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NHRA U.S. Nationals No. 1 qualifiers: Millican (TF), Hagan (FC), Anderson (PS), Krawiec (PSM)

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The field is set for Monday’s final eliminations in the 63rd NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana.

Here’s the No. 1 qualifiers: Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) in the 18th of 24 events on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

It’s also the final race of the regular season. The six-race Countdown to the Championship begins next week.

In addition to the No. 1 qualifiers, “Fast Jack” Beckman won Sunday’s Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Cars, a special race within a race in the world’s largest drag race.

Beckman (3.592 seconds at 324.67 mph) defeated Robert Hight (4.360 seconds at 207.11 mph) in the Traxxas Shootout final round.

Beckman maintains a perfect 3-0 win in the finals of the Traxxas Shootout. He took home $100,000 for the win.

“Just getting in to the Shootout is incredibly difficult,” Beckman said in an NHRA media release. “That’s what makes it exciting, there’s a big litany of ways to make your way into the field but then there’s only one way to get the trophy.

“You’ve got to beat three of the baddest fuel cars on the planet in one day. There’s always something that makes this Traxxas final round eventful.”

In Top Fuel, Millican earned his second consecutive U.S. Nationals No. 1 qualifier.

Millican piloted his Parts Plus / Great Clips dragster to his second consecutive No. 1 U.S. Nationals qualifying position, as well as his third of the season and eighth overall of his career.

Millican led all drivers with a field-best run and LOR track record of 3.663 seconds at 329.10 mph during Saturday’s qualifying.

In Monday’s first round of eliminations, Millican will face No. 16 qualifier Kebin Kensley. No. 2 Leah Pritchett will face Wayne Newby. No. 3 Traxxas Nitro Shootout winner Steve Torrence will face rookie Ashley Sanford.

In Funny Car, Matt Hagan took the top qualifying spot with a run of 3.799 seconds at an amazing 338.77 mph – both track records – that came during Friday’s qualifying session.

It’s Hagan’s fourth No. 1 spot this season, fourth in the U.S. Nationals and 30th of his Funny Car career.

“The U.S. Nats is a huge race,” Hagan said. “We won it last year. I guess no one has ever doubled-up and gone No. 1 twice.

“It’s a pretty tough stat to hear but I hope we can make some history tomorrow and do that. I feel really good about the car, about the race track and what we’re doing.”

Hagan will face Jim Campbell in the first round. No. 2 Hight will face Justin Schriefer. Defending 2016 Funny Car champion Ron Capps qualified 8th for Monday, but in doing so, also clinched the No. 1 seed heading into the Countdown to the Championship.

In Pro Stock, Anderson scored the 90th No. 1 qualifier of his career, his third of the 2017 season and fifth at the U.S. Nationals with a run of 6.561 seconds at 210.11 mph.

“My Chevy is just happy up here, it loves this place just as much as I do,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t seem like it wants to or can make a bad run, knock on wood. I hope it’s going to be great the rest of the weekend.”

Anderson will face Kenny Delco in the first round. Rookie Tanner Gray qualified No. 2 and will race Derik Kramer, while No. 3 qualifier Drew Skillman faces five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the first round, as well.

Lastly, in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec earned his third No. 1 qualifier of the season, his second at the U.S. Nationals and 36th of his career with Saturday night’s top pass of 6.822 seconds at 196.62 mph.

“Fortunate for me I’ve had low elapsed time pretty much four out of the last five rounds and tied low E.T. of the first session,” Krawiec said “So, I have an awesome motorcycle going into tomorrow.

“And right now my main focus is just going out there keeping good reaction time, making clean laps down the drag strip. Lucas Oil Raceway has been good to me so far so hopefully it’s really good to me tomorrow.”

Krawiec will face Jim Underdahl in the first round of eliminations, while Krawiec’s teammate, No. 2 qualifier Andrew Hines, will face Angelle Sampey in the first round. Points leader LE Tonglet qualified No. 8, but in doing so clinched his No. 1 seed into the Countdown.

Monday’s eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET. However, NHRA will be watching the skies: heavy rain is due to hit the Indianapolis area in the late afternoon, which would be right around the final round of eliminations in all four pro classes.

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STATISTICS:

TRAXXAS FUNNY CAR SHOOTOUT: ROUND ONE — Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.872, 331.77 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.000, 324.98; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.949, 309.98 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.918, 331.45; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.871, 330.55 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 329.91; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.889, 332.34 def. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.956, 316.60;

SEMIFINALS — Hight, 3.893, 332.51 def. J. Force, 3.954, 314.24; Beckman, 4.942, 204.23 def. Capps, 5.568, 129.33;

FINAL — Beckman, 3.952, 324.67 def. Hight, 4.360, 207.11.

