Langdon (TF), Capps (FC), McGaha (PS) and Ray (PSM) remain No. 1 qualifiers for NHRA Four-Wide Nationals finals on Sunday

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Friday’s top qualifiers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway had so much fun that day that their runs held up to pace their respective classes after Saturday’s final two rounds of qualifying.

Shawn Langdon enters Sunday’s final eliminations No. 1 in Top Fuel, while other No. 1’s are Ron Capps (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Langdon’s 3.753-second run at 321.81 mph in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster on Friday held up during Saturday’s final two rounds of qualifying to set the pace in Top Fuel.

“We’ve had a really good car this year in qualifying,” Langdon said. “The Al-Anabi team has done an excellent job qualifying, getting towards the top, and we were able to get a couple of No. 1 qualifiers.

“Today, it was just very critical to make good runs in the lanes just because of having the four-wide, where you make one run in each lane.”

Although it was his 15th career No. 1 qualifying position, the defending 2013 NHRA Top Fuel champion has struggled to reach the finals in the first five races this season. He’s still seeking his first win of 2014.

“It’s just a matter of getting the consistency back in the car, and that’s something we’ve been striving to do,” Langdon said. “Since we’ve been kind of assessing everything from the beginning of the year, our problem has been smoking the tires on Sunday, so getting the consistency back in the car is a big thing for us right now.”

With the unique four-car, side-by-side racing – hence why it’s called the Four-Wide Nationals – Langdon will race Steve Torrence, Spencer Massey and Terry McMillen in Sunday’s first round of eliminations.

In Funny Car, Capps’ run of 4.059 seconds at 314.24 mph on Friday held up Saturday, giving Capps the No. 1 spot for Sunday’s finals.

“Today was quite a bit different,” said Capps, who earned his first No. 1 of the season and 16th of his career. “It will be nice conditions for the fans but track-wise a little warm, and that’s great to have a crew chief like Rahn (Tobler).

“I’ve bragged about it before. I have loved and love working with crew chiefs that are old school. You know, they go back and look at the parts and analyze things and look at the big picture. Tobler’s a good guy to have at a Four-Wide with all that’s going on.”

Capps will face Del Worsham, Alexis DeJoria and Chad Head in Sunday’s opening round of eliminations.

In Pro Stock, once again Friday’s best speed and time held up during Saturday’s qualifying. McGaha’s run of 6.523 seconds at 213.10 mph earned him the second No. 1 qualifying position of his career.

“I know there were a lot of doubters who didn’t think that we could have instant success, but I don’t think we’d have done this deal if we didn’t think we’d be where we are now,” said McGaha, who will face Jimmy Alund, V Gaines and Larry Morgan in Sunday’s first round of eliminations.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Ray earned his second No. 1 qualifying spot in the last three races, having also been No. 1 at Gainesville. His 6.816 seconds run at 197.02 mph on Friday couldn’t be topped by his challengers on Saturday. Ray will face Mike Berry, Chaz Kennedy and Katie Sullivan in the first round.

“We came out this morning with a tune-up that we’d use for eliminations and I had the best sixty-foot time of my career with a 1.045 and that’s really hauling the mail,” said Ray. “The way I look at it if I am on my game there not a bike out there that is going to beat me.”

Interestingly, while they didn’t earn the No. 1 qualifying spots, Brittany Force (Top Fuel, 325.61 mph), Courtney Force (Funny Car, 316.01 mph) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock, 213.13 mph) all had the top speeds in their respective classes.

All three are hoping to reach a historic milestone of 100 wins by female drivers in NHRA history. The mark heading into this weekend was 98 wins, with Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Enders-Stevens the last females to win a national event in their respective classes, having done so two weeks ago at Las Vegas.

Final eliminations for Sunday’s race begin at Noon ET on Sunday.

Here are the first-round pairing for eliminations for the Fifth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel — 1. Shawn Langdon, 3.753 seconds, 324.12 mph  vs. 16. Terry McMillen, 5.591, 120.19 vs. 8. Steve Torrence, 3.818, 322.81  vs. 9. Spencer Massey, 3.827, 321.42; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.781, 325.06  vs. 15. Bob Vandergriff, 4.949, 145.08 vs.7. Doug Kalitta, 3.816, 322.42  vs. 10. Pat Dakin, 3.841, 313.15;; 3. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.793, 324.98  vs. 14. Sidnei Frigo, 4.481, 180.07 vs. 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.815, 321.73  vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.855, 305.22; 4. Antron Brown, 3.794, 320.89  vs. 13. Clay Millican, 3.904, 292.58; 5. Brittany Force, 3.800, 325.61  vs. 12. Leah Pritchett, 3.856, 318.77.

Funny Car — 1. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.059, 314.24  vs. 16. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 4.381, 219.86  vs. 8. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.097, 300.80  vs. 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.113, 308.43; 2. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.074, 311.99  vs. 15. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.206, 286.80  vs. 7. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.088, 310.91  vs. 10. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.119, 303.84; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.079, 310.55  vs. 14. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.145, 306.05  vs. 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.086, 316.01  vs. 11. John Force, Mustang, 4.130, 304.39; 4. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.080, 311.70  vs. 13. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.136, 305.98  vs. 5. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.084, 312.06  vs. 12. Blake Alexander, Charger, 4.132, 302.62.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.439, 259.41.

Pro Stock — 1. Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.523, 213.10  vs. 16. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 7.142, 196.30  vs. 8. Jimmy Alund, Camaro, 6.550, 212.39  vs. 9. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.560, 212.63; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.524, 213.13  vs. 15. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 7.093, 201.43  vs. 7. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.546, 212.49  vs. 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.564, 211.93; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.531, 212.59  vs. 14. Justin Humphreys, Mustang, 6.676, 208.36  vs. 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.542, 212.73  vs. 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.577, 211.46; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.534, 212.79  vs. 13. Robert Patrick, Mustang, 6.616, 209.43  vs. 5. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.538, 212.69  vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.577, 211.06.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.816, 197.02  vs. 16. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.961, 190.83  vs. 8. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.873, 193.29  vs. 9. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.874, 195.31; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.825, 196.27  vs. 15. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.956, 194.46  vs. 7. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.873, 195.19  vs. 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.875, 194.02; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.842, 197.48  vs. 14. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.954, 193.99  vs. 6. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.856, 198.32  vs. 11. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.892, 195.59; 4. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.843, 197.91  vs. 13. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.915, 192.82  vs. 5. John Hall, Buell, 6.846, 196.07  vs. 12. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.900, 194.10.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Steve Johnson, 6.998, 191.08; 18. Elvira Karlsson, 7.007, 190.00; 19. Freddie Camarena, 7.030, 193.88; 20. Justin Finley, 7.096, 192.91; 21. Joe DeSantis, 7.164, 186.54; 22. Junior Pippin, 7.331, 186.23.

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”