NHRA: Brown (TF), Pedregon (FC), Anderson (PS), Ellis (PSM) all No. 1 at Englishtown

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When you’re hot, you’re hot – and Antron Brown has been burning of late.

The 2012 Top Fuel champion earned his third consecutive No. 1 qualifying position for Sunday’s final eliminations of the Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

A native of nearby Chesterfield, N.J., Brown earned the top spot with a run of 3.725 seconds at 317.57 mph. The current Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Top Fuel points leader is the first driver to earn three consecutive No. 1 qualifying positions since Shawn Langdon did so in 2012.

Not only is it Brown’s 40th career No. 1, it sets up a potential monumental day for him on Sunday. If he wins the event, it would be Brown’s 50th career triumph in the NHRA ranks.

“We’re very excited, especially being back here at the Toyota NHRA Summernationals here in Englishtown,” Brown said in a NHRA media release. “It feels good to be back in front of all of our family and all of our friends and right now our car has been running exceptionally well.

“We’re getting the bugs worked out of it and we’re still growing with our combinations. We’re looking forward to tomorrow and we’re ready to get after it.”

J.R. Todd was the No. 2 qualifier (3.727 seconds, 319.52 mph), while Tony Schumacher will start No. 3 (3.736, 323.66).

In Funny Car, Cruz Pedregon jumped to the top of the charts, earning his 60th No. 1 spot and sixth in his career at Raceway Park with a run of 3.967 seconds at 306.53 mph.

The two-time champ is also seeking to repeat last year’s win at Englishtown.

“It never ceases to amaze me how much you have to change the set-up of the car when the sun’s out on the track and there’s not as much grip,” Pedregon said. “It’s a double-edged sword to have a car that runs a 3.96. It takes a lot to do that and on the other hand, it takes a lot to slow it down. We have to find it tomorrow because tomorrow is the real deal.”

Chad Head is the No. 2 qualifier (3.996 seconds at 308.78 mph), while last year’s Englishtown runner-up, Del Worsham, qualified No. 3 (3.998, 314.53).

In Pro Stock, veteran driver Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) somewhat went back in time, earned his 76th career No. 1 qualifying spot – but his first since August 2010 (Seattle) – with a run of 6.479 seconds at 214.76 mph.

Anderson is looking to extend his Englishtown track record of five wins to six in Sunday’s eliminations. If victorious, it would be his second win this season.

“I’m just thrilled,” Anderson said. “It’s been four years since I’ve had a No. 1 qualifying spot. My car just keeps getting better every race we go to.”

Drew Skillman is the No. 2 qualifier (6.486 seconds at 214.38 mph), while defending champion and points leader Erica Enders (6.500 seconds at 213.60 mph) will start Sunday No. 3.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Chip Ellis (6.801 seconds, 197.16 mph) will start eliminations from the No. 1 spot for the 14th time in his career – and his first No. 1 since 2008 (Memphis).

“From the very first run I made on the bike I knew it had a lot of horsepower,” Ellis said. “The competition is so tough out here, if you look at what you have to run to even qualify this weekend, it’s crazy. It’s tough.

“We were just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that PiranaZ bike pulled us through and it did. So we’re ecstatic.”

Jerry Savoie qualified No. 2 (6.804 seconds, 197.13 mph), while Hector Arana Sr., who won two weeks ago at Atlanta, qualified No. 4.

SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS:

Top Fuel: 1. Antron Brown, 3.725 seconds, 319.52 mph  vs. 16. Jenna Haddock, 4.200, 307.02; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.727, 324.05  vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 3.956, 311.49; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.736, 323.66 vs. 14. Morgan Lucas, 3.857, 303.30; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.736, 321.04  vs. 13. Dave Connolly, 3.813, 313.80; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.737, 324.12  vs. 12. Larry Dixon, 3.805, 313.07; 6. Brittany Force, 3.747, 322.50  vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.784, 320.89; 7. Spencer Massey, 3.751, 321.88  vs. 10. Clay Millican, 3.769, 320.36; 8. Steve Torrence, 3.765, 318.92  vs. 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.766, 322.73.

Funny Car: 1. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.967, 309.98  vs. 16. John Hale, Dodge Charger, 5.556, 303.09; 2. Chad Head, Camry, 3.996, 308.78  vs. 15. Dom Lagana, Toyota Solara, 5.049, 263.62; 3. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.998, 314.53  vs. 14. Jeff Diehl, Solara, 4.321, 266.85; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.999, 315.05  vs. 13. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.086, 305.49; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.003, 315.27  vs. 12. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.081, 307.37; 6. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.003, 310.63  vs. 11. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.070, 312.13; 7. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.004, 313.73  vs. 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.046, 302.75; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.005, 305.84  vs. 9. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.015, 313.58.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 10.104, 119.32.

Pro Stock: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.479, 214.76  vs. 16. Val Smeland, Chevy Cobalt, 6.744, 206.39; 2. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.486, 214.38  vs. 15. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.642, 209.79; 3. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.500, 213.60  vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Avenger, 6.615, 210.50; 4. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.502, 213.91  vs. 13. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.566, 211.10; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.504, 214.04  vs. 12. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.554, 212.76; 6. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.512, 214.14  vs. 11. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.534, 212.69; 7. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.521, 213.23  vs. 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.525, 212.83; 8. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.521, 212.23 vs. 9. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.524, 213.27.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Randy Peters, 6.821, 201.52.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.801, 197.16  vs. 16. Angie Smith, Victory, 6.946, 189.47; 2. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.804, 197.13  vs. 15. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, 6.930, 194.83; 3. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.815, 199.35  vs. 14. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.908, 195.45; 4. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.820, 196.36  vs. 13. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.906, 193.60; 5. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.835, 198.41  vs. 12. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.891, 195.62; 6. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.846, 199.37  vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.877, 196.44; 7. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.856, 194.07  vs. 10. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.871, 195.00; 8. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.862, 197.05  vs. 9. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.864, 193.63.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Chaz Kennedy, 7.013, 188.81; 18. Lance Bonham, 7.611, 180.91.

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).