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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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Stroll rewarded with shoey after first F1 podium in Baku (VIDEO)

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Lance Stroll was “lost for words” after becoming the second-youngest Formula 1 podium finisher in Sunday’s chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix, crossing the line third for Williams.

Stroll qualified eighth in Baku before managing to rise up the order as a race of attrition set in at the front, with title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both dropping back after coming to blows.

Stroll was left running second behind Daniel Ricciardo once Hamilton had pitted for repairs and Vettel had served his penalty, but had Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas bearing down through the closing stages.

In a drag race at the line, Bottas nosed ahead of Stroll by just 0.1 seconds to deny the Williams driver P2, but he was nevertheless able to hang on to third place.

Coming just two weeks after his maiden F1 points finish and following a barrage of criticism in the early part of the year, Stroll was overjoyed with the result.

“I’m just lost for words right now. I don’t even know what to say,” Stroll said.

“I can’t quite realize what just happened. It was a hectic race, people crashing and we stayed out of trouble, I kept my head cool and took it to the end.

“I lost out to Valtteri in the end. I reckon that was probably one of the closest finishes of all time! We were side-by-side across the finish line.

“What a race. I couldn’t believe coming into the weekend that I would be standing on the podium, it’s so amazing.”

Joining race winner and shoey extraordinaire Ricciardo on the podium, Stroll became the latest driver to take part in F1’s strangest tradition – albeit only after Ricciardo checked he was old enough.

Stroll completed the shoey like a champ, and was also informed that he had won the online Driver of the Day vote.

The result also saw Stroll became Canada’s first podium finisher since Jacques Villeneuve in 2001, as well as being the youngest ever rookie to finish in the top three.

Stroll missed out on the overall youngest podium record by 11 days to Max Verstappen, who won last year’s Spanish Grand Prix during his second season of racing in F1.

Ricciardo doubted Baku F1 win was possible, left ‘speechless’ on podium

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A stunned Daniel Ricciardo was left speechless on the podium after claiming his fifth Formula 1 victory in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, navigating a crazy race that he started from 10th on the grid.

Ricciardo survived three safety car periods, two early pit stops and a red flag stoppage to rise through the order and capitalize on trouble for title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, with both dropping back down the order after dominating early on.

Ricciardo moved into the lead when Vettel was forced to serve a penalty for dangerous driving, and went unchallenged en route to victory in Baku from there, finishing 3.9 seconds clear of the pack.

Struggling to form his words initially, Ricciardo said he only thought a podium was within reach after the restart, only for the issues for the leaders to hand him the race win.

“We know there was a chance of the podium after the restart, but then we heard what happened with Lewis and Seb. It was just a crazy race,” Ricciardo said.

“I made an unplanned stop at the beginning. After a few laps we had some debris in the brakes, so we had to stop and clean it. We dropped to 17th place.

“So did I think then that we could win? Absolutely not. I would have put all my money on it that this was very unlikely.

“A crazy race. This is the race we expected last year, with all the safety cars and all the chaos, and we got it this year.”

Ricciardo’s victory came after he crashed out of qualifying on Saturday evening in Baku, resigning him to a P10 start, but was pleased to make up for it in style.

“Yesterday I was disappointed with the mistake. I knew today would be a different outcome,” Ricciardo said.

“I said it yesterday that we had to stay out of trouble and it certainly paid off today. A big thanks to the team, it was nice to get one car home and on the podium.

“I’m honestly speechless. After the race on the cool down lap, I was kind of just giggling like a school boy.”

WATCH LIVE: KOHLER Grand Prix at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Road America this weekend, with the now 55-lap KOHLER Grand Prix this afternoon.

You can watch it LIVE on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app starting at 11 a.m. CT and local time, noon ET.

Coverage has moved up half an hour from a planned 12:30 p.m. ET start time with the Formula 1 race from Azerbaijan running long.

This moves the Indy Lights second race of the weekend, which was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET, with Jake Query and Anders Krohn in the booth and Hargitt in pit lane.

Coverage will run through to 3:30 p.m. ET. INDYCAR: NEXT at the 101st Indianapolis 500 is scheduled from 3:30 to 4 p.m. ET.

Kevin Lee is on the call along with analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy, with Marty Snider, Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller in the pits.

Helio Castroneves secured the pole position for the race. The full qualifying report is linked here.

Ricciardo wins crazy Azerbaijan GP as Vettel, Hamilton come to blows

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Daniel Ricciardo survived one of the most chaotic Formula 1 races in recent memory to win the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as championship rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton both hit trouble and came to blows on-track.

A clash between the pair under the safety car acted as the first sign of a needle in their title fight, relations having remained fairly cordial to this point.

Vettel was deemed to be responsible for dangerous driving, receiving a penalty, while Hamilton was forced into an unplanned second stop when his headrest came loose, ruling both title contenders out of contention for victory.

All of this allowed Daniel Ricciardo to battle his way from 10th place on the grid to take Red Bull’s first win of the season, leading home Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and F1 rookie Lance Stroll, who took Williams’ first podium in over a year in just his eighth grand prix start.

Hamilton managed to make a clean getaway from pole position to retain his lead ahead Mercedes teammate Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, only for contact between the two to leave both cars with damage. In Bottas’ case, a new front wing was required, leaving him to limp back to the pits and fall a lap down.

