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NHRA: Worsham rolls to 3rd Countdown win, but Beckman stays close

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ENNIS, Texas – Del Worsham was uncertain of two things after he crossed the finish line of the final round of the NHRA’s AAA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex.

Worsham quickly sought answers from his crew chief over the radio.

Yes, he had beat championship rival Jack Beckman to the line for the win.

But as he rolled down the 1,000-foot drag strip, he feared he may have crossed the center line, which would have resulted in immediate disqualification.

“I thought I was OK on the tree (starting line), I thought everything was good,” Worsham said. “We were going along and I couldn’t actually see (Beckman), but I wasn’t looking at him.

“Then all of a sudden, at about the time I was home free, it darts to the right and I just jerked the wheel to the left, shut it off and got the (parachutes) out.”

While it was close, it turns out Worsham hadn’t crossed the line.

In their first career final round matchup, Worsham defeated Beckman on a holeshot for his third win in the first four rounds of the Countdown to the Championship. Worsham crossed the line in 4.041 sec. at 272.17 mph, while Beckman finished in 4.077 sec. at a much faster 287.25 mph.

Despite Worsham’s three wins in the first four races of the six-event playoff, Beckman is making a battle of it, trailing Worsham by just 38 points with two races remaining (Las Vegas in two weeks and the season finale at Ponoma in mid-November).

“The reality of it is there aren’t a whole lot of rounds left,” Worsham said, soaking in his third win at the track where he earned his nitro fuel license 25 years ago. “You would think if a guy won three races out of four in the Countdown, he would have somewhat of a lead. I don’t think we have any lead.”

Beckman can take solace in that he leaves Dallas with new track records in elapsed time (3.909 seconds) and speed (326.32 mph), both set in the first round of eliminations.

Top Fuel

When he’s in the final round, Richie Crampton can do no wrong. The Australian outlasted Steve Torrence to claim his fifth win of the 2015 season and the seventh of his career. He’s now undefeated in seven final round appearances.

“I was actually more nervous about the first round than the final round because of that (stat),” Crampton said.

Torrence began pedaling his dragster three-quarters of the way down the racetrack, while Crampton showed signs of tire spinning just before he crossed the finish line in 3.97 seconds at 283.07 mph. Torrence’s time was 4.074 seconds at 267.32 mph.

Crampton made it to the final round despite a clutch control issue that began in the second round against Brittany Force.

“I was helping guys change the clutch control between rounds twice today,” Crampton said. “For those of you who would understand, (it) is a pretty big process. At the end of this day, I’m just beat. “

It’s Crampton’s first win since August’s Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minn., and his first career Countdown win.

Despite losing to Crampton in the semifinals, Antron Brown, who won the first three races of the Countdown, increased his lead in the Top Fuel standings to 132 points over teammate and defending champ Tony Schumacher, who lost in Sunday’s opening round.

Pro Stock

It took a better engine and a margin of .002 seconds for Erica Enders to claim the Pro Stock win.

Jonathan Gray got the jump on her with a reaction time of .010 sec. to Enders’ .030. But the 2014 Pro Stock champion was the first across the finish line, which she crossed in 6.467 seconds at 214.48 mph, to Gray’s 6.489 seconds, 213.60 mph run.

It was the Houston native’s first win at the Texas Motorplex, where she’s raced since she was 8-years-old in 1992. She also claimed the record for wins in a season by a female driver.

“This place definitely holds a special place in my heart,” Enders said. “I’ve wanted a cowboy hat and a brick (the trophies for winners) for a really long time and we were finally able to get it done today.”

Enders’ eighth win of the season gives her a full race lead in the point standings over Greg Anderson.

Enders’ final round reaction time was her only one Sunday that was slower than .017 seconds. Her fastest was .008 against Chris McGaha in the second round.

Track Record: Anderson had no time to enjoy his track records in E.T. (6.457 seconds) and speed (214.59 mph). The former champion was beaten in a hole-shot win by Chris McGaha in the first round.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

New isn’t always better. Jerry Savoie, driving a 2001 Suzuki TL 1000, was the No. 1 qualifier in Pro Stock Motorcycle and continued on to win the race, defeating Eddie Krawiec on his 2015 HD V-Rod.

Savoie earned his third win of 2015 in a holeshot, leaving the line after .016 seconds to Krawiec’s .040. Savoie went the distance in 6.744 seconds and 198.44 mph for his fourth career win.

