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Schumacher (TF), Hagan (FC), Line (PS), Krawiec (PSM) ones to beat in Monday’s NHRA U.S. Nationals finals

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Following Sunday’s final round of qualifying, Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will lead their respective classes as No. 1 qualifiers for Monday’s final eliminations of the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

There’s plenty at stake Monday at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind. The U.S. Nationals are the most prestigious race in drag racing, essentially to the NHRA what the Daytona 500 is to NASCAR.

Not only is there the prestige of going for the win, how Monday’s finals play out will set the final top-10 fields in each of the four pro categories for the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs (begins Sept. 12-14 at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.).

Sunday was definitely a much more different than usual at the U.S. Nationals.

Not only did it feature the Traxxas Nitro Shootout – an all-star race within a race and a $100,000 top prize, both won by 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force – the afternoon also included the conclusion of the Pro Stock category that was suspended due to weather two weeks ago at Brainerd, Minn.

Line wound up winning that suspended race, essentially doubling up by also claiming the No. 1 qualifying spot for Monday’s finals, which begin at 11 am ET at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind.

The delayed win was Line’s third consecutive win in Pro Stock, the first time he’s achieved that feat in his career. It was also his 35th career win, moving him to the top of the Pro Stock points standings.

“Our car ran very good,” Line said. “Our Camaro was very fast this weekend. It was a little bit weird to win Brainerd at Indy. But it’s the first thing I’ve ever done well at in Indy.”

In the Traxxas race, Force earned his second win the history of that event, defeating teammate Robert Hight in the final round, covering the 1,000-foot track in 4.061 seconds at 317.19 mph.

Force defeated fan vote/lottery winner Tim Wilkerson and two-time season winner Alexis DeJoria to reach the final vs. Hight, who is also president of John Force Racing.

“It was a win-win situation,” Force said of racing Hight, per a NHRA media release. “We couldn’t lose. All of the sponsors were on all of the cars. We just couldn’t lose it.”

Force is going for his sixth career U.S. Nationals win on Monday, while Hight will be both seeking revenge for the Traxxas loss as well as his fourth U.S. Nationals title.

In other classes:

* Schumacher set a track record speed of 328.54 mph (at 3.748 seconds) as he won the Top Fuel portion of the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, as well. Like Force, Schumacher also earned $100,000.

By doing so, Schumacher also earned the top qualifying position for Monday’s finals, the third of this season and 75th of his career.

Schumacher is seeking a record-breaking 10th Top Fuel win at Indy. He’ll start the first round Monday against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown.

“You think you’re going to run an easier car when you’re No. 1,” Tony Schumacher said. “Before he even ran, the (elimination) bump was .84. You were running a bad to the bone car no matter what. As a teammate, I’m happier (Brown) got in and I have to race him than had he gotten bumped.”

* Matt Hagan also set a track record time of 3.998 seconds (at 316.01 mph), the first time a Funny Car has ever gone under four seconds at Lucas Oil Raceway, just outside Indianapolis.

“It was just a phenomenal run,” Hagan said of his 16th career No. 1 qualifying spot. “Especially after those guys (The Mopar Express Lane crew) having such a late last night when we banged the blower off of it and they had to pull another body out and another motor out.”

* In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec took the top qualifying spot – the 20th of his career – with a run of 6.829 seconds at 196.56 mph. He hopes it’s the first step towards his first career U.S. Nationals win on Monday.

“That’s definitely one I’d look to put a check next to,” Krawiec said. “We learned some stuff today. That was the key to moving onto Monday here. It’s not often you get five qualifying sessions, but when you do you need to take advantage of it.”

 

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STATISTICS

* Monday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 60th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals

Top Fuel — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.748 seconds, 328.54 mph vs. 16. Antron Brown, 3.845, 320.20; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.753, 326.16 vs. 15. J.R. Todd, 3.814, 323.89; 3. Morgan Lucas, 3.757, 322.81 vs. 14. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.810, 321.96; 4. Richie Crampton, 3.772, 324.20 vs. 13. Billy Torrence, 3.806, 323.66; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.779, 321.81 vs. 12. Spencer Massey, 3.799, 324.12; 6. Bob Vandergriff, 3.782, 325.06 vs. 11. T.J. Zizzo, 3.795, 321.58; 7. Brittany Force, 3.786, 328.30 vs. 10. Larry Dixon, 3.791, 322.42; 8. Dom Lagana, 3.786, 319.90 vs. 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.787, 324.98.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Leah Pritchett, 3.846, 320.58; 18. Pat Dakin, 3.956, 312.64; 19. Chris Karamesines, 3.963, 307.86; 20. Clay Millican, 4.171, 306.95; 21. Terry McMillen, 4.756, 320.89; 22. Cory McClenathan, 5.354, 169.83; 23. Luigi Novelli, 9.595, 268.54.

