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(UPDATED with videos) NHRA at Joliet — The haves keep on having: Capps, Torrence, Tonglet win again

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JOLIET, Illinois — There doesn’t seem to be any stopping NHRA drivers Ron Capps in Funny Car, Steve Torrence in Top Fuel and motorcycle rider LE Tonglet, who all captured wins in Sunday’s final round of the Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

They are the haves of the sport, while those they keep beating are the have nots. Here’s how Sunday played out:

* In Funny Car, 2016 series champion Capps earned his career-high sixth win of the season, but it was his first win ever at Route 66. Capps (4.026 seconds at 319.67 mph) earned his 55th career win, defeating Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.047 seconds at 319.90 mph).

“It’s been a season you can’t even dream about, especially coming off a championship,” Capps said.

Capps, who is in the running to become NHRA’s first winner of an ESPY (this Wednesday), increased his lead in the Funny Car point standings to 1,208 points, a nearly 200-point edge over second-ranked Matt Hagan (1,022).

It was also the 60th career win (both Funny Car and Top Fuel) for Capps’ crew chief, Rahn Tobler.

“60 wins is huge, he’s had a pretty storied career,” Capps said of Tobler. “To get together with him in 2012 is a dream. He’s become an older brother to me, he’s really become family to me.”

As for Capps, who has been racing for more than 30 years, he feels that he’s in his prime at the age of 52.

“I feel like I’m peaking right now, Capps said. “I took a lot of years for granted with Snake (when he raced for Don “Snake” Prudhomme). I was just living in the moment. Now, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been, I work hard or harder than anybody.”

* In Top Fuel, Torrence rolled to his fifth win in the first 13 races of the 2017 NHRA national event season. Torrence (3.779 seconds at 326.08 mph) defeated two-time defending champ Antron Brown (3.786 seconds at 326.71 mph).

You can’t get much closer than this: Torrence defeated Brown by a mere .005 of a second at the finish line.

Ironically, Torrence is now 3-22 lifetime vs. Brown, including 2-1 in final round meetings this season.

“I didn’t have a good car for the first half of the races I raced (Brown) and then I had a mental block,” Torrence said. “Finally, I just got it in the back of my mind and pushed it out. The kind of driver he is, he’s just the whole package. If there’s anybody I would want to emulate, it would be him.”

It was Torrence’s 13th career Top Fuel win; he’s never won more than three races in a single season. With 11 more national events remaining, and the roll he’s been on of late, it’s likely he’ll keep the  most successful season of his career going.

“You don’t want to stop or slow that momentum down,” Torrence said. “We’re bringing our A game every time. It feels really great to have our car, the confidence in our car and tuner and guys on the team. We used to have bullets to drop, but now we’re dropping bombs.”

Torrence remains No. 1 in the Top Fuel point standings with a 101 point edge (1,188 to 1,087) over Leah Pritchett.

“I’m not even thinking championship, I don’t even want to say the word ‘championship,'” Torrence said. “That’s a goal, but the only way you can get to that is one round at a time.”

* In Pro Stock Motorcycle, LE Tonglet continued to be the hottest rider in the sport, earning his fourth win in the last six races (in one of those other two races, teammate Jerry Savoie won, meaning the White Alligator/Nitro Fish team has won five of the last six national events).

Tonglet (6.835 seconds at 195.99 mph) defeated Hector Arana Jr. (6.878 seconds at 193.29 mph).

Tonglet remains No. 1 in the rider stanings, leading Eddie Krawiec (601 to 460 points).

* In Pro Stock, Drew Skillman became the ninth different winner in the category in 2017 and also earning his fourth career Pro Stock win. Skillman (6.627 seconds at 209.23 mph) defeated Erica Enders (6.655 seconds at 207.37 mph).

Skillman is eighth in the Pro Stock points (723 points); Bo Butner remains No. 1 in the standings (1,148 points to second-ranked Greg Anderson (1,009).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Steve Torrence; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  T.J. Zizzo; 4.  Clay Millican; 5.  Brittany Force; 6.  Shawn Langdon; 7.  Blake Alexander; 8.  Leah Pritchett; 9.  Tony Schumacher; 10.  Scott Palmer; 11.  Kyle Wurtzel; 12.  Troy Coughlin Jr.; 13.  Pat Dakin; 14.  Luigi Novelli; 15.  Terry McMillen; 16.  Doug Kalitta.

