NHRA: John Force, Schumacher, Gray, Krawiec chomp down Gatornationals wins

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You might say John Force, Tony Schumacher, Shane Gray and Eddie Krawiec were chomping at the bit coming into this weekend’s NHRA national event in Gainesville, Florida.

Maybe it was the race’s name – the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. But whatever the reason, the four drivers bit off all they could chew and then some, with each earning their first wins of the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

A record 16-time Funny Car champion, the seemingly ageless Force (for the record, he turns 68 in May) extended his streak as the NHRA’s winningest driver, earning the 148th national event win of his career.

Force (3.928 seconds at 328.14 mph) defeated Jonnie Lindberg (3.971 at 314.83) in Sunday’s Funny Car final round to capture the victory – his eighth career Gatornationals win.

“I found myself,” Force said. “A lot of things are about heart, and about luck. You always feel somebody up there likes you.

“I believe hard work, dedication and what we went though, it’s been a draining day. I’m not accepting that I’m done. I’ve been real lucky.”

In addition to the event win, Force’s final round triumph was the 2,500th Funny Car round-win for John Force Racing.

In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher, an eight-time national champion, extended his own mark as winningest driver in Top Fuel history, earning the 83rd win of his career.

Schumacher (3.703 seconds, 329.26 mph) defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammate and two-time defending (and three times in the last five seasons) Top Fuel champ Antron Brown (3.764 seconds at 322.65 mph).

It was also Schumacher’s fifth career Gatornationals Top Fuel, both an event and Gainesville Raceway track record.

“We have great, great people working together. I’m loving driving the car,” Schumacher said in a media release. “We’re in the fight every day, every race.”

This weekend marked the third race of the 24-race 2017 campaign. Leah Pritchett won the first two races (Pomona, California and Phoenix), but DSR teammate Schumacher is ready to have his time in the spotlight now.

“It’s going to be a fun year, man,” Schumacher said. “I’m comfortable driving the car. It’s running right down the middle. It’s running extremely fast. It doesn’t have any part on the race track where I feel that I’m in danger. It’s doing everything that a driver dreams about sitting in a Top Fuel car.”

In Pro Stock, Gray (6.535 seconds at 212.96 mph) earned his sixth career win, defeating Greg Anderson (6.560 at 213.43).

“I wasn’t supposed to win,” Gray said. “When you’re testing parts you’re just not supposed to win which is basically what we’re doing with my car.

“We had a lucky day today. There were some round wins when the car pulled me out of the hole and there were a couple rounds where I pulled the car out of the hole. It was a complete team effort today.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, three-time champ Krawiec just barely missed breaking the 200 mph barrier (6.763 seconds at 199.76 mph), defeating teammate and fellow Harley Davidson rider Andrew Hines (6.802, 197.10).

It was Krawiec’s 37th career PSM win and fifth in the Gatornationals.

It also was the first race of PSM’s 16-race season.

“This helps set the pace for the year,” Krawiec said. “Get that first win off your back, keep that momentum rolling, get the points.

“You know once you win one or two races you kind of solidify your spot. With the extra competitive class we have this year it definitely helps.

“There’s a lot of great motorcycles. My Harley-Davidson this weekend really has been really fast, we just haven’t been able to harness that power and get it sorted out. I think as the year goes on we’re going to get better.”

The NHRA’s next national event is in two weeks (March 31-April 2) at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER

TOP FUEL: 1.  Tony Schumacher; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Doug Kalitta; 4.  Steve Torrence; 5.  Leah Pritchett; 6.  Clay Millican; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Troy Coughlin Jr.; 9.  Ike Maier; 10.  Chris Karamesines; 11.  Terry McMillen; 12.  Shawn Reed; 13.  Smax Smith; 14.  Pat Dakin; 15.  Scott Palmer; 16.  Larry Dixon.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  John Force; 2.  Jonnie Lindberg; 3.  Matt Hagan; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 5.  Robert Hight; 6.  Jack Beckman; 7.  Jim Campbell; 8.  Ron Capps; 9.  Tim Wilkerson; 10.  Alexis DeJoria; 11.  Bob Tasca III; 12.  Dave Richards; 13.  Courtney Force; 14.  J.R. Todd; 15.  Del Worsham; 16.  Cruz Pedregon.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Shane Gray; 2.  Greg Anderson; 3.  Jason Line; 4.  Chris McGaha; 5.  Bo Butner; 6.  Jeg Coughlin; 7.  Erica Enders; 8.  Tanner Gray; 9.  Vincent Nobile; 10.  Drew Skillman; 11.  Matt Hartford; 12.  Allen Johnson; 13.  Alan Prusiensky; 14.  Kenny Delco; 15.  John Gaydosh Jr.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Eddie Krawiec; 2.  Andrew Hines; 3.  Joey Gladstone; 4.  Steve Johnson; 5.  Jerry Savoie; 6.  LE Tonglet; 7.  Scotty Pollacheck; 8.  Matt Smith; 9.  Hector Arana; 10.  Cory Reed; 11.  Angie Smith; 12.  Melissa Surber; 13.  Mike Berry; 14.  Angelle Sampey; 15.  Karen Stoffer; 16.  Hector Arana Jr.

