John Force, 65, sets both ends of track Funny Car record during qualifying at Bandimere

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John Force may have turned 65 two months ago, but he’s still driving a race car like a 30-year-old.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion recorded the quickest and fastest Funny Car run in Bandimere Speedway history on Friday during the first two days of qualifying for the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.

Force covered the 1,000-foot drag strip in Morrison, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, in 4.049 seconds at 318.39 mph, making him the provisional No. 1 qualifier heading into Saturday’s two other rounds of qualifying. If Force’s run holds up during Saturday’s two rounds, it will be his fifth No. 1 qualifier at Bandimere and his third this season.

“With the new cooling system here at Bandimere Speedway, it just gave us confidence early,” Force said in an NHRA media release. “I think everybody was programmed how to run today. We stepped up and started getting there.”

Funny Car points leader Robert Hight, Force’s teammate, is second at 4.055 seconds and 313.15 mph. Tim Wilkerson is third (4.071 at 310.77), followed by last year’s Funny Car winner Cruz Pedregon (4.078 at 304.80).

In Top Fuel, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher drove his dragster to the top of the heap with a run of 3.823 seconds (track record) at 319.75 mph.  Schumacher is seeking his 73rd career No. 1 qualifying position, as well as his first of this season and first-ever No. 1 at Bandimere.

“We’ve won here a few times, we just haven’t qualified No. 1,” Schumacher said. “I think you really have to find your niche. This is a tough place. It’s a different combination for up here on the mountain.”

Steve Torrence was the provisional No. 2 qualifier in Top Fuel (3.831 at 322.96) while former champ Larry Dixon is third (3.848 at 315.64).

In Pro Stock, Allen Johnson ended the day No. 1, recording a pass of 6.972 seconds at 198.90 mph (track record). Johnson is seeking his fourth No. 1 of the season and fifth in a row at Bandimere, where he has won the Pro Stock category each of the last two seasons.

“When it’s your sponsor’s race you have to step up and do it,” Johnson said. “We’ve really worked our tails off at this track, testing over the years, and trying to come up with a package that is superior, so we can impress all the Mopar and Chrysler executives who come out to see us. We want to put that 50th anniversary Hemi into the winner’s circle on Sunday.”

Lastly, in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hector Arana Jr. continued his current hot streak, taking the provisional pole with a run of 7.178 seconds (track record) at 185.97 mph. Arana will earn his first pole of the season if he can hold on to the top spot in his category in Saturday’s other two rounds of qualifying.

“The motor is running really strong,” Arana said. “The combination just all came together. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum we have here on the mountain and seal the deal finally. The track is awesome. It’s consistent and I love the scenery. I love to come out here.”

The final two qualifying sessions are Saturday at 3:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. (Mountain time). Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. MT.

 

Here are the results from the first two rounds of qualifying Friday for the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway:

Top Fuel — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.823 seconds, 319.75 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.831, 322.96; 3. Larry Dixon, 3.848, 315.64; 4. Bob Vandergriff, 3.861, 316.82; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.868, 315.34; 6. Antron Brown, 3.881, 310.63; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.893, 312.86; 8. Brittany Force, 3.902, 314.02; 9. J.R. Todd, 3.925, 307.09; 10. Terry McMillen, 3.940, 314.31; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.967, 297.42; 12. Spencer Massey, 4.181, 217.46.  Not Qualified: 13. Richie Crampton, 4.269, 213.03; 14. Steven Chrisman, 4.286, 243.24; 15. Jenna Haddock, 5.322, 133.09; 16. Clay Millican, 5.380, 136.34.

Funny Car — 1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.049, 318.39; 2. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.055, 313.15; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.071, 310.77; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.078, 304.80; 5. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.087, 311.92; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.102, 308.21; 7. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.111, 312.42; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.111, 300.73; 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.113, 301.81; 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.151, 302.75; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.153, 304.32; 12. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.164, 304.39.  Not Qualified: 13. Jeff Diehl, 4.263, 283.79; 14. Todd Simpson, 7.537, 83.62; 15. Tony Pedregon, 8.494, 67.44.

Pro Stock — 1. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.928, 198.90; 2. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.929, 197.97; 3. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.934, 198.55; 4. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.944, 198.15; 5. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.949, 197.65; 6. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.972, 197.68; 7. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.979, 196.90; 8. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.982, 197.62; 9. Matt Hartford, Dodge Avenger, 6.984, 197.31; 10. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.984, 197.10; 11. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.993, 196.87; 12. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 7.019, 196.16.  Not Qualified: 13. Jeg Coughlin, 7.024, 197.02; 14. Jonathan Gray, 7.056, 197.05; 15. Tommy Lee, 7.100, 194.30; 16. Steve Kalkowski, 7.201, 190.22.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 7.178, 186.72; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.198, 185.51; 3. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.230, 184.88; 4. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.234, 184.90; 5. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.250, 184.88; 6. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.251, 183.24; 7. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.263, 183.34; 8. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.270, 185.28; 9. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.297, 183.32; 10. Mike Berry, Buell, 7.299, 181.86; 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 7.301, 184.35; 12. Adam Arana, Buell, 7.337, 182.53.  Not Qualified: 13. John Hall, 7.405, 179.61; 14. Angie Smith, 7.406, 181.57; 15. Freddie Camarena, 7.448, 182.80; 16. James Surber, 7.520, 176.49; 17. Charles Sullivan, 7.534, 175.57; 18. Steve Johnson, 7.682, 148.58.

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Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.