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

PRO STOCK: 1.  Drew Skillman; 2.  Erica Enders; 3.  Bo Butner; 4.  Jason Line; 5.  Greg Anderson; 6.  Tanner Gray; 7.  Vincent Nobile; 8.  Kenny Delco; 9.  Allen Johnson; 10.  Chris McGaha; 11.  Alex Laughlin; 12.  Mark Hogan; 13.  Shane Tucker; 14.  Jeg Coughlin; 15.  Alan Prusiensky; 16.  Val Smeland.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  LE Tonglet; 2.  Hector Arana Jr; 3.  Karen Stoffer; 4.  Eddie Krawiec; 5.  Scotty Pollacheck; 6.  Angie Smith; 7.  Mike Berry; 8.  Jerry Savoie; 9.  Matt Smith; 10.  Melissa Surber; 11.  Joey Gladstone; 12.  Andrew Hines; 13.  Steve Johnson; 14.  Chip Ellis; 15.  Angelle Sampey; 16.  Cory Reed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL RESULTS: 

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.779 seconds, 326.08 mph  def. Antron Brown, 3.786 seconds, 326.71 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.026, 319.67  def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.047, 319.90.

PRO STOCK: Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.627, 209.23  def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.655, 207.37.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.835, 195.99  def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.878, 193.29.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — T.J. Zizzo, 3.793, 324.36 def. Pat Dakin, Foul – Red Light; Antron Brown, 3.776, 322.42 def. Doug Kalitta, 6.478, 152.78; Clay Millican, 3.813, 323.81 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.906, 300.80; Leah Pritchett, 3.858, 294.18 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 3.968, 279.50; Brittany Force, 4.309, 240.94 def. Luigi Novelli, 4.927, 255.34; Steve Torrence, 3.828, 325.53 def. Scott Palmer, 3.901, 315.12; Blake Alexander, 3.940, 301.54 def. Tony Schumacher, 3.883, 306.26; Shawn Langdon, 3.835, 318.69 def. Terry McMillen, 5.170, 141.08;

QUARTERFINALS — Torrence, 3.843, 324.20 def. Alexander, 4.087, 257.48; Zizzo, 3.787, 324.75 def. Force, 3.817, 322.88; Millican, 3.888, 314.61 def. Langdon, 3.909, 309.91; Brown, 3.853, 305.29 def. Pritchett, 5.247, 139.10;

SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.815, 320.05 def. Zizzo, 3.983, 285.77; Brown, 3.784, 325.53 def. Millican, 4.689, 165.64;

FINAL — Torrence, 3.779, 326.08 def. Brown, 3.786, 326.71.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.162, 251.95 def. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 5.718, 133.68; Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.082, 310.48 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 6.473, 107.50; J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.480, 242.71 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 5.680, 135.61; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.020, 320.28 def. Bob Bode, Charger, Foul – Centerline; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.974, 322.81 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.024, 321.88; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.026, 319.07 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.982, 157.39; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.361, 222.29 def. Brian Stewart, Mustang, 4.825, 176.70; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.005, 320.89 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 4.072, 321.19;

QUARTERFINALS — Johnson Jr., 4.026, 317.72 def. Todd, 4.260, 248.75; Capps, 4.119, 309.98 def. Campbell, 4.432, 204.60; Wilkerson, 4.107, 314.61 def. Beckman, 5.061, 172.65; Hagan, 4.006, 319.60 def. DeJoria, 4.399, 210.67;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson Jr., 4.015, 317.87 def. Wilkerson, 7.734, 117.15; Capps, 4.038, 318.84 def. Hagan, 4.088, 313.58;

