NHRA at Topeka: Capps wins 4th straight; Brown, Gray also winners

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Fans that attended the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals in Topeka, Kansas this weekend most certainly got their money’s worth.

Each day of the race weekend – Friday through Sunday – saw at least one major NHRA professional national record set in either speed or elapsed time (or both).

The biggest class to see numerous records set was in Funny Car, where the speed mark was re-set twice, while the ET mark was re-set once.

We’ll get back to that more in a second, but first, here’s how Sunday’s final round of eliminations transpired in the eighth of 24 national events this season:

Funny Car: Ron Capps won his fourth straight race, defeating Matt Hagan. Capps is the first driver in nearly five years to win four straight (Robert Hight last did so in 2012).

“I’m just the luckiest dude in the world,” Capps said. “I had nothing to do with it. I just stepped on the gas at the right time and held the car together in the right lane. We’ve won a championship (last season) for a reason and we’ve won four in a row together for a reason. Everyone just gels together.”

Top Fuel: Antron Brown came into the race having defeated Steve Torrence 21 of 22 times in their respective race careers. Make it 22 of 23 now, as Brown earns the 63rd win of his career (passes Larry Dixon for seventh on the NHRA all-time wins list) – and his first ever at Topeka. It was also Brown’s second win of the season.

“The competition has been so tight that you have to run these cars on edge every lap,” Brown said. “We kept our head down and stayed poised. We went out there and raced our hearts out. It feels real good to win here at Topeka. I’ve been wanting to win here for so long.”

Pro Stock: Tanner Gray became the third member of his family to win at Topeka, joining grandfather Johnny (won in Funny Car in 2013) and father Shane (won in Pro Stock in 2011). The youngest Gray essentially had a free pass to the win when Jeg Coughlin red-lit in the final round, automatically disqualifying him.

“I felt like I was pretty consistent all day,” Gray stated. “My guys gave me a great racecar. I definitely wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for them. They put a lot of hard work into this new car. There’s no doubt we have a championship caliber team.”

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Now, as for all the records, the weekend saw the 10 fastest speeds or quickest elapsed times in Funny Car history, as well as the two fastest speeds ever in Top Fuel annals.

Robert Hight set things in record-breaking motion on Friday when he broke the new mark in a big way with a run of 337.66 mph.

While that speed appeared pretty stout, it ultimately wasn’t for Matt Hagan on Saturday, who not only re-set the speed record at 338.85 mph, but also set the national elapsed tie record at 3.802 seconds.

“This is about as extreme as it gets,” Hagan told NHRA.com. “338 mph with a steering wheel in your lap is craziness – and we’re doing it in 1,000 feet.

“We’ve got the conditions, the parts and pieces and the power and the crew that is doing a great job out there. It’s just cool to go out there and get it done.”

Also Saturday, three-time champ Antron Brown set the Top Fuel national speed record (333.16 mph).

In Sunday’s first round of eliminations in Top Fuel, Brittany Force set a new national speed record (333.66 mph). However, Brittany’s record speed would go for naught when she lost in the second round to Steve Torrence, one of the hottest drivers this season.

Then Brittany’s baby sister, Courtney Force, went out and recorded the second-fastest speed in Funny Car history (338.68 mph) and the fourth-quickest ET (3.821 mph).

Hight roared back in his own first-round match (338.09 mph and 3.833 seconds), meaning the event saw the four quickest ETs and the six fastest speeds in Funny Car history.

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Here’s all the stats from Sunday’s final eliminations:


TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Steve Torrence; 3.  Leah Pritchett; 4.  Clay Millican; 5.  Doug Kalitta; 6.Brittany Force; 7.  Shawn Langdon; 8.  Tony Schumacher; 9.  Terry McMillen; 10.  Kebin Kinsley; 11.Scott Palmer; 12.  Luigi Novelli; 13.  Mike Salinas; 14.  Troy Coughlin Jr.; 15.  Pat Dakin; 16.Rob Passey.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Ron Capps; 2.  Matt Hagan; 3.  Jack Beckman; 4.  Robert Hight; 5.  Courtney Force; 6.  Bob Tasca III; 7.  Del Worsham; 8.  J.R. Todd; 9.  John Force; 10.  Tim Wilkerson; 11.  Brian Stewart; 12.  Chad Head; 13.  Dale Creasy Jr.; 14.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 15.  Jack Wyatt; 16.  Cruz Pedregon.

