2014 NHRA U.S. Nationals LOGO

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

Leave a comment

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.”

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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

Marcus Ericsson excited about Pascal Wehrlein’s arrival at Sauber for 2017

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 02: Pascal Wehrlein of Germany driving the (94) Manor Racing MRT-Mercedes MRT05 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track ahead of Marcus Ericsson of Sweden driving the (9) Sauber F1 Team Sauber C35 Ferrari 059/5 turbo during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 2, 2016 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marcus Ericsson is relishing the opportunity to work with Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber through the 2017 Formula 1 season, saying he rates the German driver highly.

Wehrlein made his F1 debut in 2016 with Manor, scoring just the second top-10 finish in the team’s history at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes junior was announced as a Sauber driver for 2017 on Monday, replacing Felipe Nasr after the Brazilian lost his financial backing.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Ericsson spoke warmly of Wehrlein’s arrival, believing that they will forge a strong partnership that will help Sauber to develop.

“I think it’s great news for me and Sauber. Pascal is a very fast and respected driver with a great CV,” Ericsson said.

“I think we can really push each other and the team forward, so I am looking forward to a great season.

“I honestly rate [Wehrlein] highly. He’s won the DTM championship and been part of the Mercedes family for a long time, so they seem to believe a lot in him.

“Of course my aim is to beat him – what else? – and I expect it to be a tough fight. But that’s exactly what I need in order to perform at my best.”

Sauber was at risk of collapsing at midway through the 2016 season, having struggled financially for some time before being taken over by Longbow Finance during the summer.

The team subsequently went on a recruitment drive, bringing in a number of management and engineering staff, with Ericsson noticing a difference.

“It definitely takes time, but I think it’s clear that if you look at the second half of last season we really made some big progress,” Ericsson said.

“And the aim is, of course, to continue that way in 2017. We’ve had some great people decide to join the team in the last couple of months and that also makes a difference.

“So all in all it feels like we’re moving in the right way. And with two young and hungry drivers in the cockpits we should be on a good run.”

VIDEO: Valtteri Bottas’ first day as a Mercedes F1 driver

Leave a comment

Following Valtteri Bottas’ official unveiling as a Mercedes driver on Monday, the team wasted little time in showing the Finn the ropes at its base in Brackley, England.

Bottas was released from his contract by Williams so he could join Mercedes for 2017, replacing world champion Nico Rosberg following the German’s shock decision to retire from F1.

Bottas was announced as Mercedes’ new driver on Monday, completing the puzzle for the 2017 driver market and putting an end to six weeks of speculation.

In the above video released by Mercedes, Bottas gets to grips with life at Brackley after signing his new contract with team chief Toto Wolff and meeting his new team members for the first time.

In related news, Mercedes announced on Friday that it had struck an agreement with the Wihuri Group, a Finnish conglomerate that has previously sponsored Bottas.

Wihuri’s branding will appear on the Mercedes drivers’ racesuits and helmets, as well as on the team’s trackside uniform.

“We are delighted to welcome Wihuri to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport family today,” Wolff said.

“As a respected brand both in Finland and globally, Wihuri will be a valuable addition to our team and we look forward to working with them and helping to expand their Formula One experience.

“This year will be a new challenge for our team, with a new driver line-up, including our new Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas of course, and new regulations.

“I am sure it going to be a very exciting year to be involved with our team and the sport of Formula 1.”

Yamaha, Ducati enjoy launches ahead of new MotoGP season

yfr_editorial_use_pictures_16-php
© Yamaha MotoGP
Leave a comment

MotoGP heavyweights Yamaha and Ducati geared up for the new season of motorcycle racing’s premier championship with launches this week.

Yamaha and Ducati both enter 2017 with a new line-up following Jorge Lorenzo’s decision to move from the former to the latter, acting as one of a number of shake-ups in the rider market.

Three-time MotoGP champion Lorenzo replaces Andrea Iannone at Ducati, who sought refuge at Suzuki after a seat was freed up by Maverick Viñales following his move to Yamaha in replace of – the man who started the merry-go-round all – Lorenzo.

Yamaha was the first to take the covers off its new bike at a launch in Madrid on Thursday, with Viñales being joined by nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi for the unveiling of the YZR-M1.

The new bike features a darker blue as its main livery color, as well as greater presence for title sponsor Movistar.

“I had the first test in Valencia after the race, but particularly after we moved to Sepang and we could have more kilometers and [do] more work on the new bike,” Rossi said.

“We discovered a very good potential. It looks like we can be stronger. For sure now it’s important to work in the three tests before the first race, and try to arrive ready in Qatar. But the first impression is very good.”

Ducati followed suit earlier today by unveiling its new livery for 2017, with Lorenzo making one of his first official appearances in the team’s colors following the expiration of his Yamaha contract on December 31.

The team presented its 2016 bike, the Desmosedici GP16, in ’17 colors, as well as removing the controversial – and now banned – winglets from its model.

The new MotoGP season begins in Qatar on March 26, with pre-season testing set to start at the end of January in Malaysia.

Neuville leads Ogier midway through Monte Carlo Rally

Thierry Neuville (BEL) competes during the FIA World Rally Championship 2017 in Monte Carlo, Monaco on January 20, 2017
© Red Bull Content Pool
Leave a comment

MONACO (AP) Belgian driver Thierry Neuville took a 45-second lead Friday over defending world rally champion Sebastien Ogier midway through the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.

Overnight leader Neuville won three of Friday’s six special stages, while Ogier struggled early on before pegging Neuville back by winning the last two. Ott Tanak of Estonia is third.

Four-time champion Ogier is now driving for Ford M-Sport after switching from Volkswagen last month. The Frenchman was eight seconds behind Neuville’s Hyundai overnight and quickly under pressure.

Tanak, who also drives for M-Sport, won Friday’s first special stage – the third of 17 overall – ahead of Neuville, with Ogier in ninth.

Difficult morning conditions saw snow and sheet ice on the roads. With all the top drivers fitting studded winter tires, Ogier still went off into a ditch.

“It happened at a junction, it was very, very icy. I pulled the handbrake but the car never turned,” Ogier said. “I slipped into the ditch and became stuck.”

Neuville won the next three specials – with Ogier second on 4 and 5 – but Ogier finally found his best form to trim back the deficit from 1:12 to 45 seconds. He also overtook Tanak, who is a fraction of a second behind Ogier.

Conditions were slushy in the afternoon as the icy roads began melting.

“For me this was more tricky than this morning and difficult to know what rhythm to go,” Neuville said.

A spectator was killed on Thursday night after being hit by a car during the first stage.

Organizers said the spectator was struck by a car driven by New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon during the first of two night stages.

That stage was canceled but the second went ahead, with Neuville beating Ogier.

There are six specials Saturday with the race concluding Sunday lunchtime.

Last year, Ogier won by nearly two minutes ahead of then-teammate Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway.

Ogier announced last month that he was going to drive the Ford Fiesta for M-Sport this season. A fifth title would move him into outright second place on the all-time list behind countryman Sebastien Loeb, who won nine straight titles.

The 33-year-old Ogier, who has won 38 career races, is tied with Finnish drivers Tommi Makinen – who won four straight – and Juha Kankkunen.

The next event in the 13-race season is in Sweden in three weeks.