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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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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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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FINAL RESULTS:

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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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

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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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

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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Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.