FINAL — Capps, 4.026, 319.67 def. Johnson Jr., 4.047, 319.90.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.651, 208.91 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.665, 208.59; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.636, 209.26 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.658, 207.78; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.606, 209.49 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.666, 208.62; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.617, 209.62 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 8.300, 118.12; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.624, 209.23 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.762, 204.54; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.605, 209.88 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.761, 202.79; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.595, 209.85 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, Broke; Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.722, 206.67 def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.791, 207.56;

QUARTERFINALS — Line, 6.637, 209.33 def. Delco, Foul – Red Light; Skillman, 6.622, 208.91 def. Gray, 6.639, 209.10; Butner, 6.623, 209.52 def. Nobile, 6.647, 208.52; Enders, 6.649, 208.68 def. Anderson, 6.614, 209.59;

SEMIFINALS — Enders, 6.649, 208.46 def. Line, 6.654, 208.88; Skillman, 6.625, 209.14 def. Butner, 6.621, 209.69;

FINAL — Skillman, 6.627, 209.23 def. Enders, 6.655, 207.37.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.819, 197.05 def. Chip Ellis, 6.946, 193.10; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.943, 193.16 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.922, 194.60; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.830, 196.36 def. Cory Reed, Foul – Red Light; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.894, 194.38 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.873, 193.38; Mike Berry, Buell, 6.890, 192.66 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.931, 192.77; Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.851, 194.72 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.889, 195.22; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.852, 195.90 def. Angelle Sampey, 6.972, 188.73; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.940, 192.52 def. Matt Smith, Foul – Red Light;

QUARTERFINALS — Stoffer, 6.946, 192.99 def. Savoie, 7.212, 151.14; Krawiec, 6.938, 193.46 def. Berry, 6.949, 191.67; Tonglet, 6.843, 195.65 def. Pollacheck, 6.881, 193.29; Arana Jr, 6.882, 193.88 def. A. Smith, 6.946, 192.25;

SEMIFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.844, 195.03 def. Krawiec, 6.963, 193.07; Tonglet, 6.843, 195.82 def. Stoffer, 6.904, 192.82;

FINAL — Tonglet, 6.835, 195.99 def. Arana Jr, 6.878, 193.29.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS

TOP FUEL: 1.  Steve Torrence, 1,188; 2.  Leah Pritchett, 1,087; 3.  Antron Brown, 1,085; 4.  Tony Schumacher, 894; 5.  Doug Kalitta, 813; 6.  Brittany Force, 795; 7.  Clay Millican, 773; 8.  Terry McMillen, 509; 9.  Scott Palmer, 496; 10.  Troy Coughlin Jr., 480.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Ron Capps, 1,208; 2.  Matt Hagan, 1,022; 3.  Jack Beckman, 914; 4.  Robert Hight, 853; 5.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 833; 6.  Courtney Force, 749; 7.  John Force, 718; 8.  Tim Wilkerson, 599; 9.  J.R. Todd, 559; 10.  Cruz Pedregon, 463.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Bo Butner, 1,148; 2.  Greg Anderson, 1,009; 3.  Tanner Gray, 944; 4.  (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 856; Jason Line, 856; 6.  Erica Enders, 782; 7.  Vincent Nobile, 723; 8.  Drew Skillman, 696; 9.  Chris McGaha, 487; 10.  Allen Johnson, 480.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  LE Tonglet, 601; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 460; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 419; 4.  Scotty Pollacheck, 381; 5.  Jerry Savoie, 379; 6.  Andrew Hines, 349; 7.  Joey Gladstone, 310; 8.  Matt Smith, 300; 9.  Karen Stoffer, 291; 10.  Steve Johnson, 253.

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VIDEO: Celebrating Mexico’s motorsport culture and racing history

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Since returning to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015, the Mexican Grand Prix has already established itself as one of the sport’s most exciting and vibrant races, with hundreds of thousands of fans flocking to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

In order to get a flavor of Mexico’s rich racing heritage, NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton took time out of his summer break to explore Mexico City and also take part in the famous Carrera Panamericana road race.

The Carrea Panamericana is Mexico’s equivalent of the Mille Miglia, initially acting as a border-to-border sportscar event before being cancelled in 1955.

