Langdon, Worsham, Enders-Stevens, Krawiec qualify No. 1 for Sunday’s NHRA final eliminations in Norwalk, Ohio

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Track records continued to drop like flies in Saturday’s final two rounds of qualifying for Sunday’s final eliminations of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car) Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all smashed track records during either Friday or Saturday’s qualifying sessions.

Langdon, who won last season’s NHRA Top Fuel championship, earned his third No. 1 qualifying spot of the season and 16th of his career with a stout 3.745-second effort at 325.22 mph Saturday, knocking Doug Kalitta off Friday’s provisional pole.

Langdon is looking for his second win of the season Sunday. He starts his quest in the opening round vs. Terry McMillen.

“Tonight, we felt like we could lay down and try to make the best run possible,” Langdon said in an NHRA media release. “I have a lot of confidence. The last couple races we’ve struggled in qualifying. We feel like we have that little bit of a handle back on the race car again.”

Kalitta didn’t make it easy for Langdon, begrudgingly giving up the top spot despite an outstanding run of 3.746 seconds at 327.82 mph. He’ll face rookie Richie Crampton in Sunday’s first round, while last week’s winner at Joliet, Illinois, Antron Brown will start third (3.763 seconds at 323.04 mph) against Clay Millican.

In Funny Car, Worsham held on to Friday’s provisional pole (4.000 seconds at 321.88 mph), the 16th of his career. He’ll meet Jeff Diehl in Sunday’s opening round.

“The DHL Toyota Camry made a beautiful run down the track,” Worsham said of Friday’s run. “When you can outrun guys like John Force and Tommy Johnson, that says something.”

Speaking of John Force, the 16-time Funny Car world champ is the No. 2 qualifier (4.016 seconds at 322.04 mph). Johnson was No. 3 qualifier (4.030 seconds at 319.67 mph).

“You can’t take anyone lightly,” Worsham said. “I think if I take a first round win tomorrow that’ll be great.”

In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens continued her red-hot season. Not only does she have a commanding lead in the season points standings, she held on to Friday’s track record-breaking run of 6.523 seconds at 212.63 mph.

That earned Enders-Stevens the second No. 1 spot of the season and eighth of her career.

“We’ve got a really consistent hot rod right now,” said Enders-Stevens, who will face No. 16 qualifier Travis Mazza in Sunday’s first round of eliminations. “We went up there and tried some things that we hope will work tomorrow. Consistency is what’s going to get it done.

“It’s an honor to be where I’m at. I have a new outlook and enjoy where I’m at. I feel good and confident this weekend.”

Shane Gray qualified No. 2 (6.527 seconds at 211.69 mph), while Allen Johnson is No. 3 (6.532 seconds at 211.89 mph).

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec held on to Friday’s No. 1 qualifying effort (6.844 seconds at 195.05 mph), marking his fifth straight No. 1 spot in the last five races. He’ll meet Swedish driver and Pro Stock rookie Elvira Karlsson in the first round.

“We’ll do our best tomorrow,” Krawiec said. “I’ve got a great motorcycle. You’ve got to stay consistent. I believe I have a motorcycle that can get the job done as long as I’m doing my job.”

Joliet (Illinois) winner Hector Arana Jr. continued his torrid pace, qualifying No. 2 (6.859 seconds at 195.05 mph) in Saturday’s final session. He’ll face Jim Underall in Sunday’s first round.

 

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Here’s Sunday’s first-round pairings for final eliminations in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio:

Top Fuel — 1. Shawn Langdon, 3.745 seconds, 325.22 mph  vs. 16. Terry McMillen, 3.906, 324.36; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.746, 327.82  vs. 15. Richie Crampton, 3.905, 302.21; 3. Antron Brown, 3.763, 323.04 vs. 14. Clay Millican, 3.880, 315.42; 4. Bob Vandergriff, 3.777, 322.73  vs. 13. Pat Dakin, 3.875, 313.66; 5. J.R. Todd, 3.783, 319.52  vs. 12. Troy Buff, 3.853, 311.49; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.792, 324.67  vs. 11. Larry Dixon, 3.839, 322.65; 7. Tony Schumacher, 3.794, 324.12  vs. 10. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.832, 316.97; 8. Spencer Massey, 3.800, 324.12  vs. 9. Brittany Force, 3.814, 324.98. Did Not Qualify: 17. Cory McClenathan, 3.921, 298.87; 18. Leah Pritchett, 3.996, 309.42; 19. Luigi Novelli, 4.006, 286.92; 20. Chris Karamesines, 4.134, 265.12.

