NHRA Englishtown winners: Brown (TF), Hagan (FC), Anderson (PS), Savoie (PSM)

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Sunday’s NHRA winners at Englishtown: from left: Antron Brown, Matt Hagan, Jerry Savoie, and Greg Anderson.. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

The only thing better than winning a race is winning at home in front of your family and friends.

And when you reach a significant milestone in the process, the end result is all the more sweeter.

That was the case in Sunday’s Toyota NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.

Much like another Jersey boy, Martin Truex Jr., won the NASCAR race at Pocono also on Sunday, NHRA Top Fuel driver and Chesterfield, N.J., native Antron Brown won his 50th career race in front of family and friends and on his home track.

Brown (3.843 seconds at 318.47 mph) earned his 50th career NHRA victory: his 34th in Top Fuel along with 16 others when he competed in Pro Stock Motorcycle from 1998-2007 before shifting to the four-wheeled dragster.

Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel world champion, defeated Brittany Force, who lost traction (5.398 seconds at 150.16 mph), in the final round of eliminations.

“We knew (my 50th win) was at stake when we came in here, but I put everything of what this race means to the side, and that’s what our team did,” Brown said in an NHRA media release. “We came in here and treated it like a race.

“Every race we come in, we put in all the hard work and put in our all. We had to remind ourselves that each and every round. To do it in the hometown and in front of family means the world to me.”

Brown very likely could now be the driver to beat for the championship this season. Sunday was his third win in the first nine races, and since the start of 2009, he’s won 32 races, 10 more than teammate and closest competitor Tony Schumacher.

In Funny Car, defending series champ Matt Hagan (4.132 seconds at 299.53 mph) also earned his third win of the season, defeating Alexis DeJoria in Sunday’s final round.

It was Hagan’s 17th career Funny Car win and his second at Englishtown. He also took over the lead in the Funny Car point standings from teammate Ron Capps, who Hagan defeated in Sunday’s semifinal round.

“It’s nice to be able to go out here and run so strong and defend the title that we won last year,” Hagan said. “Everything started clicking here this weekend.

“(Crew chief) Dickie (Venables) put a great car underneath me. We were able to beat a lot of tough, tough race cars out there and really good drivers. It just gets tougher and tougher each weekend.”

In Pro Stock, veteran Greg Anderson (6.504 seconds at 214.31 mph) did a quadruple-dip of sorts, defeating Allen Johnson in Sunday’s final round. Not only did he earn his 76th career win, his second triumph of 2015 and his sixth career win at Englishtown, Anderson also took over the Pro Stock points lead.

“I had a great weekend,” Anderson said. “When I got here, the car ran great right off the trailer. I made eight runs in a row. It was awesome. We got the victory. It’s been a while. It’s good to be back.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie (6.974 seconds at 197.71 mph earned his second career win, defeating Jim Underdahl, who was disqualified after red-lighting at the starting line.

“The driver goes from zero-to-hero but I’m not a selfish person, this goes to my crew,” Savoie said. “Those guys worked really hard. The biggest thing is Vance and Hines. You’re running against a group of guys that want to win really bad, like I do, and to give you the power and tell you, ‘You have to find it, but it’s there,’ and you have to compete with them? Great company.”

The next NHRA national event is next weekend, June 12-14, in the NHRA New England Nationals at Epping, N.H.

FINAL FINISHING ORDER: 

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

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

PRO STOCK: 1.  Greg Anderson; 2.  Allen Johnson; 3.  V. Gaines; 4.  Shane Gray; 5.  Drew Skillman; 6.  Bo Butner; 7.  Kenny Delco; 8.  Alan Prusiensky; 9.  Jason Line; 10.  Larry Morgan; 11.  John Gaydosh Jr; 12.  Jonathan Gray; 13.  Vincent Nobile; 14.  Chris McGaha; 15.  Val Smeland; 16.  Erica Enders.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Jerry Savoie; 2.  Jim Underdahl; 3.  Andrew Hines; 4.  Hector Arana Jr; 5.  Hector Arana; 6. Matt Smith; 7.  Eddie Krawiec; 8.  Chip Ellis; 9.  Karen Stoffer; 10.  LE Tonglet; 11.  Scotty Pollacheck; 12.  Shawn Gann; 13.  Angie Smith; 14.  Joe DeSantis; 15.  Steve Johnson; 16.  Angelle Sampey.

SUNDAY’S FINAL RESULTS

Top Fuel: Antron Brown, 3.843 seconds, 318.47 mph  def. Brittany Force, 5.398 seconds, 150.16 mph.

Funny Car: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.132, 299.53  def. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.138, 298.40.