The race was revived in the 1980s, and continues to this day, offering drivers a gruelling, week-long challenge against the clock at high speed on public highways through the mountains of central Mexico.

2017’s Formula 1 race is set to be a poignant one for Mexico following the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck earlier this week, claiming the lives of over 200 people.

With the race set to go ahead as planned, it will be an important statement of unity from Mexico when it welcomes F1 at the end of October, the grand prix taking place on October 29 and acting as another chapter in the nation’s steeped motorsport history.

Mexico’s only F1 driver, Sergio Perez, has set up a fund through which donations can be made to help those affected by the earthquake with full details below.

Donations can also be made via PayPal by clicking here.

F1/IndyCar clashes frequent for 2018 as schedules shape up

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The latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council may not have yielded much in the way of groundbreaking news, but the confirmation of Formula E and the World Endurance Championship’s 2018 schedules did help us get a grip on next year’s racing calendar.

Perhaps the most notable thing with next year’s schedules is the heavy reduction in clashes between the FIA’s three premier track championships – F1, Formula E and WEC – next year, making good on its plans for calendar harmonization moving forward.

WEC confirmed its ‘super season’ schedule earlier this month, stretching 13 months from May 2018 to June 2019, and added Silverstone last week, with the calendar gaining FIA approval in Paris.

Of the 2018 WEC rounds, there is just one clash with another FIA track championship: between the 6 Hours of Fuji and the F1 United States Grand Prix on the October 21 weekend.

While the more pressing worry for drivers is between WEC and Formula E after the July 16 debacle this year, no WEC and F1 clashes is good news for Fernando Alonso, who could well appear at Le Mans next year as part of his Triple Crown bid.

Formula E does have a number of F1 clashes, albeit not until the sixth event of its season, with the Rome race being held on the April 15 weekend where the Bahrain Grand Prix also sits (for now – China is due to swap dates).

Other Formula E and F1 clashes come on April 29 (Paris/Azerbaijan), June 10 (Zurich/Canada) and July 29 (Montreal/Hungary), although by shifting the New York City ePrix back one week to July 14-15, a gap has been found in the schedule.

For those operating across all three series (including yours truly), there is now a busy run between the start of the F1 season in Australia and the start of the summer break in Hungary with just three empty weekends.

As for IndyCar clashes? The condensed nature of the series’ schedule and the expansion of F1’s calendar to 21 races means they are inevitable. That said, as IndyCar is outside of the FIA’s realm of control, it was never really in the mix for its harmonization plans.

Yet again there is a clash between the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, sadly something we have become accustomed to in recent years, but over half the IndyCar calendar faces an F1 clash next year. There may be further ones to come when a couple other race dates get announced.

Here’s a full run-down of the F1/IndyCar double dip weekends thus far:

April 7-8: Chinese GP, Phoenix Grand Prix
April 14-15: Bahrain GP, Grand Prix of Long Beach
May 12-13: Spanish GP, Indianapolis GP
May 26-27: Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500
June 9-10: Canadian GP, Texas 600
June 23-24: French GP, Road America GP
July 7-8: British GP, Iowa Corn 300
August 25-26: Belgian GP, Gateway 500
September 15-16: Singapore GP, Sonoma GP

Bahrain, China ‘on-track’ to swap F1 race dates for 2018

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Next year’s Formula 1 races in China and Bahrain are “on-track” to swap dates in order to maximize their local exposure, according to the sport’s commercial chief, Sean Bratches.

The provisional F1 schedule for 2018 lists the Chinese Grand Prix as the second round of the season, taking place on April 8, with the Bahrain Grand Prix taking place one week later on April 15.

However, plans are afoot to swap the races around due to the Qingming national holiday that is set to take place in China on the April 8 weekend, potentially having a negative impact on crowd numbers at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“We’re trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure we’re maximizing the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix,” Bratches told Reuters.

“We’re talking to both of them to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on-track to happen, you’ll probably see that,” he said.

No updates were made to the F1 schedule for 2018 at the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris this week, meaning no switch between Bahrain and China will be ratified until the start of December at the earliest.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”