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

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TOP FUEL: Antron Brown, 3.709 seconds, 332.75 mph  def. Steve Torrence, 3.836 seconds, 256.70 mph.

Funny Car: Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.924, 321.42  def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.985, 318.92.

PRO STOCK: Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.580, 210.87  def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

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TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 3.732, 304.67 def. Terry McMillen, 3.761, 321.50; Doug Kalitta, 3.731, 329.42 def. Scott Palmer, 3.811, 323.58; Antron Brown, 3.691, 332.34 def. Kebin Kinsley, 3.790, 322.73; Tony Schumacher, 5.895, 193.85 def. Pat Dakin, 10.012, 71.62; Leah Pritchett, 3.707, 326.87 def. Rob Passey, 14.850, 35.15; Brittany Force, 3.698, 333.66 def. Luigi Novelli, 3.986, 288.95; Steve Torrence, 3.707, 332.10 def. Mike Salinas, 4.406, 167.93; Shawn Langdon, 3.722, 329.42 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 4.933, 125.46;

QUARTERFINALS — Millican, 5.428, 143.41 def. Schumacher, 8.413, 64.85; Pritchett, 3.708, 325.92 def. Kalitta, 3.731, 330.96; Torrence, 3.745, 326.95 def. Force, 3.736, 332.92; Brown, 4.026,275.90 def. Langdon, 4.736, 179.21;

SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.718, 329.34 def. Millican, 3.822, 316.08; Brown, 3.715, 330.15 def. Pritchett, 3.718, 329.34;

FINAL — Brown, 3.709, 332.75 def. Torrence, 3.836, 256.70.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.833, 338.09 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Impala, 4.412, 212.16; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.852, 333.99 def. Jack Wyatt, Dodge Stratus, 5.699, 124.65; Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.821, 338.68 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.913, 328.30; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.218, 217.70 def. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 4.172, 247.97; Del Worsham, Camry, 3.968, 326.87 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.456, 190.83; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.930, 317.49 def. John Force, Camaro, 3.907, 332.34; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.606, 179.02 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 9.778, 81.34; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.938, 329.58 def. Brian Stewart, Mustang, 3.930, 322.96;

QUARTERFINALS — Hight, 3.895, 332.43 def. Tasca III, 3.910, 325.22; Capps, 3.866, 325.45 def. C. Force, 3.902, 333.00; Hagan, 4.016, 273.94 def. Todd, 5.288, 148.27; Beckman, 3.883, 328.54 def. Worsham, 4.012, 324.36;

SEMIFINALS — Capps, 3.908, 323.97 def. Hight, 6.168, 118.16; Hagan, 3.918, 330.55 def. Beckman, 4.434, 195.65;

FINAL — Capps, 3.924, 321.42 def. Hagan, 3.985, 318.92.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.583, 210.44 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 9.145, 109.08; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.553, 210.73 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.587, 209.39 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.578, 210.67; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.563,210.67 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.639, 208.84; Greg Anderson, Camaro,  def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, Broke – No Show; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.557, 211.10 def. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 6.707, 205.69; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.556, 210.50 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.832, 202.18;

QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin, 6.575, 209.23 def. Johnson, 6.634, 209.98; Nobile, 6.581, 210.14 def. Line, Foul – Red Light; Butner, 6.557, 209.95 was unopposed; Gray, 6.575, 209.69 def. Anderson, 6.568, 210.34;

SEMIFINALS — Gray, 6.577, 210.14 def. Nobile, 16.918, 49.57; Coughlin, 6.576, 210.60 def. Butner, 6.569, 210.18;

FINAL — Gray, 6.580, 210.87 def. Coughlin, Foul – Red Light.

