Del Worsham (FC), Brittany Force (TF), Shane Gray (PS) top NHRA qualifiers at Bristol on Friday

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Rain shortened Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.

Del Worsham was able to earn the top spot in Funny Car before NHRA officials cancelled the remainder of the day’s second session midway through Funny Car’s second qualifying round.

Brittany Force was the top qualifier in Top Fuel, while Shane Gray earned top qualifying honors in Pro Stock.

The third and fourth qualifying rounds will be held Saturday, weather permitting. Final eliminations are scheduled for Sunday.

Worsham, the 2011 Top Fuel world champion, set both ends of the track record in his DHL Toyota Camry with a performance of 3.992 seconds at 319.45 mph. Worsham, who was the No. 1 qualifier at Bristol last season, seeks a third career win at Bristol.

“To come back here at Bristol and do it again is pretty exciting,” Worsham said in a NHRA media release. “The run was smooth and clean. Everybody on the team went after it. This is definitely a great track at Bristol with great fans.”

Worsham has shown championship form this season with two semifinal finishes and one runner-up finish. The veteran California driver, who currently sits in fourth in the points standings, is in position to repeat his winnings ways at Bristol.

“We’ve been making some great runs this season,” Worsham said. “It’s bittersweet that a few guys did not get a run because of the rain, but we hope we can continues where we left off tomorrow.”

Tim Wilkerson’s Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang holds the second position with a 4.013 at 317.72. Three-time Bristol winner Ron Capps sits in third with a performance of 4.024 at 316.38 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger.

Force, the 2013 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner, set the pace in Top Fuel in her Castrol Edge dragster with a performance of 3.828 at 317.94.

“When they told me I was No. 1, I was shocked,” Force said. “It’s unfortunate with the rain, but I’m excited to be on the top of the field.”

The sophomore driver is seeking her second No. 1 qualifying position of the season.

J.R. Todd is second with a performance of 3.835 at 315.12 in his Optima Batteries/Bounty Hunter dragster followed by 2012 world champion Antron Brown with a 3.873 at 313.07.

Gray topped the Pro Stock field with a performance of 6.644 seconds at 207.88 mph at the controls of his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Gray is seeking his first career No. 1 qualifying position.

“I’m thrilled for the program put together by my dad,” Gray said. “It’s a good team bringing the scheme we had last year. If it holds tomorrow, it’s hard to say because you have a tough field out there. It’s a work in progress and anybody’s race.”

Allen Johnson was second with a run of 6.657 seconds at 206.73 mph in his Mopar/Magnetti Marelli Dodge Dart, while his teammate, reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin, was third in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart with a pass of 6.657 at 206.64.

Pro Stock series leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who reset both ends of the Pro Stock national record (6.464 seconds, 215.55 mph) in Englishtown, is sixth overall after two rounds of qualifying.

 

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Here’s Friday’s qualifying results for the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway:

Top Fuel — 1. Brittany Force, 3.828 seconds, 317.94 mph; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.835, 315.12; 3. Antron Brown, 3.873, 313.07; 4. Spencer Massey, 3.876, 312.93; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.893, 316.75; 6. Leah Pritchett, 3.898, 309.13; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.900, 315.42; 8. Clay Millican, 3.909, 261.42; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 3.913, 321.12; 10. Richie Crampton, 3.939, 250.97; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.969, 292.84; 12. Chris Karamesines, 4.485, 190.08.  Not Qualified: 13. Pat Dakin, 4.644, 163.89; 14. Billy Torrence, 4.771, 162.63; 15. Terry McMillen, 5.150, 137.39; 16. Tony Schumacher, 28.000, no speed.

Funny Car — 1. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.992, 319.45; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.013, 317.72; 3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.024, 316.38; 4. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.074, 315.27; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.074, 306.60; 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.077, 313.07; 7. John Force, Mustang, 4.099, 306.81; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.111, 308.99; 9. Chad Head, Camry, 4.118, 313.22; 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.121, 305.29; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.123, 308.99; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.127, 299.86.  Not Qualified: 13. Bob Tasca III, 4.143, 306.81; 14. Tony Pedregon, 9.230, 72.90; 15. Justin Schriefer, 9.475, 73.52; 16. Jeff Arend, 11.442, 64.41.

Pro Stock — 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.644, 207.88; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.657, 207.37; 3. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.657, 206.64; 4. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.668, 206.89; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.673, 207.02; 6. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.673, 206.86; 7. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.677, 207.21; 8. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.680, 206.51; 9. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.681, 206.07; 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.689, 206.92; 11. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.691, 206.54; 12. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.693, 207.18.  Not Qualified: 13. Shane Tucker, 6.723, 206.04; 14. Larry Morgan, 6.736, 203.98; 15. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.951, 198.93; 16. Kenny Delco, 7.076, 197.68; 17. Curt Steinbach, 7.562, 158.46.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.