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:

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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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FINAL RESULTS:

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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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

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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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

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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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.