John Force won his 140th career NHRA Funny Car event at Norwalk, Ohio. (Photo courtesy NHRA).

Ageless John Force powers to 140th career NHRA Funny Car win, first ever at Norwalk


Having just turned 65 two months ago, John Force shows no signs of slowing down.

The record-holding 16-time and reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion captured his 140th career victory in Sunday’s finals of the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

Also winning in their respective classes were Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Erica Enders-Stevens (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Force and fellow veteran racer Ron Capps gave fans a great show in a close final round. Force covered the 1,000-foot drag strip in 4.113 seconds at 317.27 mph, while Capps did so in 4.135 seconds at 305.56 mph.

It was Force’s second win in the first 13 races this season and his first win ever at the Norwalk track, located between Toledo and Cleveland.

“It was special to me,” Force said in a NHRA media release. “I’ve come to this track for decades. I’ve won here at the Night of Fire races. Robert [Hight] and my daughter Ashley [Force Hood] have won here. I keep coming back here.

“The Bader family (track owners) is P.T. Barnum doing this year-round, 90-some race a year. They light the fire under those fans. Look at the crowd on Friday night and that whole fireworks show. I’ve been real lucky in my career and you want to win them all, but I really wanted this win.”

Hight, who is Force’s son-in-law and also president of John Force Racing, remains atop the Mello Yello Funny Car points standings, but with Sunday’s win, Force continued his climb upward, now sitting in second place. Capps, meanwhile, is a close third.

“It’s a really great show, and I’m just excited to be a part of it,” Force said. “We raced some great kids: Capps, Cruz (Pedregon), (Tim) Wilkerson, Chad Head. We gave them some good racing. Hey, we got the win. I’m just glad to get that one out of the way. Now I’ll try to get my second win here.”

In Top Fuel, Brown (3.797 seconds at 318.84 mph) continued his red-hot ways. Having won last week at Joliet, Illinois, Brown revved through the field to win again Sunday, defeating No. 1 qualifier Shawn Langdon (4.982 seconds at 155.52 mph) in the final round.

“It’s been a true blessing to be out at this racetrack this weekend,” Brown said. “The Bader family really put on a great show. The racetrack was great all weekend long. We got some cloud cover today. When four cars can run 3.75 in the first round with other cars across the board at .76, .77, that shows you how competitive the Top Fuel class is right now. It’s crazy tough to win a round right now, let alone a race.”

Brown remains second in the Top Fuel standings, while Langdon moved into third. Doug Kalitta remains the points leader.

In Pro Stock, No. 1 qualifier Enders-Stevens (6.632 seconds at 210.14 mph) dominated throughout the weekend en route to her unprecedented fourth win of the season and 10th of her career, defeating her former crew chief-turned-driver Dave Connolly (6.665 seconds at 207.56 mph) in the final round.

“You can’t think about any of the negative things when you get into a 215-mph race car and I was able to do that today,” Enders-Stevens said. “At the end  of the day we came out on top and that’s all that matters.”

With her 10th win, Enders-Stevens becomes only the third female racer in NHRA history to reach double digits in wins. Angelle Sampey is No. 1 (41 wins), followed by legendary racer Shirley Muldowney (18).

“Shirley [Muldowney] is a legend and a mentor and Angelle is also a friend who lives a few miles from me,” Enders-Stevens said. “Those are two extremely talented ladies who are passionate about our sport. They broke down barriers so we could all do what we enjoy doing out here. It’s great to have my name on that list.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines (6.901 seconds at 193.96 mph) earned his third win of the season, defeating Hector Arana, who made his second straight final round appearance but is still seeking his first win since 2009.

“Today, we learned exactly what we need to do,” Hines said. “We started treating it differently than in years past. Instead of slowing on Sunday my bike actually picked up. Hopefully, that’s bad news for the competition and we could continue on a roll. There is no time to sit back and relax.”

Lastly in Pro Modified, Troy Coughlin (5.940 seconds at 250.92 mph) defeated Von Smith (5.920 seconds at  243.99 mph).

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series takes next week off before beginning its noted three-race “Western swing,” July 18-20 in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.


