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NHRA: Millican gets first career Top Fuel win in 254 starts; Capps, Laughlin also win

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Sunday’s NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will be something Clay Millican will never forget.

Not only was the race held in Tennessee – at the legendary Thunder Valley (a.k.a Bristol Dragway) – it was also the first career NHRA Top Fuel win for Volunteer State resident Millican.

TOP FUEL: What makes the win all the more impressive is that it was Millican’s first win in 254 career Top Fuel starts and nine final round appearances.

Millican (3.825 seconds at 316.38 mph) defeated Leah Pritchett (3.881 at 307.09) became the 103rd different winner in Top Fuel history.

“There were times I ever wondered if this was going to happen,” Millican said. “I don’t deserve this credit. I’m really happy for David Grubnic and all of the boys who work on this car and I mean that one-hundred percent.”

FUNNY CAR: Ron Capps earned his fifth win in the first 11 national events of the 24-race 2017 schedule, as well as his 55th career Funny Car win.

The defending NHRA Funny Car world champ (4.054 seconds at 317.05 mph) defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman (4.040 at 319.29). It was a better launch at the starting line that propelled Capps to the win.

“We’ve gotten a few lucky rounds, but it’s been preparation in the offseason,” Capps stated. “We had runs on Sunday against four of the toughest cars, drivers and crew chiefs combined. You read down the list of people we had to beat in a new car that was prepared. There are not very many teams that are that prepared to pull a car out and have a quicker set-up than we were.”

The win ties Capps with 16-time national champion John Force for most Funny Car wins at Bristol with four victories apiece.

PRO STOCK: Alex Laughlin (6.718 seconds at 205.04 mph) earned his first win of the season and the second win of his Pro Stock career, defeating Bo Butner (6.729 seconds at 205.79 mph).

Laughlin, who reached his fourth final round of the season, becomes the eighth different winner in Pro Stock in the first 11 races of 2017.

“We didn’t really have anything handed to us; we had some good matchups all day,” Laughlin stated. “I definitely feel like I had a point to prove. We have a competitive car on the starting line. I came into this weekend with the confidence to win.”

Plus, in a shocker, neither Greg Anderson nor teammate Jason Line reached the final round for the first time since 2014.

The 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues next weekend at Norwalk, Ohio, in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals June 22-25.

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

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

PRO STOCK: 1.  Alex Laughlin; 2.  Bo Butner; 3.  Erica Enders; 4.  Tanner Gray; 5.  Shane Gray; 6.  Jeg Coughlin; 7.  Vincent Nobile; 8.  Allen Johnson; 9.  Jason Line; 10.  Greg Anderson; 11.  Drew Skillman; 12.  Alan Prusiensky; 13.  Wally Stroupe.

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TOP FUEL: Clay Millican, 3.825 seconds, 316.38 mph  def. Leah Pritchett, 3.881 seconds, 307.09 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.054, 317.05  def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.040, 319.29.

PRO STOCK: Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.718, 205.04  def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.729, 205.79.

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TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 3.952, 286.62 def. Pat Dakin, 12.230, 56.62; Clay Millican, 5.313,139.40 def. Kyle Wurtzel, Broke; Shawn Langdon, 4.183, 255.53 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.414, 206.35; Steve Torrence, 4.280, 203.80 def. Chris Karamesines, 8.710, 63.35; Leah Pritchett, 4.378, 186.51 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 4.497, 189.26; Brittany Force, 3.897, 310.55 def. Terry McMillen, 4.283, 252.19; Scott Palmer, 3.969, 307.16 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.076, 275.96; Mike Salinas, 3.855,320.05 def. Kebin Kinsley, 3.850, 317.87;

QUARTERFINALS — Pritchett, 7.094, 84.32 def. Palmer, Foul – Red Light; Langdon, 4.251, 258.37 def.

