Brown (TF), Hight (FC), Gray (PS) and Krawiec (PSM) all No. 1 for Sunday’s NHRA finals in New Hampshire

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Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) earned the No. 1 qualifying positions in their respective classes Saturday ahead of Sunday’s final eliminations of  the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway and Motorsports Park in Epping, N.H.

The four-round eliminations begin at 11 am ET Sunday at the track north of Boston.

Brown qualified No. 1 Friday with a track record 3.770 seconds at 323.58 mph and was able to hold on to that advantage through Saturday’s two additional qualifying rounds. It was Brown’s second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 37th of his career in both Top Fuel and previously in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“We got a lot of confidence for tomorrow,” Brown said in a NHRA media release.

The 2012 Top Fuel champ is seeking his fourth win of 2014; he’ll face Todd Patton in the first round Sunday.

“It’s going to be a good race,” Brown said. “Everybody is running so close. Everyone has their work cut out for them. We have to definitely be on our A game and attack each round.”

Top Fuel points leader Doug Kalitta qualified No. 2 (3.773 seconds at 323.89 mph) and will face Terry McMillen in Sunday’s opening round.

Like Brown, Hight laid down a great run Friday (3.998 seconds at 321.58 mph, both track records) that held up through Saturday’s two rounds and put him at the top of the Funny Car heap for the first time this season heading into Sunday (and the 36th No. 1 of his career).

“Tomorrow’s a new day, and [crew chief] Mike Neff’s the best,” said Hight, who faces Mike Smith in Sunday’s first round. “He’ll race it one round at a time. He’s not going to go up there first round and try to set low E.T. of the round. We’re going to look at each opponent and race smart. That’s why we’ve won a lot of rounds this year.”

Gray, meanwhile, joined the Brown and Hight parade by riding his best qualifying round Friday (6.485 seconds at 212.79 mph) through Saturday and holding on to the No. 1 spot heading into Sunday.

“We will see if we can get by first round,” said Gray, who faces Val Smeland in Sunday’s first round. “There’s always a chance that you will, always a chance you won’t. It’s always 50/50 out there.”

Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens qualified No. 2 (6.489 seconds at 213.98 mph) and will face Larry Morgan in Sunday’s first round.

The only shakeup from Friday’s No. 1 qualifiers was in Pro Stock Motorcycle, where Krawiec overtook provisional polesitter Hector Arana Jr. in Saturday’s final two qualifying rounds with a track record of 6.794 seconds at 193.32 mph.

“We went back and looked at all the data last night,” Krawiec said of his third No. 1 qualifying position in 2014 and 17th of his career. “When we came off the truck, both bikes were running well. We were struggling a bit though, in going down the track and making good runs. …We had to make a couple changes to make some more power.”

Krawiec squares off with Justin Foley in Sunday’s first round of eliminations. Arana set the track speed record Friday (198.50 mph) and is qualified second going into Sunday, where he’ll face Jerry Savoie.

 

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Here’s Sunday’s first-round pairings for final eliminations in the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway and Motorsports Park in Epping, N.H.:

Top Fuel — 1. Antron Brown, 3.770 seconds, 323.58 mph  vs. 16. Todd Paton, 4.258, 230.29; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.773, 323.89  vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 4.180, 229.00; 3. Richie Crampton, 3.774, 324.90  vs. 14. Dom Lagana, 3.915, 319.29; 4. Brittany Force, 3.776, 325.92  vs. 13. Clay Millican, 3.887, 315.64; 5. J.R. Todd, 3.778, 324.83  vs. 12. Bob Vandergriff, 3.877, 76.43; 6. Spencer Massey, 3.796, 326.63  vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, 3.841, 321.50; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.803, 318.77  vs. 10. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.819, 320.81; 8. Tony Schumacher, 3.815, 322.65  vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.817, 324.51.

Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 3.988, 321.58  vs. 16. Mike Smith, Dodge Stratus, 7.016, 89.77; 2. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.026, 307.44  vs. 15. Jeff Arend, Dodge Charger, 4.550, 208.39; 3. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.031, 323.35  vs. 14. Dave Richards, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.371, 247.02; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.033, 318.24  vs. 13. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.221, 278.92; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.053, 315.27  vs. 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.217, 294.18; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.061, 313.80  vs. 11. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.105, 312.50; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.063, 312.50  vs. 10. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.102, 308.92; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.073, 314.17  vs. 9. John Force, Mustang, 4.092, 316.60.

Pro Stock — 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.485, 213.03  vs. 16. Val Smeland, Chevy Cobalt, 22.409, 198.23; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.489, 213.98  vs. 15. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 7.251, 207.40; 3. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.493, 212.96  vs. 14. Kenny Delco, Cobalt, 6.729, 207.30; 4. Shane Tucker, Cobalt, 6.496, 213.94  vs. 13. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.705, 206.95; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.497, 214.25  vs. 12. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.528, 213.40; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.503, 213.74  vs. 11. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.525, 213.23; 7. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.512, 213.16  vs. 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.523, 213.13; 8. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.519, 213.77  vs. 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.521, 213.94.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.794, 197.88  vs. 16. Justin Finley, Suzuki, 7.046, 192.38; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.796, 198.50  vs. 15. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.963, 196.04; 3. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.816, 194.58  vs. 14. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.938, 194.04; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.842, 195.17  vs. 13. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.935, 192.93; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.846, 197.19  vs. 12. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.917, 193.63; 6. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.850, 196.13  vs. 11. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.901, 195.05; 7. John Hall, Buell, 6.864, 195.22  vs. 10. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.895, 193.29; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.876, 194.74  vs. 9. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.895, 197.02.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Sam Hurwitz, 7.353, 182.97; 18. Brian Pretzel, broke.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.