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Top Fuel — Antron Brown, 3.797 seconds, 318.84 mph  def. Shawn Langdon, 4.982 seconds, 155.52 mph.

Funny Car — John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.113, 317.27  def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.135, 305.56.

Pro Stock — Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.632, 210.14  def. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.665, 207.56.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.901, 193.96  def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.924, 195.53.

Pro Modified — Troy Coughlin, Chevy Corvette, 5.940, 250.92  def. Von Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.920, 243.99.


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

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

PRO STOCK: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 2.  Dave Connolly; 3.  Allen Johnson; 4.  Chris McGaha; 5.  Shane Gray; 6.  Jeg Coughlin; 7.  Jonathan Gray; 8.  Vincent Nobile; 9.  Jason Line; 10.  Greg Anderson; 11.  Rodger Brogdon; 12.  Shane Tucker; 13.  Larry Morgan; 14.  John Gaydosh Jr; 15.  Mark Hogan; 16.  Travis Mazza.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Andrew Hines; 2.  Hector Arana; 3.  Adam Arana; 4.  Steve Johnson; 5.  Angie Smith; 6.  Jim Underdahl; 7.  Chaz Kennedy; 8.  Eddie Krawiec; 9.  Hector Arana Jr; 10.  Matt Smith; 11.  John Hall; 12.  Shawn Gann; 13.  Scotty Pollacheck; 14.  Elvira Karlsson; 15.  Michael Ray; 16.  Jerry Savoie.

PRO MODIFIED: 1.  Troy Coughlin; 2.  Von Smith; 3.  Rickie Smith; 4.  Pete Farber; 5.  Kevin Fiscus; 6.  Danny Rowe; 7.  Steve Matusek; 8.  Mike Janis; 9.  Eric Latino; 10.  Gary Capano; 11.  Bob Rahaim; 12.  Clint Satterfield; 13.  Bill Glidden; 14.  Mike Castellana; 15.  Kenny Lang; 16.  Steven Whiteley.


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ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.772, 328.06 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.786, 324.59; Steve Torrence, 3.780, 327.11 def. Larry Dixon, 3.801, 325.45; Pat Dakin, 3.829, 320.28 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.159, 289.69; Shawn Langdon, 3.759, 324.44 def. Terry McMillen, 3.884, 325.22; Doug Kalitta, 3.752, 327.51 def. Richie Crampton, 3.779, 323.35; Antron Brown, 3.756, 324.67 def. Clay Millican, 4.038, 241.58; Troy Buff, 3.834, 312.50 def. J.R. Todd, 6.795, 96.38; Brittany Force, 3.753, 329.83 def. Spencer Massey, 3.778, 326.95;

QUARTERFINALS — Buff, 4.689, 190.27 def. Dakin, 11.648, 69.71; Brown, 3.824, 320.89 def. Torrence, 4.527, 186.67; Langdon, 3.786, 327.51 def. Force, 3.866, 305.56; Schumacher, 3.847, 317.42 def. Kalitta, 4.224, 236.26;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.793, 320.89 def. Schumacher, 5.171, 144.41; Langdon, 9.866, 80.36 def. Buff, broke;

FINAL — Brown, 3.797, 318.84 def. Langdon, 4.982, 155.52.



ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.104, 315.19 def. Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.439, 209.95; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.094, 311.77 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.258, 258.91; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.072, 317.64 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.295, 282.78; John Force, Mustang, 4.080, 317.72 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.199, 261.57; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.059, 316.90 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 11.685, 70.73; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.167, 304.25 def. Robert Hight, Mustang, DQ; Chad Head, Camry, 4.075, 316.30 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.090, 309.77; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.075, 315.49 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.145, 312.86;

QUARTERFINALS — C. Pedregon, 4.109, 307.58 def. Johnson Jr., 4.141, 312.06; Capps, 4.130, 309.42 def. Hagan, foul; Beckman, 4.181, 305.91 def. Worsham, 4.476, 226.01; J. Force, 4.217, 279.21 def. Head, 4.755, 181.76;

SEMIFINALS — Capps, 4.126, 311.34 def. Beckman, 4.169, 309.84; J. Force, 4.149, 290.88 def. C. Pedregon, 4.150, 306.53;

FINAL — J. Force, 4.113, 317.27 def. Capps, 4.135, 305.56.