Brown, 4.310, 263.26; Torrence, 4.000, 309.56 def. Salinas, Broke; Millican, 4.011, 294.18 def. Force, 4.060, 267.85;

SEMIFINALS — Pritchett, 3.798, 319.90 def. Langdon, 3.901, 308.00; Millican, 3.812, 319.90 def. Torrence, 3.949, 303.57;

FINAL — Millican, 3.825, 316.38 def. Pritchett, 3.881, 307.09.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.132, 255.43 def. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.305, 240.89; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.367, 233.12 def. Bob Bode, Dodge Charger, Broke; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.985, 322.58 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 6.461, 105.19; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.387, 233.48 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 6.307, 105.26; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.172, 303.43 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.302, 275.28; John Force, Camaro, 4.136, 312.42 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.211, 303.43; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.104, 315.34 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.246, 278.75; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.105, 314.17 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 5.901, 122.44;

QUARTERFINALS — Beckman, 4.321, 276.75 def. C. Force, 4.343, 221.42; Capps, 4.090, 314.31 def. Hight, 4.124, 310.55; Johnson Jr., 4.083, 314.53 def. Wilkerson, 4.220, 262.18; Hagan, 4.202,306.95 def. J. Force, Foul – Centerline;

SEMIFINALS — Beckman, 4.009, 318.99 def. Johnson Jr., 4.043, 313.29; Capps, 4.045, 314.61 def. Hagan, 5.264, 168.43;

FINAL — Capps, 4.054, 317.05 def. Beckman, 4.040, 319.29.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.761, 204.88 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.735, 205.13; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.752, 205.57 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.765, 203.74; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.743, 204.54 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.748, 204.94; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.736, 204.82 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.758, 204.60; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.742, 205.38 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.807, 203.61; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.714, 205.79 def. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, Foul- Red Light; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.740, 205.26 was unopposed;

QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.761, 204.88 def. Nobile, 16.442, 49.55; Laughlin, 6.769, 204.54 def. Coughlin, 10.491, 95.69; T. Gray, 6.748, 204.94 def. S. Gray, 6.783, 205.01; Butner, 6.763, 204.76 was unopposed;

SEMIFINALS — Butner, 6.732, 205.44 def. Enders, 6.745, 205.01; Laughlin, 6.767, 204.48 def. T. Gray, Foul – Red Light;

FINAL — Laughlin, 6.718, 205.04 def. Butner, 6.729, 205.79.

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TOP FUEL: 1.  Steve Torrence, 954; 2.  Leah Pritchett, 943; 3.  Antron Brown, 934; 4.  Tony Schumacher, 801; 5.  Doug Kalitta, 678; 6.  Brittany Force, 649; 7.  Clay Millican, 639; 8.  Troy Coughlin Jr., 443; 9.  Scott Palmer, 432; 10.  Terry McMillen, 424.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Ron Capps, 1,044; 2.  Matt Hagan, 881; 3.  Jack Beckman, 748; 4.  Robert Hight, 707; 5.

Courtney Force, 704; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 663; 7.  John Force, 641; 8.  Tim Wilkerson, 490; 9. J.R. Todd, 476; 10.  Cruz Pedregon, 397.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Bo Butner, 945; 2.  Greg Anderson, 835; 3.  Tanner Gray, 830; 4.  Jeg Coughlin, 766; 5.  Jason Line, 702; 6.  Erica Enders, 657; 7.  Vincent Nobile, 617; 8.  Drew Skillman, 536; 9.  Shane Gray, 434; 10.  Chris McGaha, 421.

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Toro Rosso extends contract for technical director James Key

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Scuderia Toro Rosso technical director James Key will continue with the team for the foreseeable future, following a contract extension announced on Tuesday.

Key joined the team in 2012 and has seen the Faenza-based squad solidify its role in the upper midfield, with occasional surprise finishes that have pushed the team near the top three or four teams on the grid.

“I am delighted to continue with Toro Rosso and remain part of the Red Bull family,” he said. “This is a team which I have great respect for and have thoroughly enjoyed working with for the past 5 years; now I look forwards to continuing our project into the future.

“STR is unique, facing the challenges of being spread over two countries and fulfilling the roles of both a team in its own right and an important part of the Red Bull driver program: they are challenges that the team takes in its stride and, whilst doing so, continues to grow and improve year on year.

“Most importantly, the people I have had the pleasure to work with at STR are second to none: professional, ambitious and focussed, they have all worked incredibly hard to improve the team’s performance and will continue that hard work with the same dedication and optimism in the coming years too. I would like to thank Franz Tost and Red Bull for their continued support and confidence. We have more work to do, and I look forwards to taking the next steps with Toro Rosso towards our goals.”

Team principal Franz Tost added, Formula 1 is a team sport, but one in which an individual can still make a difference. So far, in his time with us, James has proved that he can indeed make that difference, leading the technical side of the operation.