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FINAL RESULTS

TOP FUEL: Tony Schumacher, 3.703 seconds, 329.26 mph  def. Antron Brown, 3.764 seconds, 322.65 mph.

FUNNY CAR: John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.928, 328.14  def. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 3.971, 314.83.

PRO STOCK: Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.535, 212.96  def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.560, 213.43.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.763, 199.76  def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.802, 197.10.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 3.741, 315.42 def. Terry McMillen, 5.345, 135.21; Leah Pritchett, 3.716, 323.12 def. Scott Palmer, Broke; Brittany Force, 3.716, 328.54 def. Larry Dixon, Broke; Tony Schumacher, 3.724, 321.27 def. Smax Smith, Foul – Red Light; Doug Kalitta, 3.706, 328.70 def. Ike Maier, 3.929, 289.69; Antron Brown, 3.711, 327.98 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.157, 231.00; Steve Torrence, 3.740, 325.22 def. Shawn Reed, 5.467, 120.80; Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.724, 322.42 def. Pat Dakin, Foul – Red Light;

QUARTERFINALS — Schumacher, 3.751, 326.24 def. Millican, 3.776, 322.42; Torrence, 3.759, 325.77 def. Force, 6.507, 90.02; Brown, 3.787, 321.42 def. Coughlin Jr., Foul – Outer Boundary; Kalitta, 3.754, 325.14 def. Pritchett, 3.738, 323.97;

SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.719, 326.24 def. Kalitta, 3.738, 327.03; Schumacher, 3.715, 326.40 def. Torrence, 4.069, 266.64;

FINAL — Schumacher, 3.703, 329.26 def. Brown, 3.764, 322.65.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.863, 328.46 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 12.342, 71.13; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.828, 334.82 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.967, 321.04; John Force, Camaro, 3.881, 331.45 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 10.453, 77.20; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.898, 331.94 def. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.054, 287.05; Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.370, 209.26 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 6.531, 104.87; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.895, 330.96 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.925, 328.46; Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 4.735, 187.05 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 10.000, 74.70; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.899, 329.83 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.906, 327.66;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson Jr., 6.019, 177.37 def. Campbell, 8.841, 109.74; Lindberg, 3.980, 322.19 def. Hight, 7.776, 89.83; J. Force, 3.916, 328.14 def. Beckman, 8.835, 82.48; Hagan,  def. Capps, Foul – Centerline;

SEMIFINALS — Lindberg, 3.948, 324.98 def. Hagan, 4.300, 244.69; J. Force, 3.955, 324.05 def. Johnson Jr., 5.544, 134.32;

FINAL — J. Force, 3.928, 328.14 def. Lindberg, 3.971, 314.83.

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.558, 213.06 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.539, 212.93; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.529, 212.46 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.523, 212.79; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.526, 211.73 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.557, 211.93; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.502, 213.91 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.551, 211.96; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.521, 213.33 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.584, 208.84; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.481, 213.84 was unopposed; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.495, 214.18 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.493, 213.87 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.566, 211.13;

QUARTERFINALS — Anderson, 6.565, 212.90 def. Coughlin, 11.527, 77.14; McGaha, 6.540, 212.73 def. Butner, 6.578, 213.54; S. Gray, 6.518, 213.13 def. Enders, 12.220, 71.88; Line, 6.513, 213.64 def. T. Gray, Broke;

SEMIFINALS — S. Gray, 7.116, 207.18 def. McGaha, 17.189, 46.84; Anderson, 6.543, 212.90 def. Line, 6.542, 213.37;

FINAL — S. Gray, 6.535, 212.96 def. Anderson, 6.560, 213.43.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.790, 197.22 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, Broke; Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.876, 194.41 def. Hector Arana, Buell, Foul – Red Light; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.805, 197.19 def. Cory Reed, 6.952, 190.16; Matt Smith, 6.826, 195.99 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, Broke; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.764, 198.52 def. Angelle Sampey, 10.641, 69.49; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.881, 195.65 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.965, 186.30; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.888, 194.32 def. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.977, 191.78; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.876, 195.31 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.956, 192.08;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson, 6.863, 195.08 def. Savoie, 6.803, 197.39; Gladstone, 6.839, 195.96 def. Tonglet, 6.839, 196.04; Krawiec, 6.793, 197.65 def. M. Smith, 6.901, 192.63; Hines, 6.827, 196.27 def. Pollacheck, 6.870, 194.41;

SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.793, 197.36 def. Johnson, 9.767, 77.55; Krawiec, 6.766, 198.70 def. Gladstone, 6.886, 195.85;

FINAL — Krawiec, 6.763, 199.76 def. Hines, 6.802, 197.10.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS

TOP FUEL: 1.  Leah Pritchett, 300; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 279; 3.  Antron Brown, 243; 4.  Doug Kalitta, 220; 5.  Brittany Force, 202; 6.  Steve Torrence, 185; 7.  Troy Coughlin Jr., 143; 8.  Shawn Reed, 136; 9.  Clay Millican, 133; 10.  Scott Palmer, 116.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Matt Hagan, 308; 2.  John Force, 238; 3.  Ron Capps, 235; 4.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 209; 5.  Courtney Force, 177; 6.  Robert Hight, 150; 7.  Jim Campbell, 148; 8.  Jack Beckman, 144; 9.  J.R. Todd, 138; 10.  Tim Wilkerson, 117.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Greg Anderson, 319; 2.  Jason Line, 281; 3.  Shane Gray, 226; 4.  Bo Butner, 198; 5.  Jeg Coughlin, 187; 6.  Tanner Gray, 181; 7.  Erica Enders, 167; 8.  Drew Skillman, 157; 9.  Vincent Nobile, 149; 10.  Chris McGaha, 139.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 120; 2.  Andrew Hines, 97; 3.  Joey Gladstone, 81; 4.  Steve Johnson, 74; 5.  Jerry Savoie, 63; 6.  LE Tonglet, 58; 7.  (tie) Scotty Pollacheck, 52; Matt Smith, 52; 9.  Hector Arana, 36; 10.  Hector Arana Jr, 35.

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Alonso’s Honda power unit cleared for Malaysia after Singapore clash

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Fernando Alonso’s incredible start at the Singapore Grand Prix offered the possibility of huge points, before he got collected at Turn 1 in the wake of the Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel start-line crash.

But with Alonso’s McLaren Honda getting speared on the left side of the car, there were concerns his Honda power unit had been damaged beyond repair ahead of this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Somewhat fortunately considering the fractured and now set-for-divorce Alonso, McLaren and Honda relationship, Honda has confirmed this power unit was actually OK despite the first lap contact in Singapore.

“We were concerned that it may have been irreparably damaged, but fortunately after a thorough check back at the Sakura factory we can confirm it is okay to be re-used,” said Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer.

Alonso, of course quite frustrated to have lost out on a potential big points haul in Singapore, is hoping similarly changeable conditions could give McLaren Honda a spark in Malaysia this weekend. Stoffel Vandoorne fortunately picked up six points for the team with seventh place there, his best result of the season and his career thus far.

“After Singapore, I’m already eager to get back into the car and hopefully make it further than the first corner in Malaysia! Of course, what happened was disappointing and it’s difficult to hide your frustration when you’re the victim of someone else’s incident. I felt we had the potential to be really competitive – one of our only opportunities of the year – and it’s a shame we couldn’t bring home the points to prove it, but these things happen,” he said.

“The conditions in Malaysia will be very similar to Singapore – hot, humid and challenging for the drivers and the car. The configuration will work less in our favor, but of course we will still fight for everything. There are six races left and we are still putting all our energy in finishing every race in the best possible position we can.”

Aston Martin to become Red Bull Racing’s title sponsor

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The link-up between Aston Martin and Red Bull Racing has now gone to the next level, with Aston Martin confirming Monday it will be Red Bull Racing’s title sponsor from 2018.

Key within the release was also the suggestion that Aston Martin will “evaluate the opportunity to be involved in the team’s power unit from 2021 after being asked by the FIA to join discussions on future engines for F1.”

Red Bull Racing’s engine situation is unclear after 2018, with Renault – badged as TAG Heuer – in the last planned year of its deal next season. Honda has entered the Red Bull racing umbrella thanks to its new deal with Scuderia Toro Rosso from 2018, and rumors of Porsche’s return to Formula 1 from 2021 have also swirled in recent weeks.

Rather funnily this means in 2018 that Red Bull Racing will have a car manufacturer be title sponsor for the energy drink company, with a watch manufacturer serving as the badged name of its power unit.

“Title partnership is the next logical step for our Innovation Partnership with Red Bull Racing. We are enjoying the global brand awareness that a revitalized Formula One provides,” said Aston Martin President and CEO, Andy Palmer.

“The power unit discussions are of interest to us but only if the circumstances are right. We are not about to enter an engine war with no restrictions in cost or dynamometer hours but we believe that if the FIA can create the right environment we would be interested in getting involved.”

Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing team principal, added: “Our Innovation Partnership with Aston Martin has been a pioneering project from day one. Having conceived and created the remarkably successful Valkyrie together in 2016, we extended our relationship this year and are now delighted to further strengthen the Partnership and see the team competing as Aston Martin Red Bull Racing in 2018. In addition, more than 100 Aston Martin staff will service the new Advanced Performance Centre on our campus here in Milton Keynes and it will allow us to collaborate further with Aston Martin on special, equally innovative, new projects.”

The Aston Martin Valkyrie, the hypercar produced by the two parties, has been their major product sign of investment together thus far. Per Aston Martin the car has sold out on launch, and will make its road debut in 2018 before being delivered to customers in 2019.

Personnel wise, the two parties have worked together to create the Advanced Performance Centre, which will create more than 100 new jobs and continue to build the relationship between F1 and road car technology.

NHRA: Brittany Force breaks through among Reading winners

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John Force saw one of his daughters break through in the Reading round of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ Countdown while another lost by a hair in the finals.

Brittany Force captured the Top Fuel win, her second of the season, for her first since in Epping, N.H. in June. The defeat of Steve Torrence came with a 3.756-second pass at 326.24 mph. She’d been to the finals twice at Maple Grove Raceway before winning Sunday.

“Looking at it, we did not have an easy ladder,” Force said. “It was tough all day long and the Monster team killed it all day long. We turned a corner at the right time and we’re right in the Countdown picture.

“This is a huge win for us. This team had to fight all day long and I’m so proud of them. They are the best team to work with, and I’m so pumped going into the Countdown to work with them. This Monster team, we’re going after the championship.”

Courtney Force came up short in Funny Car, losing out to Ron Capps, who secured his seventh win of the season. Capps’  pass came at 3.968 seconds to Force’s 3.993, and Capps took over the points lead in the process.

“We got lucky a little bit in the first round, but we feel like our hard work makes our own luck for us and we were fortunate to win it with consistency,” Capps said, via NHRA.com. “We know this Funny Car class is as tough as it’s ever been, so we know this won’t be easy through the last four races of the year.”

Bo Butner (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took the other two class wins on the day.

IMSA: Dramatic finishes, popular winners at Mazda Raceway

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The penultimate round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca featured three first-time winners this year in the Prototype, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes – all of whom boast fascinating stories.

In Prototype and overall, Renger van der Zande and Marc Goossens delivered the first overall win of the year for an LMP2-spec car versus a Daytona Prototype international (DPi), and after a dramatic week for the Troy Flis-led VISIT FLORIDA Racing team.

Van der Zande and Goossens were only in their second race start with the team’s new No. 90 Ligier JS P217 Gibson, which replaced the troublesome Riley Multimatic Mk. 30 chassis run through Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.

Running second into the final few minutes of the two-hour, 40-minute race, van der Zande unleashed his inner Alex Zanardi at Mazda Raceway’s iconic corner, the Corkscrew, going down the inside of Penske Acura-bound Dane Cameron in his second-to-last race with Action Express Racing aboard its No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Cameron left the door open just enough for van der Zande to slide through, with his momentum carrying through the inside of the left-handed downhill apex and then back onto the right-handed second portion of the corner in line.

He pulled away from there en route to the team’s first victory of the year at a track where it had won before, as recently as two years ago with Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante in a Corvette DP.

The win comes after a week when the Florida-based team, with the likelihood of change to its partner portfolio if VISIT FLORIDA support doesn’t continue into 2018, incurred damage at its shop from Hurricane Irma. Van der Zande joked on the FOX Sports broadcast after the race he might get a tattoo of the Corkscrew after the win.

With third place in their No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, Jordan and Ricky Taylor built their points lead to an unofficial gap of 29 points over Cameron and Eric Curran, the defending champions, with one race remaining. The Taylors will be set to clinch the Prototype title at Motul Petit Le Mans by starting the race, on October 7.

The GT classes featured two other cool stories and maiden 2017 winners.

In GT Le Mans, John Edwards broke a long winless drought sharing his No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM with Martin Tomczyk, in the revised black livery for the BMW Team RLL car. Edwards held off Toni Vilander in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE at the flag, on a fuel save run.

The No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR was third ahead of the No. 3 Corvette C7.R, with points leaders Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen set to carry a 19-point lead over Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe in their No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT heading to Motul Petit Le Mans.

GT Daytona points leaders Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen, in their anticipated second-to-last race together in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 this year (Nielsen told RACER over the weekend she’ll leave the team at year’s end, following the end of her two-year contract), finally got on the board this year after a wealth of podiums but no wins.

Balzan moved into the lead following Colin Braun’s late splash for fuel, which denied the No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R lineup of Braun and Jon Bennett a potential first win in class.

Balzan and Nielsen have a 25-point lead over Jeroen Bleekemolen in GTD – Bleekemolen and Ben Keating finished eighth today in their No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3 – and are poised to wrap their second straight class title at Motul Petit Le Mans.

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