Funny Car — 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.998, 318.99 vs. 16. Bob Bode, Toyota Camry, 4.436, 304.87; 2. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.004, 319.07 vs. 15. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.144, 299.46; 3. Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.005, 322.73 vs. 14. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.103, 309.84; 4. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.016, 317.12 vs. 13. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.082, 314.02; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.026, 320.36 vs. 12. Chad Head, Camry, 4.073, 313.88; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.026, 317.49 vs. 11. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.053, 316.67; 7. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.033, 316.52 vs. 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.046, 311.70; 8. John Force, Mustang, 4.042, 319.75 vs. 9. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.042, 318.24.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Tony Pedregon, 4.798, 288.52.

Pro Stock — 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.589, 210.01 vs. 16. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.675, 207.94; 2. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.601, 208.55 vs. 15. Matt Hartford, Dodge Avenger, 6.661, 208.49; 3. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.603, 209.39 vs. 14. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.637, 208.94; 4. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.605, 209.10 vs. 13. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.629, 208.71; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.607, 208.59 vs. 12. Richie Stevens, Camaro, 6.627, 208.59; 6. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.610, 208.81 vs. 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.624, 208.10; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.611, 209.14 vs. 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.623, 208.84; 8. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.621, 208.33 vs. 9. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.623, 208.07.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Larry Morgan, 6.676, 206.95; 18. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.728, 207.24; 19. Kenny Delco, 6.742, 205.88; 20. Steve Schmidt, 6.783, 203.89; 21. Dave River, 6.883, 204.94.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.829, 196.56 vs. 16. Shawn Gann, Buell, 7.011, 192.03; 2. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.878, 194.18 vs. 15. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 7.001, 191.40; 3. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.888, 193.63 vs. 14. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.951, 193.35; 4. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.890, 194.21 vs. 13. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.944, 192.63; 5. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.906, 195.11 vs. 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.944, 192.55; 6. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.915, 192.55 vs. 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.939, 195.19; 7. John Hall, Buell, 6.919, 194.63 vs. 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.935, 193.10; 8. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.921, 192.36 vs. 9. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.926, 193.65.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Elvira Karlsson, 7.050, 189.92; 18. Freddie Camarena, 7.081, 191.08; 19. Mike Berry, 7.099, 190.92; 20. Joe DeSantis, 7.109, 187.91; 21. Redell Harris, 7.129, 188.10; 22. Craig Treble, 7.515, 188.60.

 

* Round-by-round results from the Third annual Traxxas Funny Car Shootout at Lucas Oil Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

ROUND ONE — Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.072, 275.67 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.313, 265.17; Courtney Force, Ford Mustang, 4.005, 322.73 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.043, 319.37; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.042, 318.24 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.052, 310.98; John Force, Mustang, 4.042, 319.75 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.073, 311.34;

SEMIFINALS — J. Force, 4.967, 169.08 def. DeJoria, broke; Hight, 4.768, 264.08 def. C. Force, 5.374, 162.31;

FINAL — J. Force, 4.061, 317.19 def. Hight, 4.178, 304.32.

* Finishing order of Pro Stock eliminations from postponed finals two weeks ago at Brainerd, Minn.: 1. Jason Line; 2. Jeg Coughlin; 3. Vincent Nobile; 4. Dave River; 5. Shane Gray; 6. Allen Johnson; 7. Deric Kramer; 8. Dave Connolly; 9. Greg Anderson; 10. V. Gaines; 11. Larry Morgan; 12. Chris McGaha; 13. Mark Hogan; 14. Erica Enders-Stevens; 15. Jonathan Gray.

Final round of postponed Pro Stock finals at Brainerd, Minn.: Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.596, 207.40 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.635, 207.72.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Button ‘almost there’ on deciding Formula 1 future

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 26: Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren Honda sits in his car in the garage during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 26, 2016 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Jenson Button says he is “almost there” on deciding his future in Formula 1 as McLaren continues to deliberate its driver line-up for 2017.

Button is the most experienced driver currently racing in F1, and has been with McLaren since 2010.

Fernando Alonso is set to remain with McLaren for next season, but the team is yet to decide whether it will retain Button or promote junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne into a full-time seat.

Button has been linked with a return to Williams – the team he made his F1 debut with in 2000 – should McLaren drop him.

The 2009 F1 world champion is yet to decide whether or not he will continue in F1 next year, but feels he is close to a decision.

“I am almost there with my thought process and you will hear about it soon. I can’t put a timescale on it, but it will be soon enough,” Button told Press Association.

“I did think about it lot [over the summer]. I didn’t have a lot of time to lie on a sun-lounger and think about it to be fair.

“I was busy, but yes, of course, I thought about it.”