“Not only has he been adept at producing chassis-aero packages that are well regarded throughout the paddock, he has also shown the management skills necessary to get the most out of all the various departments that work together both here in Faenza and in Bicester. I am therefore delighted that James will be with us for the foreseeable future to continue this fruitful process.”

Teams load up on supersoft tires for Italian GP

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There’s almost no variety in team Pirelli tire selections for the Italian Grand Prix, with nearly all teams going with two sets of softs and 10 sets of supersofts for next week’s race. All teams have selected just one set of mediums.

The only variance comes with Mercedes, Force India and Haas going with three sets of softs and nine supersofts. The rest are all the same choice, two softs and 10 supersofts.

Monza comes a week after Spa this week.

Pirelli’s tire breakdown is below.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee to serve as Gateway grand marshal

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The Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Gateway Motorsports Park for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline will feature quite an excellent grand marshal, in the form of three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

The full release from the track is below.

An Olympic champion has been selected to give the command to start engines for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline comes to Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois on August 26. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, will serve as the grand marshal for the Verizon IndyCar Series event.

“I am humble,” said Joyner-Kersee, who is a native of East St. Louis, Illinois. “I do not take this honor for granted to be the INDYCAR race’s grand marshal at Gateway Motorsports Park. Very few people are asked to give the command and I am grateful to be one of the few. Thank you!”

Track-and-field star Joyner-Kersee has won three Olympic gold medals, as well as one silver and two bronze. She was the first American to win gold for the long jump and the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the seven-event heptathlon, making her the most decorated female athlete in Olympic track and field history.

As a teen, she won the National Junior Pentathlon championships for consecutive years and received widespread honors in high school in various sports, including track, basketball and volleyball. During her junior year, she set the Illinois high school long jump record for women, with a 6.68-meter jump. Joyner-Kersee attended the University of California, Los Angeles on a full scholarship and continued to gain fame on both the court and field. In 1981, at the age of 19, she began to focus on training for the Olympics, specifically for the heptathlon — an Olympic track-and-field competition comprised of seven separate events, including the 200-meter run, 800-meter run and 100-meter hurdles. She graduated from UCLA in 1985.

Joyner-Kersee won a silver medal in the heptathlon at the 1984 Summer Olympics, as well as gold and bronze medals in the long jump in 1988 and 1992, respectively, and is currently the heptathlon world record-holder.
Following her retirement from competition, she founded the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to instill youth in the a Greater East St. Louis area with the dream, drive and determination necessary to succeed in academics, athletics and leadership. “Winners In Life.”

Chuck Wallis, Vice President of the Bommarito Automotive Group, will serve as honorary starter and will wave the opening green flag.

Kimi Raikkonen confirmed at Ferrari for 2018 F1 season

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Scuderia Ferrari has confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen will remain with the team for the 2018 Formula 1 season after being given a new one-year contract.

Raikkonen, 37, has raced with Ferrari since 2014, and has been on a one-year rolling contract since the end of 2015.

The Finn has been a regular focus for the F1 driver market’s ‘silly season’ given his age and struggle for form compared to teammate Sebastian Vettel, who currently leads the drivers’ championship.

Raikkonen has scored 86 less points than Vettel through the opening 11 races of the 2017 season, but has nevertheless done enough to secure a new contract, confirmed by Ferrari on Tuesday.

“Ferrari announces that Scuderia Ferrari has renewed its technical and racing agreement with Kimi Raikkonen,” a brief statement from Ferrari reads.

“The Finnish driver will therefore race for the Maranello team in the 2018 Formula One World Championship.”

Raikkonen is the first of the big-name free agents to have his plans for 2018 confirmed, with Vettel, ex-Ferrari racer Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas yet to announce a drive for next year.

Raikkonen first joined Ferrari in 2007, winning the F1 drivers’ championship in his first season, but left at the end of 2009 to take some time out from the sport.

A return in 2012 with Lotus saw Raikkonen display plenty of his old spark, taking two wins for the financially-hamstrung team before leaving at the end of 2013 over a pay row.

Raikkonen moved back to Ferrari for 2014 alongside Fernando Alonso, with Vettel arriving the following year.

Questions over Raikkonen’s motivation and ability have been rife for some time, but without any outstanding candidates for a seat available as things stand, the news is not overly surprising.

Nevertheless, it does defuse some of the silliness of ‘silly season’, with Vettel’s confirmation at Ferrari seemingly set to follow.