Schumacher (TF), C. Pedregon (FC), Enders-Stevens (PS) and Arana Jr. (PSM) No. 1 NHRA qualifiers

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Six, five, four, three …

As the NHRA Countdown to the Championship continues, how the final eliminations of Sunday’s NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway play out could have a significant impact on who ultimately wins the title in their respective pro class.

The No. 1 qualifiers are Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Schumacher, who leads the Top Fuel points standings, is seeking his eighth championship. A win Sunday would go a long way towards moving Schumacher in that direction, particularly with just two races remaining (Las Vegas and Pomona, Calif.) this season after Sunday’s race.

Schumacher is also going for his third win in the six-race Countdown, having won the first two events before being a surprise first-round elimination last week at Gateway Motorsports Park in suburban St. Louis.

Schumacher earned the 76th No. 1 qualifying position of his career and the seventh of the season with a career-best run of 3.733 seconds at 327.51 mph.

A win Sunday would mark the 77th of Schumacher’s career.

“We had a great race car,” said Schumacher, a four-time Maple Grove winner. “That was a fantastic run. There was more left out there. I was stuck in the track. Mike [Green, crew chief] had an excellent baseline because that was exactly what we were going for.”

In Funny Car, 16-time champ John Force set a track record speed of 323.97 mph, but it was Cruz Pedregon who ultimately earned the No. 1 qualifier spot, holding serve with Friday’s best run of 3.991 seconds at 319.52 mph.

Force and Pedregon were the only Funny Car drivers to qualify under the four-second barrier.

“I’m happy for the team,” said Pedregon, a two-time Maple Grove winner. “This is our third [No. 1 qualifier] here at Maple Grove, (which has) been a good track to us. We need the points, all the help we can get. We’re trying to dig ourselves out of the hole points wise.”

In Pro Stock, Enders-Stevens claimed her fifth No. 1 spot of the season and second in a row with a track record time of 6.465 seconds at 213.16 mph.

“It was very exciting,” Enders-Stevens said. “We knew conditions were conducive for that. We didn’t necessarily expect to go a .46, we had thought we would be able to go a .48 so it even blew our minds a little bit. Great racing surface and the weather was awesome. How much fun was that?”

And in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. paced the field with a speed of 6.796 seconds at a monster speed of 197.22 mph.

“We’re going to go one round at a time,” Arana said. “We struggled this weekend in qualifying.

“We were trying different things but couldn’t get it figured out. We threw a Hail Mary at it. We’ve got nothing to lose. It went right down the track and we went all the way to No. 1. I was shocked.”

 

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Sunday’s first round elimination pairings:

Top Fuel — 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.733 seconds, 327.51 mph vs. 16. Bob Vandergriff, 7.358, 179.64; 2. Brittany Force, 3.737, 329.50 vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 3.977, 318.39; 3. J.R. Todd, 3.738, 325.77 vs. 14. Dom Lagana, 3.847, 315.86; 4. Doug Kalitta, 3.747, 326.95 vs. 13. Clay Millican, 3.835, 316.15; 5. Antron Brown, 3.762, 323.50 vs. 12. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.834, 316.82; 6. Spencer Massey, 3.767, 327.90 vs. 11. Leah Pritchett, 3.821, 316.52; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.773, 325.77 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.814, 317.49; 8. Steve Torrence, 3.786, 324.83 vs. 9. Larry Dixon, 3.788, 325.30.

Funny Car — 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.991, 319.52 vs. 16. John Bojec, 5.029, 270.92; 2. John Force, Ford Mustang, 3.997, 323.97 vs. 15. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.568, 246.21; 3. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.008, 321.50 vs. 14. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.171, 293.98; 4. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.008, 320.36 vs. 13. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.093, 310.55; 5. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.009, 320.13 vs. 12. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.090, 314.46; 6. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.017, 316.97 vs. 11. Chad Head, Camry, 4.088, 309.34; 7. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.046, 316.15 vs. 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.087, 307.02; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.063, 320.20 vs. 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.065, 316.01.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Mike Smith, 5.142, 228.07; 18. Jeff Diehl, 5.377, 302.14.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.465, 213.16 vs. 16. Frank Gugliotta, Ford Mustang, 6.599, 208.68; 2. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.484, 212.33 vs. 15. Kenny Delco, Chevy Cobalt, 6.597, 208.59; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.500, 213.23 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.579, 210.14; 4. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.505, 212.79 vs. 13. Larry Morgan, Mustang, 6.575, 209.95; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.505, 212.46 vs. 12. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.552, 210.93; 6. Richie Stevens, Camaro, 6.506, 212.26 vs. 11. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.540, 211.53; 7. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.525, 211.93 vs. 10. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.539, 212.49; 8. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.528, 211.56 vs. 9. V. Gaines, Dodge Avenger, 6.531, 211.66.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Travis Mazza, 6.677, 207.30; 18. Val Smeland, broke.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.796, 197.22 vs. 16. Brian Pretzel, Suzuki, 7.309, 182.21; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.799, 196.27 vs. 15. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, 7.074, 185.79; 3. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.821, 195.62 vs. 14. John Hall, Buell, 6.939, 190.32; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.822, 195.90 vs. 13. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.927, 193.38; 5. Adam Arana, Buell, 6.862, 194.58 vs. 12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.922, 193.65; 6. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.863, 196.50 vs. 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.912, 191.62; 7. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.866, 191.92 vs. 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.900, 192.47; 8. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.868, 191.65 vs. 9. Matt Smith, Buell, 6.878, 192.58.

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Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

MORE: McLaren considering Kyle Busch for Indy 500

“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”