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TOP FUEL: 1.  Leah Pritchett, 721; 2.  Steve Torrence, 691; 3.  Antron Brown, 680; 4.  Tony Schumacher, 673; 5.  Doug Kalitta, 539; 6.  Clay Millican, 433; 7.  Brittany Force, 405; 8.  Terry McMillen, 333; 9.Troy Coughlin Jr., 327; 10.  Scott Palmer, 276.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Ron Capps, 748; 2.  Matt Hagan, 629; 3.  John Force, 524; 4.  Robert Hight, 518; 5.  Jack Beckman, 502; 6.  Courtney Force, 464; 7.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 461; 8.  J.R. Todd, 378; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 360; 10.  Jonnie Lindberg, 318.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Bo Butner, 670; 2.  Greg Anderson, 646; 3.  Tanner Gray, 610; 4.  Jeg Coughlin, 593; 5.  Jason Line, 576; 6.  Erica Enders, 423; 7.  Chris McGaha, 421; 8.  Vincent Nobile, 414; 9.  Drew Skillman, 392; 10.  Shane Gray, 382.

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Andretti Autosport endures tough Road America outing

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All four of the Andretti Autosport drivers encountered significant problems during the Kohler Grand Prix, and none of them were able to salvage finishes inside the top ten as a result.

Most notably, Takuma Sato endured the most difficult weekend of the four-car armada after suffering a pinched nerve in his neck on Saturday, which forced him to miss the morning warmup.

And things didn’t get any better during the race, as a lap 28 spin exiting the Kink saw him lose a lap and forced him to play catchup even more than he already was. Although Sato managed to finish the race, hardly insignificant given his neck injury, he did so in 19th after starting 20th in what proved to be his worst race since winning the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

“It was a tough weekend and tough race,” lamented Sato. “I injured my neck during practice Saturday morning. We started in the back row, tried to make a push up, but I caught an accident. The engine was stalled and I wasn’t sure if we could continue, but the safety crew came and fired up the engine, so I came back to the pit, buckled again and I was able to keep going. In the end we made the finish, but we need a better weekend.”

His teammates did not fair much better. Alexander Rossi, who qualified a disappointing 15th, ran a four-stop pit strategy, and while he cycled into the top five at one point, an issue with the front wing saw him fall to 13th at the finish.

Alexander Rossi was fast Road America, but an issue with the front wing dropped him back in the field at the end. Photo: IndyCar

“I think we started with a good strategy, going for a four-stop race after starting 15th, but it all caught up to us on that first yellow,” Rossi explained. “Luckily, we had already gained track position and speed running on open track. We had an issue with our front wing, which ironically or not, is the same issue we finished the race with here last year, so we definitely need to figure out exactly what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, too, had strong pace, even leading the Sunday morning warmup and running inside the top ten late in the race. But, contact with Charlie Kimball while battling for sixth broke the front wing on the No. 28 DHL Honda, and Hunter-Reay languished in 14th at the checkered flag.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was was 14th at the checkered flag after battling inside the top ten late in the race. Photo: IndyCar

“Charlie (Kimball) made a late block and took off my front wing. I had a good race going until Charlie moved out late like that, it’s just really unfortunate,” Hunter-Reay said of the incident.

Meanwhile, Marco Andretti battled a litany of problems, ranging from throttle issues to a broken pit speed limiter, which resulted in a drive-penalty for speeding during a round of pit stops. Andretti was a lowly 18th at the finish.

Marco Andretti battled a host of problems during the Kohler Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

“We started eighth, but ran into throttle problems. We went off track on the first stint because the throttle stuck wide open. We came into the pits to try to fix it and got hit with a pit lane speed violation because my pit lane limiter wasn’t working. We still weren’t getting full throttle – I was barely hitting sixth gear,” he lamented afterward.

Sato remains in the top five in the championship, now sitting fourth, 56 points behind leader Scott Dixon. Rossi sits ninth, with Andretti and Hunter-Reay 13th and 15th respectively.


Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Kimball, Chilton quiet but solid at Road America

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While Scott Dixon scored victory for Chip Ganassi Racing, two of the team’s other drivers enjoyed quietly solid days at the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America.

Charlie Kimball, in need of a strong finish after being stricken with bad luck so far in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, scored his best finish of the year with a fine run to sixth place. While he was never a part of the battle for victory, he was “best of the rest” for most of the day and enjoyed a solid, mistake-free run.

