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NHRA Las Vegas: Tanner Gray becomes youngest Pro Stock winner; Antron Brown, Tommy Johnson Jr. also win

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Third-generation drag racer Tanner Gray proved Sunday that winning is a family tradition.

Gray became the youngest driver in NHRA history to win a national Pro Stock event final, capturing the Denso Spark Plus Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Gray (6.681 seconds at 206.61 mph) defeated Bo Butner (6.678 seconds at 206.76 mph) in the final round of eliminations to earn the win. Other winners included Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car).

The 17-year-old Gray, who turns 18 on April 15, joins father Shane and grandfather Johnny as NHRA national event winners.

Gray was rather humble in his reaction to the win.

“I can’t thank everybody enough,” Gray said in a media release. “My crew is definitely the reason I’m here. I do a small part. It feels really cool.

“I was pretty nervous. This was something I wanted to do since I was real young and I finally got the opportunity to do it. When I started this deal I told my dad I wanted to be the youngest Pro Stock winner. To be able to do that feels really cool.”

In Top Fuel, two-time defending (and three times in the last five seasons) NHRA champ Antron Brown (3.747 seconds at 321.04 mph) grabbed his first win of the season, defeating teammate Tony Schumacher (3.809 seconds at 325.14 mph).

It was the second straight win at Las Vegas for Brown – who handed Don Schumacher his 300th NHRA win as a team owner – and his 46th career Top Fuel win.

“Today was tough battles,” Brown said. “When you race two of your teammates (Schumacher and Leah Pritchett), you know you got a battle on your hands because you all have the same quality parts.

“And when you go up there you have to throw everything up there. Especially with Tony he hasn’t been an eight-time champion for nothing. Buddy, he knows how to race. We had to push hard.”

With the win, Brown became the first driver in NHRA history to earn at least one victory in 10 consecutive seasons.

In Funny Car, another DSR driver came home with the winning trophy, as Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.933 seconds at 323.66 mph) defeated Jonnie Lindberg (4.016/302.14).

It was Johnson’s first win of the season as well as his first win at Las Vegas since 2001. Meanwhile, Swedish native Lindberg notched his second consecutive runner-up this season.

“Today was a pretty trying today,” Johnson Jr. said. “It was pretty hot. Probably the hottest track we’ve seen this season yet. The guys did a great job. When we came out first round and were low ET by at least three hundredths I thought, ‘Oh, it’s going to be a good day.’ This is just a great facility. When I come in the gate I have a good feeling because I’ve had some success here, a win prior to this, and a couple runner-up finishes.”

The Denso Nationals was the fourth event on the 24-race national event schedule. The series now takes the next two weeks off, returning for the NHRA SpringNationals, April 21-23, at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston, Texas.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Tony Schumacher; 3.  Doug Kalitta; 4.  Leah Pritchett; 5.  Terry McMillen; 6.  Steve Torrence; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Clay Millican; 9.  Steven Chrisman; 10.  Troy Coughlin Jr.; 11.  Steve Faria; 12.  Troy Buff; 13.  Scott Palmer; 14.  Tripp Tatum; 15.  Terry Haddock.

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

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

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

FINAL RESULTS:

 Top Fuel: Antron Brown, 3.747 seconds, 321.04 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 3.809 seconds, 325.14 mph.

Funny Car: Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.933, 323.66 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 4.016, 302.14.

Pro Stock: Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.681, 206.61 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.678, 206.76.

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

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 4.057, 230.84 def. Tripp Tatum, 10.253, 77.26; Leah Pritchett, 3.756, 328.30 def. Troy Buff, 5.415, 128.19; Brittany Force, 3.762, 329.26 def. Steve Faria, 4.505, 180.96; Tony Schumacher, 3.767, 327.98 def. Terry Haddock, Broke – No Show; Steve Torrence, 3.765, 324.51 was unopposed; Doug Kalitta, 3.743, 326.40 def. Steven Chrisman, 4.104, 248.48; Terry McMillen, 4.227, 269.03 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 4.230, 194.32; Antron Brown, 3.752, 325.53 def. Scott Palmer, 5.501, 125.27;

