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

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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.

 

FRIDAY’S RESULTS:

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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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.