“Overall a really solid day for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team,” Kimball said afterward. Though he admitted tire management in the race’s third stint hampered his efforts, he was more than pleased with the end result.

“That third stint, I don’t think I managed the Firestone alternates as well as some of the guys around me,” Kimball revealed. “You saw that with (Will Power) with a better in and out lap. That was disappointing, because I think we could have maybe had a shot at a top five. Overall though, to fight off some competitors for that last stint after the final yellow felt good and it felt good to bring it home in sixth for the guys. Kind of a semi-trouble free weekend and pretty happy with it.”

Teammate Max Chilton, too, scored a solid ten finish, the Briton finishing ninth. However, unlike Kimball, Chilton lamented not being able to finish higher on a circuit where he feels very comfortable.

Max Chilton during qualifying for the Kohler Grand Prix. Photo: IndyCar

“It’s not how we wanted it, especially after how quick we were (in the morning warmup),” said Chilton, who started seventh and was second fastest in the morning warmup. Like Kimball, he struggled with tire management, and an untimely caution when he was on the primary black tires put paid to his chances of a better finish.

“Something just wasn’t working for us. On a set of reds, we were struggling massively and then we went to the blacks, which would’ve been alright, but then the safety car came out and everyone else had longer life on the reds and I was struggling again.”

With the Kohler Grand Prix in the books, Chilton currently sits 11th in the championship, three points behind tenth-place Ed Jones, while Kimball remains 18th, 72 points outside the top ten.

Mahindra to give M4Electro Formula E car public debut at Goodwood

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Mahindra Racing will debut its new car for the fourth Formula E season, the M4Electro, at the famous Goodwood Festival of Speed later this week as part of a bid to beat the existing open-wheel electric record for the hillclimb.

As part of its preparations for season four of Formula E, set to start in Hong Kong at the beginning of December, Mahindra has already hit the track with the M4Electro in private testing.

Full-season drivers Felix Rosenqvist and Nick Heidfeld have both completed running in the car, while Indian actress Gul Panag has also taken part in a test.

Heidfeld will give the M4Electro its first public outing at Goodwood and look to become the first driver to hold two records at the hillclimb.

The German driver holds the overall hillclimb record of 41.6 seconds at Goodwood, set back in 1999 in a McLaren MP4/13 Formula 1 car.

“We’re excited to bring Nick and the M4Electro to Goodwood in a bid to set the fastest open-wheel electric record on the hillclimb,” Mahindra team boss Dilbagh Gill said.

“We are always looking to push the boundaries as a team and we couldn’t think of a better way to introduce the season four challenger to fans and automotive enthusiasts alike than at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.”

Qualcomm named title partner for New York Formula E race

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FIA Formula E has announced that technology company Qualcomm will be the title partner for the upcoming New York City ePrix as the all-electric series gears up to hit the United States in three weeks’ time.

New York City will play host to its first motorsport event in Red Hook on July 15-16, acting as the penultimate round of Formula E’s third season.

Qualcomm has been a key partner for Formula E since the series’ inception in 2014, and will now act as the New York race’s title partner after acquiring the naming rights, as announced on Monday. The event will be formally called the ‘Qualcomm New York City ePrix’.

“As one of our founding partners – and now for the first time a race title partner for one of the most anticipated races of the season – Qualcomm Technologies’ continued support and commitment to Formula E has been instrumental,” Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag said.

“We share many of the same values in the field of innovation and technology transfer, which we’ve already seen with unique wireless charging concepts.

“I’m looking forward to making history in New York by bringing Formula E to the Big Apple for the first time – it’s going to be an unmissable event.”

Derek Aberle, president of Qualcomm Incorporated, added: “Qualcomm inventions enable widespread innovation, just as motorsport fuels the evolution of the automotive industry.

“Formula E, including this Qualcomm ePrix race in New York City, is a great testbed for our automotive breakthroughs such as wireless electric vehicle charging.

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Formula E to promote the benefits of the latest vehicle technologies as cars become more connected, autonomous and electric.”