Kalitta (TF), Worsham (FC), Enders-Stevens (PS), Krawiec (PSM) provisional No. 1 NHRA qualifiers in Norwalk

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Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the provisional No. 1 qualifiers after Friday’s first of two days of qualifying at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.

Kalitta covered the 1,000-foot drag strip with a top elapsed time of 3.771 seconds at 326.16 mph. If that time holds up during Saturday’s second round of qualifying in preparation for Sunday’s final eliminations, it would be the 42nd No. 1 qualifying spot of Kalitta’s career.

He’s also seeking his first career win at Norwalk, between Toledo and Cleveland, and to reach his seventh final round in the first 13 races of the 2014 season.

“Tomorrow (Saturday) will be a lot like today so it’ll be interesting to see if we can hold the lead,” Kalitta said in a NHRA media release. “I’m incredibly lucky to have this opportunity with what we have going on right now. I’m just trying to make the best of it. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what we can do.”

Steve Torrence was second-quickest in Top Fuel (3.799 seconds at 324.67 mph), while Kalitta’s teammate, J.R. Todd, was third-quickest (3.807 seconds at 319.22 mph).

In Funny Car, Worsham set a Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park track record of an even 4.000 seconds (at 317.34 mph). Worsham just barely missed becoming the 11th driver in NHRA Funny Car history to slip below the four-second mark.

“We were definitely trying to make a three-second run,” Worsham said. “We changed cars for the third time in three races so we’re pretty excited to make a good run. We’ll just have to play a little harder tomorrow.”

Tommy Johnson Jr. continued his recent hot streak, qualifying No. 2 (4.030 seconds at 319.67 mph), followed by 16-time national champion John Force (4.034 at 319.45 mph).

In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens looks to extend her already huge lead in the points standings. She had a field-best of 6.523 seconds at 212.63 mph, both new track records.

Enders is looking for her 12th top-three qualifying position (and second No. 1) in the first 13 races of the season.

“I’m really proud of my team,” Enders-Stevens said. “We’ve worked really hard. I couldn’t be more proud to throw up the numbers that we did today. We were hoping for better numbers this evening but that starting line is a little challenging. I feel confident this weekend.”

Shane Gray was second-quickest in Pro Stock (6.527 seconds at 211.69 mph), followed by Allen Johnson (6.532 at 211.89).

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec also set a track record for elapsed time (6.844 seconds) at 195.05 mph.

“To come here and have low e.t. and a great motorcycle under me, I couldn’t ask for any more,” Krawiec said. “You never really know what’s going to happen. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Second-fastest was Jerry Savoie (6.865 seconds at 195.48), followed by John Hall (6.882 at 194.38). Series points leader Andrew Hines was No. 4 qualifier (6.913 seconds at 192.33 mph).

The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday afternoon (4:45 pm ET) and evening (7:15 pm ET). Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 am ET.

 

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Here’s Friday’s first two of four rounds of qualifying for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio:

Top Fuel — 1. Doug Kalitta, 3.771 seconds, 326.48 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.799, 324.67; 3. J.R. Todd, 3.807, 319.22; 4. Shawn Langdon, 3.809, 322.88; 5. Spencer Massey, 3.813, 321.81; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.839, 322.65; 7. Antron Brown, 3.840, 311.56; 8. Larry Dixon, 3.844, 321.88; 9. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.845, 316.82; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 3.849, 320.43; 11. Brittany Force, 3.860, 322.04; 12. Troy Buff, 3.873, 307.72.  Not Qualified: 13. Leah Pritchett, 3.888, 309.42; 14. Pat Dakin, 3.924, 308.00; 15. Richie Crampton, 3.929, 269.73; 16. Clay Millican, 3.953, 315.42; 17. Cory McClenathan, 4.164, 213.81; 18. Chris Karamesines, 4.183, 230.02; 19. Terry McMillen, 4.655, 167.34.

Funny Car — 1. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.000, 317.34; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.030, 319.67; 3. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.034, 319.45; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.044, 318.69; 5. Chad Head, Camry, 4.052, 318.02; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.064, 317.94; 7. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.065, 315.12; 8. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.077, 308.21; 9. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.083, 310.48; 10. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.096, 310.34; 11. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.106, 321.42; 12. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.127, 309.91.  Not Qualified: 13. Tim Wilkerson, 4.140, 307.65; 14. Tony Pedregon, 4.153, 303.57; 15. Terry Haddock, 4.329, 275.51; 16. Jeff Diehl, 4.340, 260.71; 17. Jeff Arend, 4.704, 181.15.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.523, 212.63; 2. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.527, 211.69; 3. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.532, 211.89; 4. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.546, 211.53; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.551, 211.69; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.554, 212.03; 7. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.557, 210.67; 8. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.564, 211.13; 9. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.566, 211.69; 10. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.574, 210.90; 11. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.576, 211.39; 12. Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.609, 211.56.  Not Qualified: 13. Larry Morgan, 6.613, 210.77; 14. V. Gaines, 6.628, 190.40; 15. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.684, 207.05; 16. Mark Hogan, 18.603, 35.35; 17. Travis Mazza, 89.000, no speed.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.844, 195.05; 2. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.865, 195.48; 3. John Hall, Buell, 6.882, 194.38; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.913, 192.49; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.919, 196.16; 6. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.928, 193.27; 7. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.933, 192.41; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.933, 191.57; 9. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.943, 190.65; 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.964, 192.08; 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.987, 191.76; 12. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.989, 188.38.  Not Qualified: 13. Jim Underdahl, 7.009, 192.93; 14. Justin Finley, 7.012, 192.14; 15. Joe DeSantis, 7.022, 188.78; 16. Elvira Karlsson, 7.072, 183.37; 17. Adam Arana, 7.354, 148.12; 18. Wendell Daniels, 8.211, 119.70; 19. Hector Arana Jr, 13.922, 55.34.