ROUND ONE — Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.619, 209.98 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.591, 210.83; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.590, 210.08 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.595, 210.64; Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.587, 210.47 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.603, 209.75; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.590, 210.31 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.623, 209.82; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.615, 209.79 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.684, 207.62; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.571, 211.10 def. Mark Hogan, GXP, 6.754, 205.88; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.570, 211.39 def. Travis Mazza, Ford Mustang, 12.297, 71.93; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.589, 210.73 def. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 6.671, 209.30;

QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.621, 209.52 def. Nobile, 7.026, 158.89; Johnson, 6.609, 209.92 def. Coughlin, 6.658, 209.17; Connolly, 6.607, 209.85 def. S. Gray, 6.597, 210.50; Enders-Stevens, 6.593, 211.06 def. J. Gray, 6.660, 209.33;

SEMIFINALS — Connolly, 6.883, 209.10 def. Johnson, 11.306, 81.45; Enders-Stevens, 6.601, 211.20 def. McGaha, 18.030, 46.32;

FINAL — Enders-Stevens, 6.632, 210.14 def. Connolly, 6.665, 207.56.



ROUND ONE — Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.985, 191.95 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 23.502, 24.78; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.896, 193.35 def. John Hall, Buell, 6.923, 191.46; Adam Arana, Buell, 6.913, 194.30 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.911, 193.96; Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.905, 192.14 def. Michael Ray, Buell, foul; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.958, 195.42 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.926, 194.13; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.905, 195.34 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.873, 196.13; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.897, 195.68 def. Elvira Karlsson, Suzuki, foul; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.910, 194.66 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.979, 192.77;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 6.988, 191.43 def. A. Smith, 6.986, 192.11; H. Arana, 6.970, 194.49 def. Kennedy, foul; A. Arana, 7.006, 183.94 def. Krawiec, 7.041, 179.06; Hines, 6.892, 193.35 def. Underdahl, 7.000, 192.91;

SEMIFINALS — H. Arana, 6.894, 196.10 def. A. Arana, 6.960, 194.91; Hines, 6.950, 193.13 def. Johnson, 6.991, 191.46;

FINAL — Hines, 6.901, 193.96 def. H. Arana, 6.924, 195.53.



ROUND ONE — Von Smith, Chevy Camaro, 5.923, 241.37 def. Bob Rahaim, Camaro, 5.972, 240.51; Steve Matusek, Camaro, 5.974, 245.90 def. Bill Glidden, Ford Mustang, 6.042, 230.33; Kevin Fiscus, Mustang, 5.932, 250.09 def. Clint Satterfield, Pontiac Firebird, 6.022, 242.02; Danny Rowe, Camaro, 5.907, 246.62 def. Kenny Lang, Camaro, 6.224, 196.59; Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 5.909, 247.75 def. Mike Castellana, Camaro, 6.045, 215.51; Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.983, 244.92 def. Gary Capano, Chevy Corvette, 5.966, 237.34; Troy Coughlin, Corvette, 5.952, 249.16 def. Eric Latino, Camaro, 5.933, 244.12; Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.909, 246.57 def. Steven Whiteley, Camaro, 14.106, 76.42;

QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin, 5.950, 249.63 def. Janis, 6.599, 167.84; R. Smith, 5.918, 247.07 def. Fiscus, 5.916, 250.97; Farber, 5.974, 246.93 def. Matusek, 6.011, 244.16; V. Smith, 5.939, 241.24 def. Rowe, 5.929, 247.57;

SEMIFINALS — V. Smith, 5.911, 242.76 def. Farber, 8.541, 107.29; Coughlin, 5.940, 250.32 def. R. Smith, 5.946, 245.94;

FINAL — Coughlin, 5.940, 250.92 def. V. Smith, 5.920, 243.99.