Pro Stock: Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.504, 214.31  def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.537, 213.87.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.794, 197.71  def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, foul.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Spencer Massey, 3.809, 318.02 def. Clay Millican, 10.945, 74.58; Shawn Langdon, 3.809, 316.23 def. Larry Dixon, 4.267, 196.73; Dave Connolly, 3.843, 316.60 def. Leah Pritchett, 6.911, 93.42; Tony Schumacher, 3.802, 318.99 def. Morgan Lucas, 8.739, 85.43; Antron Brown, 3.803, 316.82 def. Jenna Haddock, 3.913, 302.82; Terry McMillen, 3.887, 306.40 def. J.R. Todd, 3.902, 282.01; Brittany Force, 3.848, 316.01 def. Richie Crampton, 9.477, 75.71; Doug Kalitta, 3.821, 313.58 def. Steve Torrence, 3.804, 317.34; QUARTERFINALS — Connolly, 3.848, 312.71 def. Langdon, 6.647, 111.11; McMillen, 5.016, 195.34 def. Massey, 6.462, 129.00; Brown, 3.799, 318.32 def. Kalitta, 3.826, 311.85; Force, 3.838, 314.02 def. Schumacher, 6.216, 117.65; SEMIFINALS — Force, 3.899, 314.09 def. McMillen, 5.079, 146.80; Brown, 3.820, 317.12 def. Connolly, 4.740, 160.50; FINAL — Brown, 3.843, 318.47 def. Force, 5.398, 150.16.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.035, 308.43 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.131, 306.12; Dom Lagana, Toyota Solara, 4.969, 157.74 def. Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 5.348, 270.00; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.114, 299.26 def. Jeff Diehl, Solara, foul; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.101, 303.03 def. John Hale, Charger, broke; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.077, 304.94 def. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.723, 174.73; Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.160, 300.66 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.651, 195.11; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.089, 302.96 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.458, 206.39; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.083, 300.93 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.313, 231.56; QUARTERFINALS — Worsham, 4.116, 300.66 def. T. Pedregon, 7.046, 121.64; Capps, 9.807, 86.18 def. C. Pedregon, foul; Hagan, 4.124, 302.01 def. Johnson Jr., 5.911, 146.96; DeJoria, 4.168, 296.89 def. Lagana, 6.863, 93.35; SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.124, 300.20 def. Capps, 4.191, 282.07; DeJoria, 4.120, 297.09 def. Worsham, 4.138, 301.00; FINAL — Hagan, 4.132, 299.53 def. DeJoria, 4.138, 298.40.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.549, 212.63 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.657, 212.23; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.544, 212.13 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, foul; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.519, 213.87 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, foul; V. Gaines, Dart, 6.538, 212.36 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.510, 215.17; Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.541, 211.76 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 8.301, 117.66; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.493, 214.28 def. Val Smeland, Chevy Cobalt, 8.725, 108.60; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.502, 212.96 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.562, 211.53; Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Avenger, 6.643, 209.95 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 10.306, 87.32; QUARTERFINALS — Gaines, 8.080, 199.14 def. Delco, 10.345, 100.23; Johnson, 6.871, 211.20 def. Prusiensky, 14.931, 56.23; S. Gray, 6.545, 212.49 def. Skillman, 6.523, 212.90; Anderson, 6.503, 214.11 def. Butner, 6.549, 213.43; SEMIFINALS — Johnson, 6.570, 213.77 def. S. Gray, 6.555, 212.79; Anderson, 6.499, 214.14 def. Gaines, 6.531, 213.43; FINAL — Anderson, 6.504, 214.31 def. Johnson, 6.537, 213.87.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.825, 197.48 def. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, foul; Matt Smith, 6.883, 192.96 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.832, 196.19; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.849, 196.04 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.896, 194.80; Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.871, 191.10 def. Angie Smith, 6.971, 189.02; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.833, 196.10 def. Angelle Sampey, Buell, DQ; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.852, 198.38 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.233, 158.28; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 192.60 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, foul; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.862, 192.91 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.882, 194.63; QUARTERFINALS — Savoie, 6.798, 197.62 def. Krawiec, 6.938, 190.35; Hines, 6.894, 192.69 def. Ellis, broke; Underdahl, 6.860, 195.05 def. M. Smith, 6.928, 191.02; Arana Jr, 6.833, 197.08 def. Arana, 6.841, 197.08; SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.785, 197.71 def. Arana Jr, foul; Underdahl, 6.886, 193.10 def. Hines, 6.906, 190.94; FINAL — Savoie, 6.794, 197.71 def. Underdahl, foul.