The incident allowed Vettel to gain two places and run second behind Hamilton, with Sergio Perez moving up to third for Force India ahead of Max Verstappen and Raikkonen down in fifth, the Finn unamused by Bottas’ move at Turn 2.

Hamilton wasted little time in beginning to push at the front, quickly opening up a three-second gap ahead of Vettel, forcing the Ferrari man to respond to stop the gap from growing further.

In the battle behind, Perez was left fighting hard to keep Verstappen back with some bold defensive moves, only to soon be relieved of the pressure when the Red Bull driver suffered an engine problem, causing him to slow and drop all the way to eighth.

The safety car was deployed on Lap 12 to allow Daniil Kvyat’s stricken Toro Rosso to be recovered after an engine issue, sparking the lead drivers to dive into the pits. Hamilton was able to retain his lead ahead of Vettel, but Verstappen was forced to park his car up in the garage, marking his fourth retirement in six races.

The entirety of the field made use of the safety car to pit and switch to the soft tire that would likely take them to the end of the race, with Hamilton heading the field ahead of Vettel and Perez for the restart on Lap 17.

Hamilton bolted early as the safety car peeled in, dropping the surprised Vettel into the clutches of Perez behind. Vettel was able to defend on the inside at Turn 1 and hold the position, but teammate Raikkonen was less fortunate, slipping behind Felipe Massa and Esteban Ocon. The Ferrari driver also lost a chunk of bodywork from his car at Turn 1, prompting the stewards to throw a second safety car to allow the track to be cleared.

After nearly catching the safety car up on the first restart, Hamilton went to the other extreme the second time around, bunching the field right up. The Briton slowed so much that Vettel bumped into the back of him at Turn 15, before going side-by-side and raising his hand to complain. The pair touched again, Vettel appearing to drive towards Hamilton in a deliberate move.

When the race returned to green, Hamilton streamed away at the front while Vettel, running with damage, was left to defend his position from Massa, Perez and Ocon behind.

Massa tried to pass on the inside and moved up to third, while Ocon dived past Force India teammate Perez at Turn 3 and made contact, leaving both cars with damage. Ocon pitted and got a new front wing before going back out, but Perez was less fortunate, returning to his garage.

The safety car was deployed for the third time as debris was cleared, albeit too late for Raikkonen, who sustained damage to his car after running over bodywork at Turn 1, forcing him to head to the garage.

With debris strewn across the track, the FIA race stewards opted to throw a red flag so that the marshals could properly clear it, leaving all of the cars to return to the pit lane and queue up. Both Vettel and Hamilton were left in deep conversation with their teams regarding their clash, with the stewards doing much the same, confirming the incident was under investigation.

As teams waited for the race to resume behind the safety car, Ferrari and Force India were both able to complete rapid repairs on Raikkonen and Perez’s cars to get them back into the race, albeit two laps down on the field.

Around 25 minutes after the red flag was thrown, the race resumed behind the safety car with Hamilton and Vettel leading the way. Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll made the most of the madness to rise up to third and fourth respectively for Williams, while Ricciardo sat fifth for Red Bull.

Ricciardo was the big mover on the restart – which was absent of contact – to move from fifth to third ahead of both Williams drivers. Having reported a problem on his car, Massa began to lose multiple positions, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg clipped the wall and damaged his car, resigning both to retirement.

As the stewards continued to mull over his clash with Vettel, Hamilton began to pull away at the front once more, running over two seconds clear of his rival as the race passed half distance. His race took a twist when his head rest started to come loose, forcing the Briton to try to push it back down while running at 200 mph on the main straight. Unable to clip it back in fully, Hamilton was left to manage as best he could to keep the head protection in place.

Not wishing to risk a safety breach, Mercedes had no choice but to pit Hamilton from the lead and fit a new headrest, dropping the Briton all the way back to eighth place. However, just as he came in, the stewards announced that Vettel had been hit with a 10 second stop/go penalty for dangerous driving, pulling the race away from the Ferrari man just when it had been presented handed to him.

Vettel served his penalty and emerged back out on-track in seventh, one place ahead of Hamilton, with both drivers unhappy with the sanction that had been handed out. All of this left Ricciardo leading from Stroll and Magnussen, with Ocon fourth and Bottas – who was a lap down early on – fifth with 15 laps to go.

Magnussen was powerless to stop the Mercedes-powered cars from passing, with Bottas also overhauling Ocon to take third. Vettel and Hamilton were also able to slip past Magnussen before coming across Ocon, the Force India being made light work of, making Bottas the next target with six laps to go, who himself was catching Stroll at a rapid rate of knots.

At the front, though, Ricciardo had no such dramas to contend with. After 51 crazy laps in Baku, the Red Bull driver crossed the line to record the fifth victory of his grand prix career and the team’s first of the season.

Bottas denied Stroll second place at the line, finishing just 0.1 seconds ahead after a drag race at the finish, but the Canadian was nevertheless able to take third for Williams in just his eighth grand prix start, acting as a remarkable result for the rookie.

Vettel’s fightback from his penalty saw him finish fourth and extend his championship lead to 14 points over Hamilton, who was left to settle for fifth place.

Esteban Ocon took sixth for Force India – a good result given his clash with Perez and damage – while Kevin Magnussen took seventh for Haas ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr.

Fernando Alonso was another driver to benefit from the race of attrition, crossing the line ninth to take McLaren’s first points of the season and end its point-less run. Pascal Wehrlein rounded out the points for Sauber in P10.

Formula 1 returns in two weeks’ time with the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.