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Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 1,130; 2.  Antron Brown, 1,082; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 938; 4.  Tony Schumacher, 785; 5.  Spencer Massey, 780; 6.  Steve Torrence, 747; 7.  Brittany Force, 690; 8.  Khalid alBalooshi, 652; 9.  Richie Crampton, 626; 10.  J.R. Todd, 593.

Funny Car: 1.  Robert Hight, 1,067; 2.  John Force, 889; 3.  Ron Capps, 846; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 845; 5.  Alexis DeJoria, 779; 6.  Courtney Force, 764; 7.  Del Worsham, 748; 8.  Matt Hagan, 739; 9.  Cruz Pedregon, 726; 10.  Jack Beckman, 655.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 1,166; 2.  Allen Johnson, 925; 3.  Jeg Coughlin, 900; 4.  Dave Connolly, 875; 5.  Jason Line, 863; 6.  Vincent Nobile, 840; 7.  Shane Gray, 833; 8.  Chris McGaha, 600; 9.  V. Gaines, 562; 10.  Jonathan Gray, 484.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Andrew Hines, 650; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 581; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 515; 4.  Hector Arana, 416; 5.  John Hall, 407; 6.  Matt Smith, 394; 7.  Scotty Pollacheck, 375; 8.  Angie Smith, 352; 9.  Michael Ray, 333; 10.  Steve Johnson, 320.

Pro Modified: 1.  Rickie Smith, 414; 2.  Mike Janis, 403; 3.  Von Smith, 362; 4.  Mike Castellana, 359; 5.  Steve Matusek, 358; 6.  Danny Rowe, 353; 7.  Kevin Fiscus, 333; 8.  Pete Farber, 319; 9.  Troy Coughlin, 313; 10.  Steven Whiteley, 238.

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Rosberg, Hamilton maintain similar approaches heading to Mexico

during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.
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The official pre-race quotes from Mercedes AMG Petronas offers more of the same from Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in terms of their mentality and psychological status heading to this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Hamilton scored a key victory on Sunday in the United States Grand Prix to keep his title hopes alive, but with Rosberg capitalizing on his team’s smart strategic play to get him a de facto “free stop” under a Virtual Safety Car period, he came second and so Hamilton only gained seven additional points.

Rosberg’s metronomic, one-race-at-a-time mentality has served him well all season and up 26 points heading to a race he won last year, he’s sticking to that focus this weekend.

“I came into Sunday with a good chance of winning but it didn’t work out,” Rosberg reflected in Mercedes’ pre-race advance. “That’s the way it is, so I accept that and now it’s on to the next one in Mexico.

“My goal is to try and win there just as it has been in every race. Of course, to be in a championship battle at the end of the year is awesome and I’m excited about that.

“But my approach is to keep it simple. There are so many things that can happen during a race weekend which are out of your control, so it’s best to just block all that out and focus on the job at hand. That’s what’s worked best for me and how I feel at my strongest.”

Hamilton, as you might also expect, is in a nothing-to-lose mode and looks to add Mexico to the list of countries and the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez the list of circuits where he won. A win this weekend would be his 51st, and tie him with Alain Prost for second all-time.

“It was great to finally get that 50th win after a couple of tough weekends,” he said. “I’ve just continued to keep a positive frame of mind, avoid dwelling on the past, work and train hard and I knew eventually the result would come.

“The moment you give up is the moment you lose. I’ve never been one to give up and I don’t plan on starting now. There are still plenty of points available and anything is possible.

“Next up it’s Mexico, which was a great experience last time out. It’s crazy how slippery the circuit is with the altitude giving you so little downforce from the car. It’s a big challenge, so even though last year’s race was a bit frustrating for me, I actually had a lot of fun out there. I’m looking forward to giving it another go and hopefully going one better this time.”

Same championship lineup back for Action Express in 2017

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As expected, the same quartet of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 2016 Prototype champions Dane Cameron and Eric Curran, and the previous two-time champs Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, will be back with Action Express Racing in 2017.

Cameron and Curran (No. 31) and Fittipaldi and Barbosa (No. 5) will be in the same car numbers as they’ve been in the past couple years.

As General Motors has not publicly announced or confirmed its Daytona Prototype international program for 2017, the formal reveal of its car – expected to be a Cadillac-branded DPi entry – will come at a later date.