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Monday’s first-round eliminations pairings:

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.663 seconds, 329.10 mph vs. 16. Kebin Kinsley, 3.808, 319.29; 2. Leah Pritchett, 3.667, 329.50 vs. 15. Wayne Newby, 3.795, 321.88; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.673, 329.50 vs. 14. Ashley Sanford, 3.775, 322.04; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.680, 330.31 vs. 13. Terry McMillen, 3.770, 321.81; 5. Doug Kalitta, 3.682, 329.58 vs. 12. Richie Crampton, 3.756, 329.91; 6. Antron Brown, 3.689, 329.91 vs. 11. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 328.54; 7. Bob Vandergriff, 3.719, 325.30 vs. 10. Pat Dakin, 3.752, 311.49; 8. Brittany Force, 3.734, 330.23 vs. 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.748, 289.82.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Ike Maier, 3.861, 311.27; 18. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.970, 292.33.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.799, 338.77 vs. 16. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.060, 317.94; 2. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.807, 336.23 vs. 15. Justin Schriefer, Charger, 4.033, 313.95; 3. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.837, 334.90 vs. 14. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.015, 305.70; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.849, 336.74 vs. 13. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.999, 320.81; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.859, 333.16 vs. 12. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.988, 324.98; 6. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.865, 332.34 vs. 11. Brian Stewart, Ford Mustang, 3.924, 296.44; 7. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.865, 329.83 vs. 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.902, 330.23; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.871, 330.55 vs. 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.881, 332.02.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.118, 305.01; 18. Bob Bode, 4.983, 158.26.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.561, 210.64 vs. 16. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.661, 208.68; 2. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.566, 209.88 vs. 15. Deric Kramer, Dodge Dart, 6.628, 207.21; 3. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.570, 210.18 vs. 14. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.625, 209.20; 4. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.572, 210.34 vs. 13. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.615, 209.46; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.576, 210.01 vs. 12. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.607, 209.17; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.577, 209.95 vs. 11. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.604, 209.10; 7. Johnny Gray, Camaro, 6.596, 210.11 vs. 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.601, 209.43; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.598, 209.62 vs. 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.599, 209.65.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Shane Tucker, 6.668, 206.89; 18. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.681, 207.24; 19. Larry Morgan, 6.684, 207.75; 20. Alan Prusiensky, 6.724, 206.20.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.822, 196.70 vs. 16. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.984, 191.67; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.825, 196.02 vs. 15. Angelle Sampey, Victory, 6.944, 192.06; 3. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.840, 196.16 vs. 14. Cory Reed, Victory, 6.941, 189.02; 4. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.840, 196.02 vs. 13. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.940, 191.81; 5. Chip Ellis, Victory, 6.848, 194.66 vs. 12. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.936, 190.30; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.862, 194.55 vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.932, 192.60; 7. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.864, 194.72 vs. 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.914, 193.93; 8. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.876, 195.96 vs. 9. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.897, 192.82.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Ryan Oehler, 7.026, 189.84; 18. Mark Paquette, 7.061, 187.31; 19. Lance Bonham, 7.347, 184.35; 20. Odolph Daniels, 7.444, 174.68; 21. Wendell Daniels, 7.605, 171.29; 22. Andie Rawlings, 7.917, 169.51.

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Mexican GP to go ahead as planned, facilities unharmed by earthquake

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Next month’s Mexican Grand Prix is set to go ahead as planned after facilities at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez were unharmed by the earthquake that struck Mexico City earlier this week.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico on Tuesday, claiming the lives of over 200 people as well as toppling dozens of buildings in the capital.

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is set to host the third-to-last round of the 2017 Formula 1 season on October 29, and will go ahead as planned after facilities were unharmed by the earthquake.

“It’s been inspected twice already from the track surface and also the buildings, and it’s OK,” marketing chief Rodrigo Sanchez told Reuters.

“We’ll continue doing the assessments as we go but so far there’s really no concern. We’ll have a race.

“We’re trying to put out there all the information relevant to how people can help. Right now the concern is really getting everything back to moving from the city perspective and supporting any way we can.

“If things stay the same, we’ll just keep working on what we’re doing.

“The track is fine so we just need to re-focus and get this show done.”

Mexico’s only F1 driver, Sergio Perez, has donated $170,000 to support those affected by the earthquake, while the Carlos Slim Foundation is set to match every donation made five-fold.

IndyCar delivers its second-best season on NBCSN in 2017

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In the ninth year of its 10-year contract with the Verizon IndyCar Series (formerly as Versus and now as NBCSN), NBCSN produced its second-best season on record this year.