QUARTERFINALS — Schumacher, 3.865, 316.45 def. McMillen, 3.916, 311.70; Pritchett, 3.770, 328.06 def. Force, 4.872, 153.39; Brown, 3.822, 318.24 def. Torrence, 4.035, 276.41; Kalitta, 3.778, no speed def. Millican, 4.913, 153.51;

SEMIFINALS — Schumacher, 3.775, 320.97 def. Kalitta, 3.782, 326.87; Brown, 3.797, 320.89 def. Pritchett, 3.919, 311.20;

FINAL — Brown, 3.747, 321.04 def. Schumacher, 3.809, 325.14.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.036, 312.86 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.801, 173.01; Gary Densham, Mustang, 4.079, 287.29 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 5.118, 153.39; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.970, 328.54 def. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 6.251, 118.97; Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 4.332, 250.37 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 5.607, 125.26; Jack Beckman, Charger, 7.322, 90.06 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, Foul – Red Light; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.943, 320.97 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.714, 181.28; John Force, Camaro, 4.454, 213.64 def. Phil Burkart, Charger, 5.853, 124.97; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.054, 320.97 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 9.752, 77.54;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson Jr., 4.068, 268.71 def. Hight, Broke; J. Force, 3.987, 321.81 def. Hagan, 4.043, 318.24; Lindberg, 4.017, 325.37 def. Beckman, 4.096, 312.42; Densham, 4.551, 190.73 def. DeJoria, Foul – Red Light;

SEMIFINALS — Lindberg, 3.991, 318.92 def. Densham, 5.916, 126.78; Johnson Jr., 3.997, 319.45 def. J. Force, 4.128, 282.13;

FINAL — Johnson Jr., 3.933, 323.66 def. Lindberg, 4.016, 302.14.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.703, 207.21 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.734, 206.07 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.683, 207.11 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.785, 205.94; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.665, 206.51 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Dart, Foul – Red Light; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.676, 203.31 def. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.721, 205.41; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.659, 206.64 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.827, 177.00; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.673, 205.79 was unopposed; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.747, 206.48 def. Tom Huggins, Dart, 6.842, 202.67;

QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin, 6.751, 206.10 def. McGaha, 20.745, 32.12; Line, 6.695, 206.10 def. S. Gray, 6.732, 205.91; T. Gray, 6.702, 206.57 def. Anderson, 6.717, 206.42; Butner, 6.695, 206.45 def. Enders, 6.713, 206.80;

SEMIFINALS — T. Gray, 6.691, 206.67 def. Line, 6.703, 206.26; Butner, 6.714, 206.42 def. Coughlin, 6.739, 205.10;

FINAL — T. Gray, 6.681, 206.61 def. Butner, 6.678, 206.76.

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

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Tony Schumacher, 382; 2.  Leah Pritchett, 376; 3.  Antron Brown, 357; 4.  Doug Kalitta, 301; 5.  Brittany Force, 258; 6.  Steve Torrence, 251; 7.  Clay Millican, 187; 8.  Troy Coughlin Jr., 176; 9.  Terry McMillen, 164; 10.  Scott Palmer, 148.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 368; 2.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 324; 3.  John Force, 314; 4.  Ron Capps, 275; 5.  Courtney Force, 218; 6.  Jack Beckman, 205; 7.  Robert Hight, 201; 8.  Jonnie Lindberg, 183; 9.  Jim Campbell, 180; 10.  J.R. Todd, 170.

Pro Stock: 1.  Greg Anderson, 380; 2.  Jason Line, 367; 3.  Bo Butner, 299; 4.  Tanner Gray, 296; 5.  Shane Gray, 278; 6.  Jeg Coughlin, 266; 7.  Erica Enders, 219; 8.  Chris McGaha, 193; 9.  Drew Skillman, 190; 10.  Vincent Nobile, 183.

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Road America weekend, Friday notes

Abnormal USF2000 podium of Malukas, VeeKay, Kohl. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The Verizon IndyCar Series had two practice sessions today (you can see linkouts to practice one, and practice two, here). But it was far from the only action at Road America.

