NHRA Phoenix: Hagan (Funny Car) stays perfect for 2015; Schumacher (Top Fuel), Brogdon (Pro Stock) also win


Defending NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan remained perfect in 2015, going 2-0 in the new season by winning his second straight race in Sunday’s CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.

Hagan, who entered Sunday’s final eliminations as the top qualifier in Funny Car, set a track record of 3.975 seconds (at 324.83 mph) in defeating Del Worsham (4.010 seconds, 318.17 mph) in the final round.

In addition to wins in the first two races of 2015, Hagan made it three in a row, dating back to his championship-clinching victory last November in the season-ending Auto Club Finals.

“We’ve got a killer race car and race team, so I am hoping to keep turning on those win lights,” Hagan said in an NHRA media release.

It was the 16th win of Hagan’s career and his first at the suburban Phoenix drag strip.

“It keeps getting tougher each year and every car is so competitive,” said Hagan, who drives for Don Schumacher Racing. “That’s what’s so cool about this sport. It’s tough, but when you win you feel like you really did something. I am just glad to keep this [winning streak] going.”

In Top Fuel, Hagan’s DSR teammate and 2014 champ Tony Schumacher capped off one of the most significant weekends of his career.

On Friday, Schumacher set a career-best low elapsed time (3.722 seconds). On Saturday, he set an NHRA record with the 77th No. 1 qualifying spot of his career.

And then Sunday, the eight-time national champ put a bow on the weekend package with the 78th win of his Top Fuel career.

Schumacher (3.720 seconds at 326.56 mph) defeated Doug Kalitta (3.758, 325.14) to earn his fifth career win at the suburban Phoenix track.

“I have to give the trophy, the credit, every bit of it to the team this week,” Schumacher said. “I was off. My lights were slower than they’ve been, and everything I tried to do really couldn’t fix it.

“(Crew chief) Mike Green and Neal (Strausbaugh, assistant crew chief) said, ‘We’ll fight through this. Just do your best.’ They give you confidence with a fast race car.

“I’m not going to go home and put the trophy on my shelf and feel fulfilled. It should go to Mike’s house, and he should feel fulfilled.”

In Pro Stock, Rodger Brogdon (6.560 seconds, 211.49 mph) earned his third career win with an upset of defending 2014 season champ Erica Enders-Stevens (6.640, 205.51).

“This is the earliest I’ve ever won a race,” Brogdon said. “It’s great to win one early and I am the points leader for the first time in my career. I think we’ve got a great opportunity this season.

“Everybody who follows this sport knows how hard it is to win a race. This is fantastic. My crew is telling me this car is going to be faster at Gainesville, so I think we are going to have some fun this year.”

The next race is the third event on the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, March 12-15 at Auto-Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Florida.


TOP FUEL: 1.  Tony Schumacher; 2.  Doug Kalitta; 3.  Antron Brown; 4.  Shawn Langdon; 5.  Richie Crampton; 6. J.R. Todd; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Spencer Massey; 9.  Dave Connolly; 10.  Leah Pritchett; 11. Terry McMillen; 12.  Jenna Haddock; 13.  Troy Buff; 14.  Steve Torrence; 15.  Larry Dixon; 16. Clay Millican.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Matt Hagan; 2.  Del Worsham; 3.  Robert Hight; 4.  Alexis DeJoria; 5.  Courtney Force; 6.  Chad Head; 7.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 8.  Cruz Pedregon; 9.  John Hale; 10.  Jack Beckman; 11.  Shane Westerfield; 12.  Tim Wilkerson; 13.  Jeff Diehl; 14.  Ron Capps; 15.  John Force; 16.  Tony Pedregon.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Rodger Brogdon; 2.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 3.  Chris McGaha; 4.  Drew Skillman; 5.  Jason Line; 6.  Greg Anderson; 7.  Shane Gray; 8.  Allen Johnson; 9.  Larry Morgan; 10.  Jimmy Alund; 11.  Matt Hartford; 12.  Vincent Nobile; 13.  Joey Grose; 14.  V. Gaines; 15.  Jonathan Gray; 16.  Deric Kramer.



Top Fuel: Tony Schumacher, 3.720 seconds, 326.56 mph  def. Doug Kalitta, 3.758 seconds, 325.14 mph.

Funny Car: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.975, 324.83  def. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.010, 318.17.

Pro Stock: Rodger Brogdon, Chevy Camaro, 6.560, 211.49  def. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.640, 205.51.


TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Spencer Massey, 4.227, 312.50 def. Larry Dixon, 7.616, 91.81; Brittany Force, 3.822, 323.19 def. Steve Torrence, 6.052, 119.25; Richie Crampton, 4.090, 308.14 def. Troy Buff, 5.186, 137.12; Tony Schumacher, 3.725, 325.14 def. Jenna Haddock, 4.041, 295.40; Doug Kalitta, 3.762, 328.38 def. Clay Millican, 10.228, 84.38; J.R. Todd, 3.884, 306.46 def. Terry McMillen, 3.907, 301.60; Antron Brown, 3.760, 318.92 def. Dave Connolly, 3.782, 318.69; Shawn Langdon, 3.812, 313.80 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.860, 307.02;

QUARTERFINALS — Langdon, 3.758, 324.59 def. Crampton, 3.755, 321.50; Kalitta, 3.770, 326.87 def. Force, 3.799, 321.81; Brown, 3.742, 319.29 def. Todd, 3.776, 311.05; Schumacher, 3.768, 320.43 def. Massey, 5.726, 116.60;

SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 4.303, 242.71 def. Langdon, 4.752, 278.86; Schumacher, 3.738, 325.53 def. Brown, 3.753, 319.45;

FINAL — Schumacher, 3.720, 326.56 def. Kalitta, 3.758, 325.14.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 4.023, 316.38 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 6.670, 105.37; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.192, 273.50 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.314, 226.96; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.037, 317.05 def. John Hale, Charger, 4.183, 303.37; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.022, 320.13 def. Shane Westerfield, Charger, foul; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.072, 314.09 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 6.546, 115.94; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.038, 311.56 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 8.724, 77.62; Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.593, 262.44 def. John Force, Camaro, 6.713, 96.77; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.027, 311.77 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 6.260, 106.75;

QUARTERFINALS — DeJoria, 4.082, 305.84 def. Johnson Jr., 4.202, 268.76; Worsham, 4.047, 316.38 def. Head, 4.078, 307.72; Hight, 4.069, 315.78 def. C. Force, 4.057, 315.71; Hagan, 4.058, 316.30 def. C. Pedregon, 4.380, 211.63;

SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.027, 318.32 def. DeJoria, 6.389, 82.64; Worsham, 4.010, 315.78 def. Hight, 4.050, 316.23;

FINAL — Hagan, 3.975, 324.83 def. Worsham, 4.010, 318.17.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.606, 210.64 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.599, 211.20; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.588, 210.50 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 26.416, 26.94; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.567, 210.70 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 11.113, 79.58; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.591, 209.72 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 14.557, 66.85; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.588, 210.05 def. Jimmy Alund, Pontiac GXP, 6.615, 210.14; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.570, 211.43 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, broke; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.575, 211.23 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, 12.073, 71.69; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.578, 210.41 def. Matt Hartford, GXP, 6.692, 209.33;

QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.599, 210.18 def. Johnson, 15.467, 54.67; Enders-Stevens, 6.570, 210.60 def. Anderson, 6.603, 210.80; Brogdon, 6.569, 211.26 def. S. Gray, 6.683, 210.14; Skillman, 6.595, 210.50 def. Line, 6.582, 210.87;

SEMIFINALS — Enders-Stevens, 6.575, 210.67 def. McGaha, 6.935, 162.65; Brogdon, 6.554, 211.36 def. Skillman, 16.529, 50.69;

FINAL — Brogdon, 6.560, 211.49 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.640, 205.51.


Top Fuel: 1.  Shawn Langdon, 200; 2.  Antron Brown, 167; 3.  Tony Schumacher, 165; 4.  Doug Kalitta, 155; 5. Spencer Massey, 130; 6.  Richie Crampton, 115; 7.  Larry Dixon, 106; 8.  (tie) J.R. Todd, 88; Steve Torrence, 88; 10.  Brittany Force, 85.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 231; 2.  Del Worsham, 173; 3.  Robert Hight, 145; 4.  Ron Capps, 129; 5.  Courtney Force, 123; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 118; 7.  Alexis DeJoria, 110; 8.  Cruz Pedregon, 93; 9.  (tie) John Hale, 82; Chad Head, 82.

Pro Stock: 1.  Rodger Brogdon, 205; 2.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 184; 3.  Jason Line, 178; 4.  Drew Skillman, 177; 5.  Chris McGaha, 130; 6.  Shane Gray, 108; 7.  Allen Johnson, 107; 8.  Larry Morgan, 89; 9. Greg Anderson, 86; 10.  Vincent Nobile, 66.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

GARAGE 56 SPECS: Full comparison of NASCAR Cup car to Le Mans car

BUTTON’S BIG MOVE: Hendrick drone tour was NASCAR entryway for F1 champion

France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”