“Man, that is one fast motor scooter,”the 56-year-old Louisiana alligator farm owner said. “I keep telling everybody I wish I could see it. My goal was to win one race. Just one race. For this to be happening in my life, there’s only one person that controls it and that’s God up above.”

Track Record: Savoie put down the record for both E.T. and speed in two different rounds. He went 6.74 seconds in the final round and his speed of 198.99 came one round earlier against Karren Stofer.

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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

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

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

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

FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel — Richie Crampton, 3.972 seconds, 283.07 mph  def. Steve Torrence, 4.074 seconds, 267.32 mph.

Funny Car — Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.041, 272.17  def. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.077, 286.25.

Pro Stock — Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.467, 214.48  def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.489, 213.60.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.744, 198.44  def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.915, 196.30.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Richie Crampton, 3.705, 328.94 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.761, 326.56; Antron Brown, 3.716, 324.51 def. J.R. Todd, 3.777, 326.56; Dave Connolly, 3.789, 325.61 def. Jenna Haddock, 4.109, 276.58; Billy Torrence, 3.732, 326.71 def. Kebin Kinsley, 4.193, 201.88; Brittany Force, 3.756, 327.90 def. Terry McMillen, 5.456, 130.37; Shawn Langdon, 3.733, 328.54 def. Troy Buff, 14.710, 33.74; Steve Torrence, 3.735, 326.24 def. Larry Dixon, 3.759, 323.81; Clay Millican, 3.748, 321.35 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.114, 227.92; QUARTERFINALS — Millican, 3.772, 320.51 def. Connolly, 3.796, 322.11; Brown, 3.732, 324.20 def. B. Torrence, 3.789, 300.93; Crampton, 4.005, 294.95 def. Force, foul; S. Torrence, 3.735, 326.95 def. Langdon, 3.783, 327.82; SEMIFINALS — S. Torrence, 3.781, 324.12 def. Millican, 4.810, 153.32; Crampton, 3.814, 321.19 def. Brown, 4.919, 151.34; FINAL — Crampton, 3.972, 283.07 def. S. Torrence, 4.074, 267.32.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.940, 322.73 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.965, 319.37; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.971, 321.19 def. Cory Lee, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 4.273, 239.06; Del Worsham, Camry, 3.925, 324.67 def. John Hale, Charger, 6.812, 95.90; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.909, 326.32 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, DQ; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.381, 246.08 def. Blake Alexander, Charger, foul; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.947, 322.27 def. Chad Head, Camry, DQ; John Force, Camaro, 3.998, 324.83 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.874, 160.98; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.007, 320.20 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.751, 167.70; QUARTERFINALS — Johnson Jr., 3.975, 321.65 def. Hagan, 3.993, 321.73; Capps, 3.957, 322.73 def. Hight, 3.974, 321.50; Beckman, 4.281, 261.83 def. J. Force, 5.570, 99.68; Worsham, 3.970, 321.65 def. DeJoria, 4.737, 169.02; SEMIFINALS — Beckman, 3.989, 312.93 def. Johnson Jr., 4.294, 224.21; Worsham, 3.975, 320.66 def. Capps, 3.999, 319.29; FINAL — Worsham, 4.041, 272.17 def. Beckman, 4.077, 286.25.

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Larry Morgan, Chevy Camaro, 6.484, 213.60 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, foul; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.493, 212.96 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 7.902, 122.09; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.477, 213.98 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.522, 212.83; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.504, 213.20 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.457, 214.59; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.467, 214.25 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.505, 212.59; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.467, 214.18 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Avenger, 6.701, 207.11; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.472, 214.14 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.524, 211.20; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.475, 213.60 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 9.466, 96.97; QUARTERFINALS — J. Gray, 6.524, 212.33 def. Butner, 6.519, 213.43; Skillman, 6.471, 214.31 def. Morgan, foul; Johnson, 6.530, 212.26 def. Line, 6.482, 214.14; Enders, 6.461, 214.45 def. McGaha, 6.512, 213.03; SEMIFINALS — J. Gray, 6.514, 213.74 def. Johnson, 6.524, 212.59; Enders, 6.472, 214.21 def. Skillman, 6.485, 213.37; FINAL — Enders, 6.467, 214.48 def. J. Gray, 6.489, 213.60.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.785, 197.94 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.852, 195.62; Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.821, 196.39 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.892, 192.82; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.827, 196.79 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.896, 195.73; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.919, 196.70 def. Mike Berry, Buell, broke; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.904, 195.34 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.378, 138.76; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.827, 196.13 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.925, 186.77; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.859, 196.39 def. Angie Smith, 7.010, 185.74; Matt Smith, 6.817, 194.97 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.899, 193.63; QUARTERFINALS — Savoie, 6.779, 198.20 def. M. Smith, 6.886, 193.82; Ellis, 6.840, 196.33 def. Arana, 6.895, 195.45; Stoffer, 6.820, 196.82 def. Johnson, 6.888, 194.55; Krawiec, 6.830, 194.46 def. Arana Jr, foul; SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.753, 198.99 def. Stoffer, 6.814, 196.42; Krawiec, 6.820, 194.94 def. Ellis, 6.819, 196.42; FINAL — Savoie, 6.744, 198.44 def. Krawiec, 6.915, 196.30.