With seven sessions from the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and three sports car sessions, two Pirelli World Challenge and the first Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires race, it was a very busy day of action.

Notes from all of those sessions are below.

MRTI

  • In USF2000, a rare occasion happened. Oliver Askew not only didn’t win the first race of the weekend, but had a mechanical issue that sent him to pit road. It opened the door for Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay (full surname of Van Kalmthout) to capture his first series win in a banner day for Augie Pabst’s Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team. Pabst Racing finished first (VeeKay), third (Lucas Kohl, in his first podium) and fourth (Calvin Ming, after starting 15th). Splitting them up was BN Racing’s David Malukas, the young Chicago native having scored a surprise pole position in the morning, finishing an impressive second place.
  • The first Pro Mazda race of the weekend saw Victor Franzoni on top over Anthony Martin, as the two championship combatants this season continued their bout. Martin (Cape Motorsports) and Franzoni (Juncos Racing) exchanged the lead early before Franzoni got past, then waltzed away. Team Pelfrey’s Nikita Lastochkin finished third for his first podium finish of his Mazda Road to Indy career, after two years in USF2000 and now into his first Pro Mazda season.
  • An intriguing Indy Lights qualifying session for race one saw Freedom 100 winner Matheus Leist continue his recent form. The Brazilian rookie edged Carlin teammate Neil Alberico for the top spot, with Ryan Norman best of Andretti Autosport’s quartet in third. Points leader Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) starts fourth while Nico Jamin (Andretti) is fifth, Wisconsinite Aaron Telitz (Belardi) 11th and Colton Herta (Andretti/Steinbrenner) 13th. Zachary Claman De Melo (Carlin) did not qualify due to a mechanical issue. Kaiser led practice earlier in the day.
  • The Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires held three other sessions on Friday. As noted, Malukas won the pole for the first USF2000 race held earlier Friday. Qualifying for the second race took place after IndyCar second practice, and saw VeeKay on pole. In qualifying for Pro Mazda race two, the grid is jumbled after an apparent strategic error cost Franzoni a proper lap time. A red flag meant he wasn’t able to set a realistic time and he will start from 15th and last on Saturday. Meanwhile Martin will be on the pole for Saturday’s race.

RESULTS

Indy Lights: Weekend Results
Pro Mazda: Weekend Results
USF2000: Weekend Results

SPORTS CARS

Photo: Global MX-5 Cup
  • Patrick Gallagher edged Bryan Ortiz by just 0.0263 of a second in a new record closest finish in Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, which breaks the record for the second time in three races. After Robert Stout beat Gallagher by 0.0632 at Indianapolis, Gallagher turned the tables with his win today, moving his McCumbee McAleer Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup car to the outside of Ortiz exiting Turn 14.
  • Pirelli World Challenge had only two sessions total today, one practice apiece for GT and GTS/TC.

RESULTS

MX-5 Cup: Weekend Results
PWC: Weekend Results

Tony Stewart to race in Rico Abreu fundraiser at Calistoga

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SONOMA, Calif. (AP) NASCAR is back at Sonoma Raceway and the defending race winner won’t be part of the field on Sunday.

Tony Stewart, who scored the last of his 49 career victories here, is retired now and watches the Cup races as a team owner. He still plans to race this weekend.

Stewart will run at Calistoga Speedway in an event that is being largely promoted by Rico Abreu and his father, local businessman David Abreu.

The race used to be called the Wine Country Classic, but has been renamed the Boys and Girls Club Dirt Track Classic. David Abreu designed the event as a fundraiser for a facility to house after-school programs for local children in Calistoga.

“My dad and I have always wanted to promote a race to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club,” Rico Abreu said. “There is a need for it with our demographics and it accommodates hundreds of kids in our valley. It provides them a safe place to learn and grow.”

Rico Abreu, one of the nation’s top dirt track drivers, benefited from the program along with his two siblings in St. Helena.

Stewart, Abreu and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are among those entered in the Saturday night dirt track event to help draw attendance.