Funny Car — 1. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.000, 321.88  vs. 16. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.343, 289.20; 2. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.016, 322.04  vs. 15. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.180, 307.65; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.030, 319.67  vs. 14. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.170, 303.57; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.044, 318.69  vs. 13. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.158, 299.93; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.048, 316.15  vs. 12. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.106, 321.42; 6. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.050, 310.91  vs. 11. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.077, 308.21; 7. Chad Head, Camry, 4.052, 318.02  vs. 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.076, 311.49; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.064, 317.94  vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.065, 315.12. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 6.994, 275.51.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.523, 212.63  vs. 16. Travis Mazza, Ford Mustang, 7.365, 200.86; 2. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.527, 211.69  vs. 15. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.738, 206.23; 3. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.532, 211.89  vs. 14. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 6.698, 210.77; 4. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.546, 211.53  vs. 13. John Gaydosh Jr, GXP, 6.677, 208.26; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.551, 211.69  vs. 12. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.603, 211.56; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.554, 212.03  vs. 11. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.574, 211.23; 7. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.557, 211.00  vs. 10. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.566, 211.39; 8. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.564, 211.20  vs. 9. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.566, 211.69. Did Not Qualify: 17. V. Gaines, 7.639, 190.40.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.844, 195.05  vs. 16. Elvira Karlsson, Suzuki, 6.984, 188.81; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.859, 196.33  vs. 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.981, 193.24; 3. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.865, 195.48  vs. 14. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.952, 193.05; 4. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.867, 194.27  vs. 13. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.943, 192.03; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.871, 196.93  vs. 12. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.933, 192.60; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.873, 195.03  vs. 11. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.928, 193.79; 7. John Hall, Buell, 6.882, 194.63  vs. 10. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.913, 193.16; 8. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.909, 193.88  vs. 9. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.912, 196.07. Did Not Qualify: 17. Justin Finley, 6.994, 192.14; 18. Joe DeSantis, 7.002, 191.76; 19. Wendell Daniels, broke.

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Shank: Ahead of year two, Acura NSX GT3 ‘100 percent better’

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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A new-look lineup will greet Michael Shank Racing’s now customer-based Acura NSX GT3 program for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The car itself, however, appears a much more solidly well-rounded machine after its first full year of racing and development in 2017, which should help the team build on the performance and results achieved last year.

“It’s 100 percent better,” Shank told NBC Sports at last week’s PRI Show in Indianapolis. “Steve Eriksen (vice-president and COO, Honda Performance Development) mentioned (in a meeting), it’s so much better than we were last year. I don’t know what that means ultimately, except to say we’re more prepared.”

Owing to IMSA’s designation that the team can’t run a works, factory-backed entry as that was only allowed for one year, the MSR GT Daytona class effort in 2018 takes on a customer role.

The team has a new full-season pairing in the No. 93 Acura, with IMSA veteran and multi-time Pirelli World Challenge champion Lawson Aschenbach alongside Justin Marks, a bit of a renaissance man in his own right as a NASCAR Xfinity Series race winner and one of the principals of DryLake Group, which runs the GoPro Motorplex among other businesses.

At present, the team’s No. 86 Acura for Katherine Legge and Alvaro Parente is a Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup entry, but the team and Acura are working towards filling that car for a full season return with additional drivers to be named later.

Mario Farnbacher and AJ Allmendinger have been announced as two of the extra drivers for Daytona for MSR’s team, Farnbacher also being confirmed with the No. 93 car for the full Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup schedule.

Shank explained how methodical he has to be from a budgetary planning standpoint and how this new look lineup came together.

“It never comes real easy. I don’t want to cry too much because when you look at this, I’ve got 25 full-time people, I’ve got a fairly large budget for a “smaller team” – we’re not poor, but we just have to watch our steps,” he said.

“The reason why we’re still here after 20 years is that we’ve been conservative financially, meaning we only do what we can do and then we got to draw a line. As much as I want another set of $100,000 dampers, I got to pull back!”

“We truly, truly got lucky with that one (the No. 93 car). Justin flies under the radar a little but, but I promise you he’s going to surprise some people this year. Once we get into January – he’s got some kind of cool commitments in early January, he’s climbing a mountain in South America, one of the tallest in the world. He’s going to contend for a lot of cool stuff this year, I’m anxious to see where he goes.”

Aschenbach, for his part, is relishing the opportunity. He and Shank have known each other more than a decade going back to when he tested an Atlantic car, and he and Marks have finally synced up after years of wanting to work together.

Lawson Aschenbach. Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

“Michael’s assembled a very successful team. It’s a professional organization. It’s very well managed with a common goal of winning,” Aschenbach told NBC Sports. “Even for a seat fitting you feel at home. It made the decision very easy. I have a lot of respect for Shank, and for what he’s accomplished. He’s always in the paddock with a program. You have to give props to that, to have that staying power.

“When I started to realize I’d have to move from Stevenson, Justin was my first call, strictly because we’ve been friends for so long. He wanted to do more sports car racing. He did great in the Turner BMW last year, and I think it re-energized him to focus on sports car racing in the future.

“I tested at Sebring a few laps in the Acura. It’s definitely different than the Audi to suit that. But that’s a part of racing where nothing out of the norm. I was very impressed with the car. You can tell they’ve worked really hard in a lot of specific areas, and that lets you see how successful it is. Winning two IMSA races against the caliber of competition in the first year was an incredible effort and showed the dedication of Acura, HPD, Michael Shank Racing and the drivers assembled.”

One of the unfortunate side effects is that Ozz Negri, who’s been as much a Shank lifer as the team has been, doesn’t appear to be in the frame for another year. He’s been with Shank for nearly 15 years.

“It’s just circumstances,” Shank reflected. “We’re talking about 14 straight years of working together (with Ozz). I haven’t gotten real sad about it because I feel like times change sometimes. His contribution to our team is so much more than driving a race car. So, it’s just fortunate that’s it has to come to this. Hopefully, he’ll be a part of our team somehow, some way.”

Andy Lally (Magnus Racing) and Jeff Segal (Scuderia Corsa) have also moved on to new teams next year, although both have experience with those teams.