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1. Antron Brown, 2,505; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 2,373; 3.  Richie Crampton, 2,302; 4.  Brittany Force, 2,298; 5.  Larry Dixon, 2,268; 6.  Steve Torrence, 2,254; 7.  Shawn Langdon, 2,236; 8.  Dave Connolly, 2,219; 9.  J.R. Todd, 2,213; 10.  Doug Kalitta, 2,205.

Funny Car: 1. Del Worsham, 2,488; 2.  Jack Beckman, 2,450; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,341; 4.  Ron Capps, 2,330; 5.  Matt Hagan, 2,329; 6.  John Force, 2,264; 7.  Alexis DeJoria, 2,206; 8.  Cruz Pedregon, 2,201; 9.  Robert Hight, 2,196; 10.  Tim Wilkerson, 2,195.

Pro Stock: 1. Erica Enders, 2,501; 2.  Greg Anderson, 2,347; 3.  Chris McGaha, 2,335; 4.  Allen Johnson, 2,299; 5.  Drew Skillman, 2,298; 6.  Larry Morgan, 2,292; 7.  Jason Line, 2,240; 8.  (tie) Jonathan Gray, 2,220; Vincent Nobile, 2,220; 10.  Shane Gray, 2,183.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,412; 2.  Eddie Krawiec, 2,391; 3.  Jerry Savoie, 2,381; 4.  Hector Arana Jr, 2,331; 5.  Chip Ellis, 2,305; 6.  Matt Smith, 2,297; 7.  Karen Stoffer, 2,280; 8.  Hector Arana, 2,219; 9.  Jim Underdahl, 2,158; 10.  Scotty Pollacheck, 2,107.

INDYCAR’S contract at Laguna Seca not affected by new track management

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INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles told NBC Sports.com that INDYCAR’s season-ending race at WeatherTech Raceway in Monterey, California is not in any type of jeopardy after Monterey County officials sought a new management company for the Laguna Seca facility.

After 62 years of continuous management of the Laguna Seca Raceway, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) was advised via email by County of Monterey Assistant County Administrative Officer (ACAO) Dewayne Woods last month. The email said, “…the County is now in negotiations with another proposer for management services at Laguna Seca Recreational Area.”

At a November 19 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, a proposal centered on Monterey County’s direct management of the Raceway and Recreation Area.  The Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to have a management group led by Monterey businessman John Narigi take over for SCRAMP.

The NTT IndyCar Series returned to Laguna Seca in September for the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. It was the first time IndyCar had competed at Laguna Seca since September 12, 2004 after it had been a regular on the CART schedule from 1983 to 2004.

NBC Sports.com asked Miles if the new management group would impact the multi-year contract at the picturesque road course near Monterey, California.

“I’m happy to answer that,” Miles told NBC Sports.com. “We have following the situation closely for several months. At this point, we don’t have any concerns. Our sanctioning agreement is with the county and not was not with SCRAMP. The county is excited about the event and looking forward to the next edition in 2020.

“The county has appointed a new management team for the operation of the facility. There is plenty of work to do on their part and on our part to make sure they understand the requirements for the event and to make sure they execute well.

“The event is certainly going on. The financial underpinnings and the contractual obligations are between us and the county. They think they have selected the best possible management team and we look forward to working with them.”

Miles said INDYCAR vice president of promoter and media partner relations Stephen Starks has been working directly with the new management group at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

“The agreement is between us and the county and the county is absolutely comitted and excited about the future, they have appointed a new management team at Laguna Seca, and we look forward to working with them,” Miles said.

INDYCAR officials believe the series return to Laguna Seca was very successful in terms of promotion and spectator turnout.

“We were really pleased,” Miles said. “I think we under-estimated how outstanding it is both for the race and for the venue and the region. I thought it was better than we expected but it bodes well for the future.

