NHRA: Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car) lead first day of qualifying at Atlanta


Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car) led the first day of qualifying Friday at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga.

Brown paced Top Fuel at Atlanta Dragway with a field-best pass of 3.758 seconds (at 319.82 mph) to start the seventh of this season’s 24 national events.

“It was a great day,” Brown said in an NHRA media release. “For us to come out of the box with a really good, solid lap, we’ve been shooting for that for a long time.”

Brown, who is seeking his second win of the season (won earlier at Charlotte), is a three-time winner at Atlanta Dragway, the last time coming in 2013.

“We’ve raced well at a lot of the races this year, that’s why we’ve been doing so well in the points, but we haven’t been where we want to be in qualifying,” Brown said.

Reigning Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher, qualified second (3.767 seconds, 324.12 mph). Even though he’s the winningest driver in Top Fuel history (78 wins and eight championships), Schumacher has never won at Atlanta, something he hopes to change this weekend.

In Funny Car, Pedregon roared to a 4.010 second run (at 313.95 mph). The two-time Funny Car world champ is still seeking his first win of 2015.

“Our season has been better than it shows,” Pedregon said. “We didn’t know exactly what was in store, but we figured we’d have a good weekend. With how it’s going, so far, so good.”

Sixteen-time Funny Car John Force was second-quickest (4.031 seconds, 317.64 mph). Force is seeking his eighth career win at Atlanta, where he hasn’t won since 2005.

In Pro Stock, Jason Line went to the top of the charts with a run of 6.546 seconds at 211.23 mph. Line is seeking not only his second win of the season (won the season opener at Pomona, Calif.), but also his second career win at Atlanta (won in 2011).

“It’s always a big deal to be No. 1, whether it’s your sponsor’s race or not,” the two-time world champ said. “They don’t pay anything for being No. 2.

“My car was really good today. There is more left and I think we can hang on to the (No. 1) spot for Sunday’s eliminations. The big thing is that we’re No. 1 going into Saturday and now the job is to just figure out a way to stay there through tomorrow.”

Reigning Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens was second quickest (6.546 seconds, 211.06 mph).

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Karen Stoffer (6.889 seconds at 195.00 mph) took the provisional No. 1 qualifier spot. Stoffer is looking for her second win of the year, having won the season opener at Gainesville.

“Who would have thought we’d run like this,” Stoffer said. “We were not even prepared to come out this season. We were going to wait until the middle of the year but we found a little bit of money.

“I’m really enjoying the season. Every weekend is a mystery. We never know where we’re going to show up but it’s a lot easier to enjoy it when you’re doing well.”

Jim Underdahl qualified second (6.889 seconds at 194.38 mph).

Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 12:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m.



Top Fuel — 1. Antron Brown, 3.758 seconds, 320.28 mph; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.767, 324.12; 3. Leah Pritchett, 3.792, 321.81; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.796, 321.35; 5. Dave Connolly, 3.805, 321.58; 6. J.R. Todd, 3.807, 321.35; 7. Richie Crampton, 3.852, 316.90; 8. Brittany Force, 3.912, 303.64; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.916, 315.93; 10. Chris Karamesines, 3.962, 306.53; 11. Morgan Lucas, 3.998, 234.90; 12. Cory McClenathan, 4.242, 206.35.  Not Qualified: 13. Spencer Massey, 4.891, 146.97; 14. Doug Kalitta, 4.914, 148.31; 15. Larry Dixon, 5.001, 140.72; 16. Shawn Langdon, 6.520, 102.96; 17. Clay Millican, 7.060, 83.25; 18. Pat Dakin, 11.646, 69.69.

Funny Car — 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.010, 313.95; 2. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.031, 317.64; 3. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.033, 301.13; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.040, 319.37; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.040, 312.86; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.048, 313.00; 7. Chad Head, Camry, 4.060, 310.77; 8. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.064, 284.81; 9. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.068, 315.93; 10. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.079, 319.14; 11. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.147, 288.58; 12. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.563, 188.78.  Not Qualified: 13. John Hale, 5.524, 130.87; 14. Del Worsham, 5.931, 114.73; 15. Jeff Diehl, 7.201, 92.95; 16. Dave Richards, 10.142, 78.49.

Pro Stock — 1. Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.546, 211.23; 2. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.546, 211.06; 3. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.551, 211.30; 4. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.556, 210.87; 5. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.560, 211.06; 6. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.561, 211.69; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.562, 210.64; 8. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.580, 210.90; 9. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.580, 210.34; 10. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.583, 211.49; 11. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.609, 210.14; 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.634, 208.04.  Not Qualified: 13. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.689, 207.40; 14. Alan Prusiensky, 6.707, 207.27; 15. Bo Butner, 6.980, 166.15; 16. Chris McGaha, 17.218, 48.19.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.889, 195.00; 2. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.889, 194.38; 3. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.915, 193.16; 4. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.926, 192.44; 5. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.936, 192.41; 6. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.947, 194.60; 7. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.972, 191.81; 8. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.981, 190.89; 9. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.987, 189.84; 10. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.989, 194.63; 11. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.990, 191.54; 12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.998, 193.40.  Not Qualified: 13. Scotty Pollacheck, 6.998, 191.38; 14. Angelle Sampey, 7.006, 190.94; 15. Chaz Kennedy, 7.054, 188.31; 16. Chip Ellis, 7.056, 192.60; 17. Mike Berry, 7.061, 188.28; 18. Angie Smith, 7.118, 185.74; 19. Redell Harris, 7.142, 185.13; 20. Eddie Reed, 7.198, 187.34; 21. Joe DeSantis, 7.224, 185.03; 22. Roy Olsen, 7.779, 175.07.

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Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).