Button’s last race win came at the end of 2012 with McLaren, and has not finished on the podium since the start of 2014 thanks to difficulties with the team’s Honda engine last year.

Although McLaren is on the rise, Button stressed that he wants to be in a car that is capable of battling at the front of the pack in 2017.

“I have always said that if I feel like I can be in a car that is fighting for wins I will definitely stay. I think any racing driver would,” Button said.

“But if I am not and I feel like I am not, there is nothing else for me to achieve. I will go and play darts instead.

“I can’t just sit on the beach. I will do all sorts of racing after F1 whether it is in racing cars, push bikes, or triathlons because I am a competitive person and I always want to win.

“So, that is what I want to do. Something I can fight for wins in.”

Button has been linked with a move into the FIA World Endurance Championship should he decide to call time on his F1 career, and is also likely to take up rallycross in some form, following in the footsteps of his father, John.

A roof popped off a BMW M6 GTLM in IMSA’s VIR first practice

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First practice for this weekend’s Michelin GT Challenge, a GT Le Mans and GT Daytona-only round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at VIRginia International Raceway is in the books.

Fastest times were set by Earl Bamber in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR (1:43.232, GTLM and overall) and Madison Snow in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (1:45.722, GTD).

Bamber told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam, “It’s a good way to start the weekend. It’s a new surface; it already seems quicker than last year. The guys at VIR have done a great job to repave it. It’s been pretty difficult the last couple races for us.”

But the session was more notable because it featured a weird interruption, when the roof off the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM popped off on course.

It left Dirk Werner needing to bring the car, sans the roof and rear window, into the pit lane but luckily without further damage following the inadvertent convertible debut of the car.

Werner’s befuddled co-driver, Bill Auberlen, attempted to explain the situation to Adam.

“I’m telling you… I’m dying to ask if it was cooler inside the cockpit!” Auberlen told IMSA Radio, noting how hot it is on track, as well (ambient temperatures are expected in the mid-90s with track temperatures in the 110-115 range).

“So no, we did not plan on this. This is very odd. It’s bizarre how the roof would blow off the thing.

“I went in the grass once. Couldn’t get the downshfits accomplished. Now this. Maybe we get all the troubles out now.

“But now the roof blew off? No idea how, it’s just bad luck.”

Here’s pics and a few tweets about the abnormal incident:

Dover agrees to sell Nashville track to real estate company

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 15:  Scott Dixon driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda, and Dario Francitti driver of the #27 Canadian Club Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda, lead the field during the IRL Indycar Series Firestone Indy 200 on July 15, 2007 at the Nashville Superspeedway  in Lebanon, Tennessee.  (Photo by  Gavin Lawrence/Getty Images)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Dover Motorsports Inc. has a new buyer for the Nashville Superspeedway in a commercial real estate development company.

The motorsports company said Thursday that Panattoni Development Company will buy the superspeedway for $27.5 million and also take over Dover’s obligations under bonds issued in 1999 to help build infrastructure supporting the track. The bonds currently have a balance of $17.2 million, and Panattoni will replace Dover Motorsports’ letter of credit with its own.

Dover expects the sale to close in 2017 pending zoning approvals.

This is the second time Dover announced a buyer of the 1.33-mile concrete track about 30 miles east of Nashville that closed in 2011. Dover announced in May 2014 a deal selling to NeXovation Inc. worth nearly $46 million, which later fell through.

Rosberg praises Mercedes for ‘great job’ on F1 Halo

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Nico Rosberg has praised Mercedes for doing a “great job” in designing the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection that may be introduced to Formula 1 in 2018.

Following the deaths of F1 driver Jules Bianchi and IndyCar’s Justin Wilson in 2015 from head injuries sustained while racing, the FIA has placed improving cockpit safety high on its agenda in 2016.

The Halo made its public debut in pre-season testing and underwent brief testing on race weekends before the F1 Strategy Group opted to delay its introduction until 2018 at the earliest.

Opening practice for the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday saw the most extensive Halo test yet as Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniel Ricciardo all completed laps with it fitted to their cars.

Rosberg set his fastest practice time using the Halo, and called its trial a “success” when reflecting on his running.

“The team have done a great job on the Halo. It doesn’t disturb me when driving,” Rosberg said.

“I could go fast straight away and even set the best time of the session with it this morning, so I think that was a success.”

Rosberg topped FP1 before focusing on race pace in second practice at Spa-Francorchamps, finishing the session in sixth place.

The German was pleased with his running, believing that tire management will be key come Sunday’s race.

“Car-wise we seem to be quick,” Rosberg said.

“The grid is a bit all over the place this afternoon with people doing different things with the tires. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the race. Long run pace will be important as you can overtake here.

“I don’t know how we’re looking yet – we’ll need to look into that.

“But there was a lot of tire degradation, so managing that on Sunday will be important.”