With a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 507,000 viewers per race, the 2017 season of races on NBCSN was just 1 percent off the best mark of 510,000 viewers per race in 2015.

This season’s viewership on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app exceeded the 2016 TAD of 492,000 viewers by 3 percent (excludes Texas and Pocono races in 2016, which were rescheduled due to weather), and was just 1 percent shy of NBCSN’s record TAD in 2015 (510,000).

TAD measures consumption across multiple platforms, combining the average minute audience (AMA) for television and digital. The 2016 release details are linked here.

Seven of the 12 races aired on NBCSN had a TAD of more than 500,000 with the most coming at Pocono with 624,000. In terms of household ratings, Indianapolis was the top local market with Richmond-Petersburg, Greenville, West Palm Beach and Greensboro coming in the top five.

The full 2017 release details are linked here.

Veach, Andretti, Group One Thousand One able to build for future

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Rare are the words “American,” “young driver,” “multi-year” and “IndyCar” assembled within a sentence in modern day Verizon IndyCar Series racing.

But for young American driver Zach Veach, he’s got a multi-year IndyCar contract at his disposal thanks to Group One Thousand One at Andretti Autosport, and with it, an opportunity to build, grow and develop over that three-year time period through 2020.

It’s hard to believe Veach, the Stockdale, Ohio native, is only 22 considering his history in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires between 2010 and 2016, competing every year save for one (2015) due to injury and a lack of budget.

But throughout that period he gradually improved year-by-year, first in USF2000, then in Pro Mazda and finally in Indy Lights. Over his three years and with two different cars in Indy Lights, Veach grew into a race winner and bulked up from his already slender frame.

Veach is also the first driver in MRTI history to have been with the same team in all three levels, and graduate into IndyCar. He detoured to Belardi Auto Racing in 2016 but otherwise, was part of Andretti Autosport’s lineup from 2010 to 2014, and will now come back “home” for 2018 in IndyCar.

Veach and Michael Andretti before Star Mazda debut, Sonoma, 2011. Photo: IndyCar

“I think he was 14 or 15 when we met the first time… and he looked like he was 10. Now he’s 22, and looks like he’s 15!” Michael Andretti laughed.

“But he’s always impressed me. OK, he’d come out of the box not bad. But the next race, he got better, and you could see it. It wasn’t by mistake. You’d see how he’d work, take the information, study it for hours, and then come back so much more prepared the next day.

“I gotta say, I don’t think there’s as many drivers I’ve known outside the car who’ve worked that hard to make themselves better, and he did that all the way up the ladder system. There’s a lot of confidence in big cars, and now he’ll have more tools and will use them to his advantage. So he might start here, qualify top-18, then it’ll start to go up, up, then qualify top-10 by the end of the year and I believe the next year he’ll be more of a contender. That’s how I envision it.”

Setting reasonable and realistic expectations will be key for Veach, who should look at drivers like Josef Newgarden or Charlie Kimball for inspiration.

Newgarden’s first year with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing was littered with rookie errors, not a single top-10 finish, and ending 23rd in the championship. But knowing he had two more years to build off of, Newgarden was a podium finisher each of the next two years and had leapt 10 spots in the standings. By his fourth year and his second contract in 2015, he was a race winner.

Kimball was the same way with Chip Ganassi Racing. Barely in the top-20 in points his first year with only a couple top-10s, he ascended to podiums in year two as well, and scored his first race win in year three – when he also cracked the top-10 in points.

Given Veach’s years of preparing for this moment, he’s happy to have gotten to IndyCar now, rather than rushing it years earlier.

“I was one of those kids who thought he would be in IndyCar at 18. That’s so dumb! Looking back, I’m so glad that’s not how it happened,” Veach told NBC Sports.

“It’s hard to be patient when you’re young. I know I’m saying that at age 22, but at 15 or 16, all you care about is getting to IndyCar.

“Luckily, life forced me to be patient in some things. I would much rather have this deal at age 23 than at 18, because now I feel I can deliver what these people have put on my shoulders.”

Veach, Towriss and Andretti. Photo: IndyCar

The key person to have come through with the deal is Dan Towriss, CEO, Group One Thousand One. Veach, his pastor and Towriss all connected in the run-up to the Indianapolis 500, with Veach’s program for that race announced at Long Beach with A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

Towriss explained first off that Group One Thousand One is a separate insurance company from Guggenheim Life, which was the presenting sponsor of Veach’s No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship Chevrolet in Indianapolis.

“Group One Thousand One is a group of insurance companies based in Indianapolis, and again, we’re growing our business, and we’re excited to be associated with Andretti and with Zach in this newest venture of ours,” Towriss explained.

