NHRA: Tony Schumacher, John Force, Larry Dixon set Bristol track records

1 Comment

Track records continued to fall Saturday during the final day of qualifying for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.

Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher set a elapsed time track record for the second straight day on Saturday, fellow Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon set a speed track record (331.04 mph), and John Force also set two Funny Car track marks.

After the track and fans waited out a rain delay, both 8-time world champ Schumacher and 16-time world champ Force qualified No. 1 in their respective categories, along with Erica Enders in Pro Stock.

Final eliminations begin at Noon ET on Sunday at the track located across the street from Bristol Motor Speedway.

Schumacher set a track record for quickest elapsed time during Friday’s qualifying, then re-set that mark one day later on Saturday with a 3.745-second pass (at 326.08 mph) in the early evening.

It was Schumacher’s third No. 1 qualifying mark of the season, his fourth at Bristol and 79th of his career. He will face Troy Buff in the first round of eliminations Sunday.

“That was a great run but it doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Schumacher said in a NHRA media release. The Chicago-area native is seeking his sixth career win at Bristol.

“We’re going to be racing in 90-degree temperatures (Sunday),” Schumacher said. “It’s going to be up to the crew that gets down a difficult track and not just throwing horsepower at it like we just did.”

Doug Kalitta qualified No. 2 (3.750 seconds at 329.50 mph), while Shawn Langdon qualified third (3.767 at 322.42). Spencer Massey qualified fourth while Dixon will start fifth.

In Funny Car, Force set track records for elapsed time (3.978 seconds) and speed (323.43 mph), also under the lights, to claim the No. 1 qualifying spot for the first time this season and in his career at Bristol, and the 153rd No. 1 of his career.

“What’s really good to see is the team grow,” said Force, who will face Terry Haddock in the first round. “Jon Schaffer was groomed as crew chief under Mike Neff for the last four or five years. He didn’t have a clue but earned this shot. We rallied a bunch of kids. This is what I dreamed of doing.”

Two-time and defending world champ Matt Hagan qualified No. 2 (3.996 at 322.04), while Jack Beckman qualified No. 3 (3.966 at 319.60).

In Pro Stock, Enders paced her class with a run of 6.632 seconds at 207.59 mph. She’s looking to repeat last year’s win at Bristol.

“It was definitely a long day,” Enders said. “We went out there and we knew that the air got better and that the racetrack was in the best condition it’s been all weekend. We went after it but still was conservative. My crew chiefs did a great job.”

Greg Anderson qualified No. 2 (6.646 at 206.67) and Chris McGaha qualified No. 3 (6.647 at 206.67).

SUNDAY’S FIRST ROUND PAIRINGS:

Top Fuel: 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.745 seconds, 326.08 mph  vs. 16. Troy Buff, 3.961, 300.86; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.750, 329.50  vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 3.897, 315.86; 3. Shawn Langdon, 3.767, 322.42  vs. 14. Pat Dakin, 3.885, 310.98; 4. Spencer Massey, 3.768, 326.63  vs. 13. Leah Pritchett, 3.861, 319.60; 5. Larry Dixon, 3.769, 331.04  vs. 12. Clay Millican, 3.812, 318.17; 6. Antron Brown, 3.770, 320.66  vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.805, 318.47; 7. Dave Connolly, 3.778, 323.81  vs. 10. Steve Torrence, 3.791, 324.75; 8. Brittany Force, 3.787, 316.82  vs. 9. J.R. Todd, 3.790, 318.62. Did Not Qualify: 17. Chris Karamesines, 3.976, 300.53; 18. Cory McClenathan, 3.993, 302.35; 19. Jenna Haddock, 4.232, 219.36.

Funny Car: 1. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.978, 323.43  vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Toyota Solara, 5.156, 159.85; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.996, 322.04  vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Solara, 4.521, 263.77; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.996, 319.60  vs. 14. John Hale, Charger, 4.227, 294.31; 4. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.006, 322.58  vs. 13. Chad Head, Camry, 4.121, 303.23; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.025, 314.90  vs. 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.109, 307.72; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.027, 318.32  vs. 11. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.070, 306.33; 7. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.046, 316.82  vs. 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.052, 305.91; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.048, 317.49  vs. 9. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.049, 318.02. Did Not Qualify: 17. Paul Lee, 6.321, 273.83.

Pro Stock: 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.632, 207.59  vs. 16. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.743, 203.86; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.646, 206.83  vs. 15. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.739, 205.82; 3. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.647, 207.02  vs. 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.714, 204.60; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.651, 207.82  vs. 13. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.691, 205.85; 5. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.652, 206.89  vs. 12. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.686, 206.64; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.653, 206.45  vs. 11. Richie Stevens, Dart, 6.685, 206.16; 7. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.654, 207.27  vs. 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.666, 205.85; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.656, 207.30  vs. 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.659, 206.35. Did Not Qualify: 17. Alan Prusiensky, 6.771, 203.19; 18. Dave River, 6.835, 202.48.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”