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F1 Preview – 2018 French Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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It’s hard to believe that the French Grand Prix, the oldest grand prix event on the planet, as it dates back to June of 1906, was ever removed from the Formula 1 calendar.

Alas, not since 2008 at Magny-Cours has Formula 1 held a race on French soil. Yet, that all changes this weekend, as Formula 1 visits the Circuit Paul Ricard for its first French race in a decade.

Formula 1 teams are not strangers to Paul Ricard. It has been a popular testing facility for years, as evidenced by the below photo from 2016, featuring Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari in a wet tire test.

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE – JANUARY 26: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Scuderia Ferrari drives during wet weather tire testing at Circuit Paul Ricard on January 26, 2016 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

However, in terms of racing, Paul Ricard has also been absent from the calendar for quite a long time – the last time Formula 1 race at Paul Ricard was in 1990. Alain Prost won for Ferrari that day.

1990: Alain Prost of France punches the air in celebration after passing the chequered flag in his Scuderia Ferrari to win the French Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Beausset, France. Mandatory Credit: Pascal Rondeau/Allsport

As such, despite being a known quantity as a testing facility, how a race weekend will shake out is anybody’s guess.

And what’s more, it marks the beginning of three consecutive race weekends – The French Grand Prix, The Austrian Grand Prix, and The British Grand Prix – which F1 teams and drivers are calling “the triple header.”

Talking points ahead of the French Grand Prix are below.

A Journey Into the Unknown?

Like all new venues, or resurrected and refurbished ones in this case, the Circuit Paul Ricard represents somewhat of an unknown, as there’s no available race data to make predictions off of.

And the 3.61-mile, 15-turn track itself represents a range of challenges. It has fast corners, like Turns 1 and 2 (S de la Verrerie), a technical section between Turns 3 and 7 (Virage de l’Hotel through the Mistral Straight Start), and a 1.1-mile straightaway in the Mistral Straight, though it is separated by a chicane (Turns 8 and 9).

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff discussed the challenge of the circuit, highlighting the lack of data to build off of as well the tough three-race stretch ahead as especially challenging, in a preview on Formula 1’s website.

“France should be an interesting race. We don’t often get to race on a track where we have little to no historical data. It makes preparing for the weekend a bit trickier than usual, but that element of the unknown also adds to the challenge. The French Grand Prix marks the first race of the triple header, which will test all F1 teams to their limits, but also offers the chance to score a lot of points over the course of three weeks – which is precisely what we’re setting out to do,” said Wolff.

That element of the unknown makes Paul Ricard one of the biggest wildcards on the 2018 F1 calendar, and a championship shake up could be in the cards as a result.

Ferrari, Mercedes Continue Their Back and Forth

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 25: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 25, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari and Mercedes have traded jabs throughout the 2018 season, with neither able to pull away from the other so far through seven races.

Sebastian Vettel enters the French Grand Prix with a one-point lead over Lewis Hamilton, and holds a slight edge in victories – three to Hamilton’s two – and comes off a thorough domination of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Vettel led every lap at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on his way to victory, while Valtteri Bottas had to carry the Mercedes flag in finishing second. Hamilton languished in fifth, a surprising and disappointing result given his previous success there.

The aforementioned Toto Wolff described it as a “wake up call,” though Mercedes will roll out a power unit upgrade this weekend – Ferrari and Renault, which also powers Red Bull Racing, rolled out upgrades of their own in Canada.

With four long straightaways present at Paul Ricard, power will certainly be at a premium, so such upgrades will be vital in giving Mercedes a chance to make amends after Canada’s disappointment.

Trio of French Drivers Look to Impress on Home Soil

It comes hardly as a surprise that the three French drivers – Romain Grosjean, Pierre Gasly, and Esteban Ocon – are keen to make an impression at their home race.

And all three could certainly use a boost. Gasly has only one finish inside the points (seventh in the Monaco Grand Prix) since his stellar fourth place effort in the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ocon is coming off back-to-back points finishes (sixth in Monaco, ninth in Canada), but he has only one other finish inside the points this year (tenth, in Bahrain). And Grosjean, despite showing the speed to finish in the points, is yet to score any in 2018.

As such, all three are hoping for big things in their home race this weekend.

“I want to get a good weekend, have some luck, get my first points of the season, and get a lot of support from the fans,” said Grosjean. “I think we should be in a nice place at Paul Ricard. I’m always looking forward to jumping back in the car. I just love driving an F1 car.”

Ocon, who has raced and won at Paul Ricard in the past, expects his prior experience could be a big help.

“I did race at Paul Ricard early in my career – it was actually where I had my first victory in single seaters in 2013 so I have some fantastic memories of the place,” Ocon described. “I hope we can add some more success this weekend. Having been there in the junior categories makes getting used to a new track in a Formula One car much easier. I think I will find my rhythm quite quickly.”

Gasly’s excitement level obviously matches that of his French compatriots, with the added bonus that the return coincides with his rookie F1 effort.

“For me it will be absolutely incredible that my first full season of Formula 1 coincides with the return of a French Grand Prix to the calendar for the first time in 10 years,” said Gasly. “That has to be a reason for me to be very happy and I’m really excited to be racing in my home country. I can tell it will be a special feeling going out on track and actually, I have spoken to Jean Alesi and Alain Prost about it and they both told me that it will feel really special and something that you really have to experience as a Frenchman racing in France.”

Qualifying for The French Grand Prix begins at 9:55 a.m. ET on Saturday, with Sunday’s race at 9:30 a.m. ET.

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