UPDATED POINTS STANDINGS

Top Fuel: 1.  Antron Brown, 751; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 633; 3.  Spencer Massey, 588; 4.  Richie Crampton, 579; 5.  Doug Kalitta, 554; 6.  Shawn Langdon, 530; 7.  Larry Dixon, 508; 8.  Brittany Force, 479; 9. J.R. Todd, 456; 10.  Clay Millican, 427.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 692; 2.  Ron Capps, 653; 3.  Del Worsham, 587; 4.  Jack Beckman, 567; 5.  John Force, 533; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 513; 7.  Robert Hight, 492; 8.  Alexis DeJoria, 487; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 480; 10.  Cruz Pedregon, 458.

Pro Stock: 1.  Greg Anderson, 781; 2.  Erica Enders, 759; 3.  Jason Line, 698; 4.  Chris McGaha, 578; 5. Rodger Brogdon, 493; 6.  Drew Skillman, 488; 7.  Larry Morgan, 486; 8.  Shane Gray, 474; 9.  Allen Johnson, 461; 10.  Vincent Nobile, 453.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 339; 2.  Andrew Hines, 286; 3.  Hector Arana Jr, 273; 4.  Hector Arana, 259; 5. Karen Stoffer, 238; 6.  Jim Underdahl, 224; 7.  Scotty Pollacheck, 207; 8.  (tie) Jerry Savoie, 198; LE Tonglet, 198; 10.  Angelle Sampey, 193.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Behind the scenes of how the biggest story in racing was kept a secret

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In a world where nobody is able to keep a secret, especially in auto racing, legendary business leader and race team owner Roger Penske and INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles were able to keep the biggest story of the year a secret.

That was Monday morning’s stunning announcement that after 74 years of leadership and ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Hulman George Family was selling the track, the Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR to Penske.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports.com on Thursday, Miles revealed the extreme lengths both sides went to so that nobody found out about this deal ahead of time. That included meeting with Penske at his Detroit offices early on Saturday mornings and late on Sunday nights.

The most important way of keeping it confidential was containing the number of people who were involved.

“We thought it was important to keep it quiet until we were ready to announce it,” Miles told NBC Sports.com. “The reason for that is No. 1, we wanted employees and other stakeholders to hear it from us and not through the distorting rumor mill.

“That was the motivation.

“We just didn’t involve many people. For most of the time, there were four people from Roger’s group in Michigan and four people from here (IMS/INDYCAR) involved and nobody else. There were just four of us. We all knew that none of the eight were going to talk to anybody about it until very late.”

Even key members of both staffs were kept out of the loop, notably Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles, who admitted earlier this week he was not told of the impending sale until Saturday when he was at Texas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR race.

Both Penske and Miles realize the way a deal or a secret slips out is often from people far outside of the discussions who have to get called in to work to help set up an announcement.

Miles had a plan for that scenario, too.

“On Saturday, we had to set up a stream for Monday’s announcement,” Miles said. “We came up with an internal cover story so if anybody saw what was going on, there was a cover story for what that was, and it wasn’t that announcement.

“The key thing was we kept it at only those that needed to know.”

It wasn’t until very late Sunday night and very early Monday morning that key stakeholders in INDYCAR were informed. Team owner Bobby Rahal got a call at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Racing legend Mario Andretti was also informed very early on Monday.

At 8 a.m. that day came the official word from Hulman & Company, which owns the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR as well as a few other businesses, that Penske was buying the racing properties of the company. It was an advisory that a media conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It was a masterful move by both Penske and Miles.

Penske is already famous for keeping one of greatest secrets in racing history in 1993 and 1994. That is when his famed racing team along with Ilmor Engineering created “The Beast” – a 209 cubic-inch, pushrod engine that was designed, developed and tested in total secrecy. A small, select group of Team Penske mechanics were involved in the top-secret project and were told by Penske that if word of the engine leaked out, “it would be like cutting your paycheck.”

Nobody talked.

History repeated itself with the biggest racing story of the 21st Century, the sale of the world’s most famous race course that hosts the largest single-day sporting event in the world – the annual Indianapolis 500.

When INDYCAR held its “Victory Lap” award ceremony on Sept. 26 in Indianapolis, Miles told the crowd of an impending announcement that would be big news for the sport.

Was he coming close to giving away Monday’s announcement?

“No, that was about a sponsor announcement that will be coming along later,” Miles said on Thursday night.

Penske is one of America’s greatest and most successful business leaders. He is also the most successful team owner in auto racing history with 545 wins in all forms of racing including a record 18 Indianapolis 500 wins, a record 16 NTT IndyCar Series championships as well as two Daytona 500 wins and two NASCAR Monster Energy Cup championships just to name a few.