The Corvette DP program ended in 2016 as IMSA phased out the Daytona Prototype platform finishing with this year’s Petit Le Mans.

Cameron and Curran will be together for the third straight season, with Fittipaldi and Barbosa continuing on for a fourth straight season since the GRAND-AM/American Le Mans Series merger fusion into IMSA prior to 2014.

“It’s been a great experience working with everyone at Action Express Racing over the past two years and it’s exciting to be able keep some continuity with the same drivers and teammates,” said Cameron, who’s one of the proper stars of sports car racing.

“I think the relationship between the four drivers has been great over the past two years, and things really started to come together well over the past six months.”

Barbosa, the team’s longest-serving driver having been with Action Express Racing since the team’s winning debut in the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona, added, “I’ve been with Action Express Racing since the team started in 2010 – which is a long time. We have grown together as a team and all our years of working together have definitely paid off as we have had some great success as a race team. It’s very exciting to continue with the race team and I’m looking forward to another season together.”

Q&A: New Porsche Supercup champion Sven Mueller

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On Sunday, Sven Mueller secured the 2016 Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup at Circuit of The Americas, thus becoming the third driver who’s clinched the title at the Supercup season finale in Austin since the track first hosted the series in 2014 (Earl Bamber won in 2014, Phillip Eng last year).

Mueller, in his third year in the Porsche Junior program, claimed a double title this year with both the Supercup and Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland championships.

He entered the weekend only two points ahead of fellow Junior driver Matteo Cairoli (135-133), but a second-place finish coupled with a DNF for Cairoli following Saturday’s first race left him needing only to score one additional point to win the title on Sunday. He finished in eighth place on the road, and that was enough for the Lechner MSG Racing Team driver to do it.

Mueller won three races and scored eight podium finishes in 10 races, to beat Cairoli 162-151 in points despite Cairoli winning four races. The third Porsche Junior competing in Supercup, Mathieu Jaminet, used a weekend sweep of the two races at COTA to finish third in the standings with 146 points, and having scored three wins.

We caught up with Mueller, who’s also raced in the U.S. in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on a couple of occasions this year in a GT Daytona class Porsche 911 GT3 R (Frikadelli Racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Alex Job Racing at Road America), prior to Sunday’s race where he ultimately clinched the title.

For the 24-year-old who lives near Frankfurt, the Supercup title could well be a springboard to bigger things (more here from Porsche Newsroom):

MotorSportsTalk: This is your third year. What have you learned this year that has allowed you to take that next step as a driver compared to previous seasons?

Sven Mueller: “I feel my evolution as a driver is huge. In my first year in a Porsche, I also had quite good speed, but to finish the race was not always the goal. The speed was there, but the consistency and all this stuff, I learned from year-to-year. And especially in my third year, the important things that were around the track and racing, yeah, I also improved a lot. This year, my goal is the championship. Last week, I had already won championship in Porsche Carrera Cup and I was working three years to get this, and hopefully I can get my second championship today.”

MST: How has the competition level been this year with some of the new drivers?

SM: “Every year, you have new drivers. I think because now I’m at a really good level and I see that Matteo and Mathieu they are also really good. For me, this year is the hardest season I’ve ever had. I won only three times, Matteo won four times, Mathieu twice (before this weekend). We’re always on the podium and in qualifying, we’re always within a thousandth of a second. This shows how close the championship is.”

Mueller at Spa. Photo: Porsche AG
Mueller at Spa. Photo: Porsche AG

MST: How nice is it knowing driver talent makes so much of a different in this championship?

SM: “It does. This is a one-make Cup, it’s the same type of car, but also the teams they put quite a lot of effort to build up the car set-up wise that is the quickest for quali-simulation and also for quali-runs (qualifying runs). To have a really good car, it’s easier for a driver to handle this. To have a good car and a good driver, that’s the whole package. You can’t win with a bad car and good driver. The package always has to be perfect. For example, in qualifying, if you miss one of these parameters – being not 100 percent focused or the set-up is not 100 percent right – you can’t get the pole position. In Super Cup, to get the pole position or to win the race, everything has to be 100 percent.”