“His story is one of perseverance and continuing to work hard. It resonates with us very well; helping people help themselves, and so we will help him continue on that journey. During May, we noted the way he was able to persevere, and work with his engineers when things weren’t able to work.”

Veach at Indy 500 this year. Photo: IndyCar

Veach is one of the smallest drivers in the series, at 5 and a half feet and hovering around 130 pounds. But outside the cockpit he’s developed a love of mountain climbing, and has been able to scale several cliffs over the last couple years.

His upper body strength is something he’s focused on building and he has come a long way from his early years in the MRTI. Manhandling an IndyCar is difficult, particularly as they don’t have power steering, but it’s something Veach has been working on.

“I think the first couple of tests will be hard, but they’ll be hard for everyone after the three-month offseason,” he said. “But we’re already 10 pounds heavier than we were at the Indy 500 and I’m proud to say there’s not a lot of fat!

“We’ve been busting our butts at St. Vincent’s to get stronger. Our numbers to now from where we started are night and day. We’ll keep working hard and as we get closer to the season, we’ll shift to more cardiovascular work. I’m at 128, 130 pounds now and I’d like to be at 135 when the season starts. I think it’s well within reach.”

Veach described the challenge of advancing up the ladder despite not winning a single Mazda Motorsports advancement scholarship for winning any of the three rungs on the ladder.

Veach (12) with longtime friend Gabby Chaves (7) in 2013 Freedom 100. Photo: IndyCar

“It’s not something I’m proud of. But one thing I am very proud of is that I’ve been very honest,” he said. “I had some success in USF2000, it was hit and miss in Pro Mazda, and in Indy Lights, I really came into my own. I proved to people that I could run up front and win races.

“What got me there was having that work ethic, trying to learn as much as I could from teammates who were quick and put that to use. Working with drivers like Felix Rosenqvist really helped. He showed me just how deep a car can go into the braking zone, with all that Formula 3 experience!

“He’s such a good driver and I hope to see him over here. He’s one of my closest friends and I don’t know anyone who deserves an IndyCar ride more than he does.

“It was a completely different set of skills and I think that’s why we didn’t hit our stride until the last part of the year. We won Road America, but winning at Watkins Glen and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca showed me where I wanted to be all year.

“It wasn’t until then that the team and I felt comfortable with what we were doing. There was added pressure when I became the team leader but that’s when things started turning around because the setups went in the exact direction I wanted them to go. That’s when things really started to click.”

Veach with USF2000 veteran Ayla Agren and Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman at Sonoma. Photo: IndyCar

The final element of Veach’s perseverance was his continued presence at the races. He found a home as a regular analyst and occasional pit road reporter for the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network in 2015, and made regular appearances there in 2016 and 2017 as well. He also drove a two-seater for the Indy Racing Experience in the same time frame.

“I think it was extremely important just from the standpoint of showing people I wasn’t going to go away,” Veach said.

“I think I got a little criticism from others involved sometimes just saying, ‘Well, why are you there if you’re not doing anything and not driving?’ You have to stay relevant, and that’s just what we were trying to do. Luckily enough, IndyCar Radio gave me a great opportunity. It’s the first kind of real job I ever had with them.

“I owe them many thanks, and of course the Indy Racing Experience with the two-seater. Even though it’s a two-seater I still got to run at places I’ve never raced at before. So I’m going to a few new tracks next year. It’s not the same thing but at least I know which way to go. I think that’s going to help us be a little quicker.

“It’s just never giving up on the dream. It’s learning every day. It’s never taking no for an answer.”

Boullier: Honda F1 deal ‘a proper disaster’ for McLaren’s credibility

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McLaren’s three-year stint with Formula 1 engine partner Honda has been a “proper disaster” for the team’s credibility, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren announced last Friday in Singapore it would be parting company with Honda at the end of the season, switching to Renault power units for 2018.

The confirmation put an end to months of uncertainty surrounding the future of the McLaren-Honda partnership, which has seen the British team struggle towards the back of the field since 2015.

McLaren faces a big task to recover the lost financial support from Honda while also trying to attract new sponsors, but Boullier is confident the decision to change engine partner will help its cause.

“When you look at the last three years, it’s been a proper disaster for us in terms of credibility and getting new sponsors,” Boullier told the official F1 website.

“And then you have to take the long-term view: in the next five years I am absolutely sure that we will go back to where McLaren belongs.

“And with this bouncing back we get our credibility back and it will rebuild our sponsor portfolio. It might take two to three years.

“We are ninth in the championship – with a top engine I think we would be fourth right now and just on the FOM money we could cover the engine side, so it will not be a big risk on the monetary side.

“Thanks to the shareholders who have been brave enough to take a sporting choice and not hurt McLaren. They could have said: ‘Let’s wait until Honda wakes up’.”