hometown,” Brown said. “(Schumacher) doubled up in Funny Car and Top Fuel again two races back-to-back now, so DSR is definitely on the climb and all the hard work that we did in the off-season is starting to finally pay off for sure.”

It was Brown’s fourth career win at Route 66, doing so twice in Top Fuel and two other times in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“It’s been a great race weekend,” Brown said. “We’re back.”

It was also the 29th Top Fuel triumph and 45th overall victory of Brown’s NHRA racing career.

Celebrating in victory lane was a completely different feeling for Brown than after his dragster was destroyed three weeks ago in a wreck at Atlanta.

“(Atlanta) set us back but we’re back on the march,” Brown said. “We’ve got to keep it going and keep on pushing.

“When we get in the car, we (feel) happy again.”

Brown faced Brittany Force, daughter of legendary Funny Car driver John Force, in the final round.

Ironically, it was the second time Brown and Force have faced each other in their careers, both times being in final rounds (the only final rounds Force has been in so far in her career), and Brown remains unbeaten at 2-0 now.

“When you face someone like Brittany Force in the final, you know you have to go with your A-plus game,” Brown said.

Brown did indeed bring his best stuff, with a winning run of 3.814 seconds at 317.34 mph, to Force’s 3.850 seconds run at 320.89 mph. He didn’t feel any sympathy that Force is still hunting for her first career Top Fuel win.

“It doesn’t make a difference if she wanted it to be the first win for Brittany,” Brown said. “I don’t care who it is. It could be Babaloo come out here and they could win with a tutu with their head turned backwards. We want to win every race we’re in and give it all we’ve got, and that’s what it’s all about.”

With its 12th race of 2014 in the books, the NHRA is now at the halfway point of its 24-race schedule.

Doug Kalitta is first in the Top Fuel points standings, holding a 102-point edge over Brown. Shawn Langdon is third, followed by Spencer Massey and Chicago native Tony Schumacher in fifth-place.

Hagan, meanwhile, covered the 1,000-foot dragstrip in 4.098 seconds at 310.48 mph, defeating No. 1 Funny Car qualifier Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.147 seconds at 308.50 mph).

“We went up there and raced our race car, not the guy beside of us,” said Hagan, who earned his third career NHRA event win at Route 66. “We just got to turn four win lights (for each of Sunday’s four rounds of eliminations) on this weekend.”

It was Hagan’s second final round appearance of the season (was runner-up at Bristol, Tennessee two weeks back), but his first win since the 2013 season finale at Pomona, California.

It also was his second straight win at Route 66.

“It’s been a very, very humbling year for us, for our team,” Hagan said. “Last year, we went out and won five races and you think you’re going to set the world on fire the following year.

“We’re getting there, but we still have a long ways to go. The competition is just so, so tough here in Funny Car. When you get to turn four win lights on, you don’t want this day to end. It’s just phenomenal and it makes you realize how special these things are when they come together.

“If you’re not running for a championship, Don’s (team owner Don Schumacher) not happy. We want to keep him happy and help keep going through this deal here. … We’re just glad to be defending champions and to come back and win again.”

Hagan beat fellow Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.

“It makes it so much sweeter (to defeat his teammate) because you know they have the same stuff, the same R&D, the same cars, the same chassis, same everything and same parts – it’s just how they put it all together,” Hagan said.

“At the end of the day, you put a little feather in your cap because one of two things happened, either one crew chief did a little better job than the other crew chief, or the driver did a little better job than the other driver. It’s a neat feeling to put your teammate on the trailer probably more so than anybody else.”

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Final finishing order (1-16) at the 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway:


1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Brittany Force; 3.  J.R. Todd; 4.  Clay Millican; 5.  Shawn Langdon; 6.  Richie Crampton; 7.  Doug Kalitta; 8.  Bob Vandergriff; 9.  Steve Torrence; 10.  Tony Schumacher; 11.  Pat Dakin; 12.  Khalid alBalooshi; 13.  Billy Torrence; 14.  Spencer Massey; 15.  Terry McMillen; 16.  T.J. Zizzo.


1.  Matt Hagan; 2.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 3.  Ron Capps; 4.  Courtney Force; 5.  Cruz Pedregon; 6.  John Force; 7.  Robert Hight; 8.  Bob Bode; 9.  Alexis DeJoria; 10.  Bob Tasca III; 11.  Tony Pedregon; 12.  Jack Beckman; 13.  Jeff Arend; 14.  Del Worsham; 15.  Chad Head; 16.  Tim Wilkerson.


Round-by-round results from the 17th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway:


ROUND ONE — Richie Crampton, 7.147, 68.90 def. T.J. Zizzo, 16.268, 27.97; Shawn Langdon, 3.795, 322.58 def. Steve Torrence, 3.789, 324.05; Clay Millican, 3.842, 312.21 def. Tony Schumacher, 3.868, 323.97; Doug Kalitta, 3.805, 325.22 def. Pat Dakin, 3.917, 302.69; Antron Brown, 3.803, 319.07 def. Billy Torrence, 5.487, 125.40; Brittany Force, 3.828, 319.75 def. Terry McMillen, 9.608, 88.32; Bob Vandergriff, 4.349, 236.17 def. Spencer Massey, 6.133, 102.28; J.R. Todd, 4.377, 232.15 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 4.378, 233.36;

QUARTERFINALS — Millican, 4.675, 152.93 def. Vandergriff, 9.928, 73.59; Todd, 3.861, 316.45 def. Kalitta, 8.540, 94.01; Brown, 4.813, 221.85 def. Crampton, 5.899, 175.16; Force, 3.940, 308.57 def. Langdon, 5.344, 140.55;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.961, 308.64 def. Millican, 4.470, 196.30; Force, 3.889, 316.60 def. Todd, 3.906, 313.80;

FINAL — Brown, 3.814, 317.34 def. Force, 3.850, 320.89.



ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.571, 285.41 def. Jeff Arend, Dodge Charger, 4.734, 209.20; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.087, 311.41 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.229, 287.90; Bob Bode, Camry, 4.633, 236.01 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 5.010, 196.70; John Force, Mustang, 4.079, 318.99 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.089, 308.71; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.138, 312.93 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.215, 295.85; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.215, 256.70 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, foul; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.086, 313.07 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.397, 220.48; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.157, 267.59 def. Chad Head, Camry, 6.137, 112.87;

QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 4.179, 297.55 def. Hight, 6.361, 105.84; Hagan, 4.144, 308.07 def. Bode, 17.135, 28.35; C. Force, 4.151, 307.30 def. J. Force, 5.543, 134.52; Johnson Jr., 4.113, 304.60 def. C. Pedregon, 4.166, 296.63;

SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.136, 305.36 def. Capps, 4.135, 305.08; Johnson Jr., 4.186, 298.73 def. C. Force, 6.725, 100.99;

FINAL — Hagan, 4.098, 310.48 def. Johnson Jr., 4.147, 308.50.


Point standings (top 10) following Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway:

Top Fuel

1.  Doug Kalitta, 1,065; 2.  Antron Brown, 963; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 835; 4.  Spencer Massey, 747; 5.  Tony Schumacher, 711; 6.  Steve Torrence, 688; 7.  Brittany Force, 638; 8.  Khalid alBalooshi, 620; 9.  Richie Crampton, 600; 10.  J.R. Todd, 557.

Funny Car

1.  Robert Hight, 1,032; 2.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 786; 3.  John Force, 769; 4.  Ron Capps, 748; 5.  Alexis DeJoria, 747; 6.  Courtney Force, 732; 7.  Del Worsham, 684; 8.  Matt Hagan, 681; 9.  Cruz Pedregon, 651; 10.  Tim Wilkerson, 603.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Sage Karam

Sage Karam
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Ending in 20th was Sage Karam, who generated a lot of headlines despite missing a handful of races in his first full season in the big leagues.

Sage Karam, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 9th place at Indianapolis 500; several starts in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship
  • 2015: 20th place (12 starts), Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 12 Laps Led, 14.5 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish

Few drivers generated as much ink as Karam did during what as an ultimately race-by-race rookie season that saw him active in 12 of 16 races. It was an overall rocky campaign that featured any combination of brilliance, controversy and heartache depending on the weekend.

Karam was on the back foot to begin with anyway with limited preseason testing, following a wrist injury sustained in a crash at Barber Motorsports Park. The fact he was out of a car for Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis owed to financial reasons but also served as a wakeup call that he needed to improve off the back of several ragged races to open the season. The speed was there for the Indianapolis 500 but the result wasn’t, with a first-lap crash and the following debacle of a doubleheader weekend at Detroit a week later ultimately Karam’s nadir.

Luckily for the 20-year-old, he had Dario Franchitti as a tutor, mentor and coach, and a post-Detroit “come to Jesus” meeting might have been the biggest impetus for change. Karam then surged in the second half of the year – primarily on ovals – and worked his way into the headlines courtesy of his driving and take-no-prisoners aggressive approach, particularly with Ed Carpenter at Iowa. In a single sentence, he was worth the price of admission almost on his own while also putting himself in contention for series “black hat” status.

Karam was on track for what would have been a dream weekend at home in Pocono, leading with 20 laps to go, when he lost control and crashed out – the debris from the car ultimately striking Justin Wilson’s helmet. It was a tragic end to the race but it was no fault of Karam’s that what happened, happened.

For as much as the community is rallying around Wilson’s family, it needs to do the same for Karam. At 20, he’s a talented driver with a bright future ahead of him, who continued to mature over the course of the season. You just don’t want Pocono to be the race that affects him psychologically, and prevents him from fully realizing his undoubted potential.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Stefano Coletti

Stefano Coletti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver lineup. In 19th place and the second-ranked rookie this season, was KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti.

Stefano Coletti, No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

  • 2014: GP2
  • 2015: 19th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 8th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 18.9 Avg. Start, 18.6 Avg. Finish

Coletti struggled in his rookie season, which was a bit surprising after an impressive preseason testing period that helped him secure the second KV Racing Technology car alongside KVSH Racing lead driver Sebastien Bourdais.

The GP2 graduate produced early season excitement where he was a passing star, but that only seemed to deceive for the rest of the year. The only time he started ahead of Bourdais was at Iowa, when Bourdais crashed in qualifying.

Similar to other drivers KV has had in previous years Coletti was often hard on equipment, with a frequent number of either full-on accidents or less damaging spins, although not all were his fault. A trouble-free weekend for him rarely occurred, and eighth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis marked his only top-10 result of the year.

It was a year that paled in comparison to Sebastian Saavedra’s difficult 2014, which paled in comparison to Simona de Silvestro in 2013, which… well you get the point. The lack of consistency for the team’s second car probably doesn’t help, but Coletti offered few moments of brilliance in a deep field where he needed to stand out.

Given the resources at his disposal, ending 78 points behind rookie-of-the-year Gabby Chaves seemed a fairly substantial margin. If he returns for 2016, he has a big jump to make.