MST: What do you like about this track?

SM: “In 2014, I was here, so I had some experience in the dry. But Austin, or COTA, is by far the most difficult track at first for the driver because you have 21 corners and it’s so technical. For example, Turns 2 through 5 are really quick and all the corners are building up to the next corner. So if you start wrong entering the first corner, you’re going to end up in a mess. And the second thing is the car. It’s very difficult. The car and tires cannot rest, so they’re always under pressure. You only have one straight where the tire pressure and temperature can go down a bit, but Austin is really, really difficult. Yesterday, we had 14 laps and it felt really, really long – by far the longest race we’ve had in the season so far.”

MST: You’ve raced here now on multiple occasions. What do you like of the atmosphere of racing in the U.S.?

SM: “I really like racing in America. Daytona, I think, was not the best result I’ve ever had, but the whole week in Daytona, it was crazy and really nice. The racing and all the strategy with the team, it’s complex and difficult and you have to understand it. But with all the different manufacturers, to do proper racing, I really like it. And the fans, you can speak with them; in Europe, it’s a bit different. It’s also nice, but the Americans are really open and they’re not scared about asking questions or doing photos. I really like that.”

McLaren matched best ’16 result at COTA, 40 years to day after Hunt title

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 23: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MP4-31 Honda RA616H Hybrid turbo leads a line of cars including Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico driving the (21) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo on track during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 23, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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October 23 is a key day in McLaren F1’s history.

Some 40 years ago, on October 23, 1976, James Hunt scored his dramatic first and only World Championship in the scintillating 1976 season in Fuji, as Niki Lauda retired early while Hunt scored just enough points to usurp “the rat” and win the title. The season, of course, served as the inspiration for Ron Howard’s Rush, which was released in 2013.

October 23, 2016 may go down as the day McLaren began to look like McLaren again in terms of results, as it matched its best result of the season with Fernando Alonso finishing fifth, and Jenson Button in ninth in what may have been his last United States Grand Prix in Austin.

Alonso charged from 12th on the grid up to fifth, with late passes on Felipe Massa and Carlos Sainz Jr. being particularly impressive, while Button made a strong start early from 19th to get near the top 10, and then benefited from other retirements to score points.

It’s tough that a 12-point day is considered a high-water mark for McLaren in 2016 terms, but this result in Austin has matched a similar fifth and ninth place for the two drivers in Monaco this year as McLaren’s best points haul of the season.

McLaren sits a clear sixth in the Constructor’s Championship on 74 points for the year. Williams is fifth with 130 while Scuderia Toro Rosso is seventh with 55. By contrast, McLaren only scored 27 points total last year, ending ninth in the Constructor’s Championship.

“It was good and interesting today, I enjoyed it, especially the final part of the race,” Alonso said in the team’s post-race release.

“Carlos [Sainz] was on a different strategy and different tyres to me and Felipe, which allowed us to close the gap.

“Our tires were in better condition than the Toro Rosso’s and we took advantage of that. The last couple of laps were very intense, as we had some extra speed so we tried hard to overtake. It was quite easy to overtake the Toro Rosso as they’re slow on the straights, so you just need to open the DRS. I was following Carlos for 45 laps and he drove very well, very consistently, zero mistakes – so we had a great battle.

“To get past the Williams today you needed to overtake them in different places, like tight, slow-speed corners, and quite forcefully, and it was tough but hopefully enjoyable for the fans.

“Our result today is nice for motivation, so I’m happy with fifth, but we gained a couple of positions because of other people going out, and our pace hasn’t been great all weekend here, so we need to understand the reasons for that.”

Button added the start was key for him to get into a points-scoring position.

“I’m pretty happy to get into the points after a frustrating day yesterday,” he said. “The start was a bit of a crazy mess – there was so much action. Starting 19th makes your race a little bit more difficult but I had a good first couple of laps which I really enjoyed. I made up a lot of places and then fought my way into the top 10, and then I fluffed up my second pit-stop a little bit where I lost a place to Checo [Perez], but I think he would have got past me anyway.”