“We’re going to be looking at how to take better advantage of it in the promotion of the series.

“There is plenty of room for growth and they will find ways to manage that from a traffic perspective,” Miles said. “We thought it was a great success. We think it can be even bigger. We have the commitment of the county and look forward to working with the new management team.”

Miles and INDYCAR are optimistic of continued success at WeatherTech Raceway with new management. However, the decision to end a 62-year relationship with SCRAMP was a surprise.

“This news comes as a surprise to the SCRAMP organization,” said Tim McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and SCRAMP, who took over the position in June 2018. “We were starting to make real progress on getting the facility and the raceway operations turned around and poised for the future, but it appears at this time we may not have the opportunity to see these plans through.”

SCRAMP believed the Monterey County Board of Supervisors denied the chance for it to continue with its plan.

“As the existing facility operator, we were stunned by the fact that we were not provided the opportunity to discuss our proposal with the ACAO,” McGrane said. “The entire process has been unconventional, ranging from the bypassing of the County’s usual Request For Proposal (RFP) process, the announcement in mid-October requesting proposals from any interested parties with only two weeks’ notice, and complaints that SCRAMP had not met deadlines to submit a proposal when in fact a submission date had been agreed upon in May, and subsequently met, has been challenging.

“We have been in this position before with the County administration, but we, our fans, racing series and teams, do have to look at the possibility of the era of SCRAMP operating Laguna Seca Raceway coming to an end.”

In 2015, Monterey County began private talks with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) who, after a careful review of the operational parameters of the facility, determined not to submit a formal proposal for management of the track. In 2016, the Monterey County Administrators Office entered into negotiations with another group to replace SCRAMP for 2017 but were unable to agree to terms that were mutually acceptable. The County then reverted back to a three-year agreement with SCRAMP to continue running Laguna Seca.

According to a statement from SCRAMP, in 2018, the SCRAMP-run Laguna Seca Raceway attracted 263,888 attendees and generated $84.4 million in direct spending generated by event attendees over 26 days of the seven major events. 2019 saw SCRAMP orchestrate the long-awaited and highly successful return of IndyCars to Laguna Seca, with a larger than anticipated spectator count for the weekend.

2019 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

“We’ve delivered an extensive, forward-looking proposal to the County for a new, long-term 20-year management and operating agreement that incorporates solid plans for revenue generation and expense reduction, expansion of the use of existing facilities, and development of Laguna Seca into a world-class destination,” said CEO McGrane. “We are building the right team, both paid staff and volunteers, with extensive motorsports experience, institutional knowledge, and the dedication to lead this important Monterey County asset into a successful future. We hope we still have the opportunity to present our plans directly to the County Board of Supervisors and we would be proud to continue SCRAMP’s 62-year stewardship of Laguna Seca on behalf of Monterey County.”

The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, a 501(c)4 not-for-profit, was formed in 1957 by local business owners and civic leaders. SCRAMP’s goal was to raise the funds needed to construct a permanent motor racing circuit to maintain the tradition of sports car racing on the Monterey Peninsula which had begun in 1950 in the Del Monte Forest at Pebble Beach. SCRAMP is comprised of a Board of Governors, Race and Events Committees, and hundreds of loyal volunteers who donate thousands of hours each year to ensure the successful operation of events here.

The SCRAMP organization acquired leased land from the US Army at Fort Ord on August 7, 1957, and the now-legendary track, built with funds raised by SCRAMP, held its first race, the 8th Annual Pebble Beach at Laguna Seca SCCA National Championship Sports Car Road Races, on November 9 & 10, 1957. In 1974 the site was transferred from the Army to Monterey County, who together with SCRAMP, have managed the facility through this year.

SCRAMP’s current three-year management and operating agreement with Monterey County ends on December 31, 2019. SCRAMP currently employs a full-time professional staff of just over 40 team members.

INDYCAR, itself, is about to have an ownership change as racing and business icon Roger Penske and the Penske Corporation completes its acquisition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500, INDYCAR and IMS Productions sometime after January 1. Miles and the INDYCAR staff as well as the staffs at IMS and IMS Productions will be retained.

Miles will become CEO of Penske Entertainment and will continue his duties that he currently has. Since the sale was announced on November 4, Miles and key officials have met with Penske and his top officials on a weekly basis.

“It’s been great,” Miles said. “We are covering tons of ground. Roger and his team are all about adding value.

“It’s a very focused effort that is making great progress.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500