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:

TOP FUEL:

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.

FUNNY CAR:

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:

 TOP FUEL:

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.

 

FUNNY CAR:

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.

IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.