David Abreu, founder of St. Helena’s Abreu Vineyards, is hoping to raise $250,000 for an equipped clubhouse at the Calistoga Boys and Club location. He will give a famous “Macho Magnums” – 40 magnums from his Napa Valley 2010 collection – to the first $100,000 donor.

It will be Stewart’s first Winged Sprint Car start at the Calistoga half-mile. He did win a USAC Western Midget Series race in 1994. He also set the midget track record that same weekend and held it until USAC made its return to the venue in 2008.

“I’m really looking forward to running the Calistoga Speedway since I haven’t raced there since 1994,” Stewart said. “I’m also excited to see all the improvements that have taken place at the track since the last time I’ve been there.”

Abreu is driving as well as promoting and fundraising. He’s competing Saturday night in the Sprint Car Challenge Tour 360’s and the King of the West-NARC 410’s.

“Having Tony Stewart and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in competition will certainly be an exciting thing for all the fans in Nor-Cal,” said Rico Abreu.

More AP Auto Racing: http://racing.ap.org/

Newgarden, Penske top second practice at Road America

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Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden topped second practice in a 1-2-3-4 sweep for the Team Penske outfit, driving the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden’s best lap of a 1:42.8229 was about five hundredths of a second quicker than teammate and defending race winner Will Power, who was second with a 1:42.8229. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves completed the Penske top four sweep, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe the best of the Honda drivers in fifth.

The session was only briefly interrupted early on when Alexander Rossi went off the track in Turn 14 and gently slid into the tire barrier. The red flag was flown to remove the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda from the barrier, but Rossi was able to continue, ending the session in 11th after leading the morning practice.

Of note, Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones enjoyed a strong session to end up sixth, while teammate Esteban Gutierrez was 17th on his return to Coyne.

Also, Robert Wickens continued to fill in for Mikhail Aleshin, ending Practice 2 in 20th. While Aleshin is reportedly en route to Road America, it is unknown if Wickens will continue his fill in role through the weekend.

Times are below. Practice 3 rolls of at 12:00 p.m. ET (11:00 a.m. local) on Saturday.

Sauber says it’s ‘soon’ to naming Kaltenborn’s successor

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Sauber F1 Team enters this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix without a team principal and trying to work ahead on its 2018 preparations, making it a tough weekend for one of Formula 1’s smallest teams.

Sauber team manager Beat Zahnder attempted to explain the team’s managerial structure this weekend in Kaltenborn’s absence and teased when he hoped a decision would be made regarding Kaltenborn’s successor.

“Jorg Zander, the technical director and myself, we’ve been entrusted to run the operation of the team this weekend but this is only temporary,” Zahnder explained during the FIA team principal press conference on Friday.

“It doesn’t change a lot for us because our job is to have two cars running as quickly as possible around the circuit and for me it’s a little bit more media work.”

Asked when he hoped to have a successor named, Zahnder replied, “I hope soon. We were talking to some candidates and I hope we can announce it sooner rather than later.”

Former Renault F1 chief Frederic Vasseur’s name has been floated this week, as have other former F1 team chiefs Dave Ryan and Jost Capito, after Colin Kolles’ name was floated earlier in the week.

Zahnder said he could not explain the insider workings of the team.

“I cannot, no. You’ve seen the official press statement from Mr Picci and it seems that Mr Picci and Mrs Kaltenborn had different views how to operate the company. We shouldn’t forget that it’s not only a race team, it’s a home team as well with 350 people or so, but I cannot give you more information because I’m not actively involved in that decision,” he said.

Sauber is still in the process of not only finishing this year but also preparing for its 2018 switch to Honda power. This is an important change and one that comes amidst the turmoil currently encapsulating McLaren and Honda’s turbulent relationship.

“We have started with the project and there is an exchange of information on the logistical side, on the set-up side and the garages,” Zahnder explained. “We have to organize computers and IT stuff and things like this so the work has started, yes.”

With the two McLaren Hondas set to start from the rear of the grid this weekend, Sauber can at least work to get into Q2 and get further up the order with its pair of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.