Penske was not the only bidder, but he was the one who made the most sense to the Hulman George Family, because it was important to find an owner who believed in “stewardship” of the greatest racing tradition on Earth more so than “ownership” of an auto racing facility and series.

“There were a number of parties that were engaged in thinking about this with us,” Miles revealed to NBC Sports.com. “There were a couple that got as far as what I call the ‘Red Zone.’

“Then, Tony George reached out to Roger Penske on Sept. 22.

“Price and value were always important, but the thing that nobody could match was the attributes that Roger could bring to the table, in terms of his history of the sport, his knowledge of the sport, combined with his business sense.

“He was viewed as the leader from a legacy or stewardship perspective, which was a very important factor.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

McLaren IndyCar boss breaks down team’s first test since missing Indy 500

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McLaren Sporting Director Gil De Ferran left Sebring International Raceway last Tuesday with a much happier outlook than when he left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 19.

That was when McLaren and famed two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ill-prepared. They failed to make the 33-car starting lineup for the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

That day in May, De Ferran vowed that McLaren would return.

Last Tuesday, what is now known as Arrow McLaren Racing SP after purchasing into Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, De Ferran was back to evaluate the team’s NTT IndyCar Series effort.

Instead of Alonso in the cockpit, it was the team’s recently named full-time drivers for 2020 at the test. That included 20-year-old Pato O’Ward of Monterrey, Mexico, the 2018 Indy Lights champion and 22-year-old Oliver Askew of Jupiter, Florida, the 2019 Indy Lights champion.

O’Ward was in the car for the test with Askew watching from the pit area.

“Pato did a great job, did not put a foot wrong, got on to it straight away and it was all good,” De Ferran told NBC Sports.com. “It was a positive day on all fronts. To work together, to build the team together and embark on this team together was very positive.”

De Ferran is a two-time CART champion with titles in 2000 and 2001 when he was with Team Penske. He also won the 2003 Indianapolis 500 for Team Penske before retiring as a driver at the end of that season.

Since then, he has been involved in numerous Formula One, IndyCar and Sports Car efforts. As McLaren’s Sporting Director, De Ferran is involved in both Formula One and IndyCar.

Arrow McLaren Racing SP also includes partners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson. Arrow also has a financial stake in the team in addition to serving as sponsor.

The chance to work with two young drivers is something that has De Ferran excited.

“They are both very young, but they have been around for a while,” De Ferran said. “It’s not like these guys are completely clueless about racing. They have been racing ever since they were kids. Generally speaking, as a trend in motorsports, they start much younger than I did. They move to cars at a younger age and tend to reach this level of the sport at a younger age then when I was coming up.

“Although they don’t have a lot of experience in IndyCar, several members of the team can help in their development. These guys are very accomplished and top-level guys. They have won a lot of races and championships before getting the nod from our team.”

Last week’s test was part of INDYCAR’s evaluation of the new aeroscreen that will be on all cars beginning in 2020. Arrow McLaren Racing SP is a Chevrolet team. Honda team Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan also participated in the test with four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais as the driver.

This was the only test that Arrow McLaren Racing SP will conduct in 2019. Testing time is severely limited De Ferran said it won’t be back on track until the 2020 regulations take effect.

Arrow McLaren Racing SP has already experienced some controversy after the team said several weeks ago that popular driver James Hinchcliffe would not be driving for the team. He remains on the payroll and is expected to be at the track in a public relations capacity.

That has angered many IndyCar fans who are huge fans of the popular Canadian driver.

“I have nothing more to add to this than what was said at the time,” De Ferran told NBC Sports.com. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s head-down. We have to go racing. We are on a journey here together with this partnership and two young drivers that are very accomplished and have a lot of talent. Our job is to deliver the results on the track.

“That is where my focus is. I’m completely focused on improving every aspect of everything that we do trackside.

“One thing I guarantee you, whatever we start, to have that focus to improve everything that we do we will continue to move forward. It was like that when I was driving, and it was like that throughout my professional career away from the cockpit. We will keep looking for opportunities to improve.

“Eventually, good things will happen.”

It was just Day One on the track, but after seeing this team struggle at last year’s Indianapolis 500, McLaren took its first step in returning as a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team.

“This is the beginning of a journey that we embarked on several months ago now and you do a lot in the background,” De Ferran said. “The guys from SPM and us have put a lot into this partnership. Behind the scenes, we have been working hard together.

“We’re all racers, man. We want to see cars on track. This has been like a little check off the box and it feels good that we were on track.

“We have a long journey ahead, but it’s good to be working together, at the race track, how the car is handling, the engine is working and how the drivers do.

“First day on the track for Arrow McLaren Racing SP. It’s a good day.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500