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

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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.


FINAL FINISHING ORDER

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.

 

FINAL RESULTS

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.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS

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.


POINTS STANDINGS

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.

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Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.