(Photo courtesy NHRA)

NHRA: Brown (Top Fuel), Enders (Pro Stock) capture championships

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Antron Brown and Erica Enders capped spectacular seasons by earning 2015 NHRA championships in Top Fuel and Pro Stock, respectively, in Sunday’s finals of the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Brown captured his second career Top Fuel crown (and 55th win of his career) while Enders earned her second consecutive championship (and 21st win of her career), the only female to ever win Pro Stock titles.

Both drivers did so early: one more race remains on the NHRA national event schedule – two weeks from now (Nov. 13-15) in the Auto Club NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif. Championships still to be decided are in Funny Car and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Brown won his title by reaching the Top Fuel semifinals. Enders, meanwhile, captured her ninth win of the season, joining Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) as Sunday’s event winners.

Brown hoped to earn his eighth win of the season, but fell short in the semifinals to Kalitta.

“We were greedy,” said Brown, who earned $500,000 for winning the Top Fuel championship. “We really wanted to have the Toyota Wally (trophy) next to that big Wally (championship), but, hey, we’ll take the big one any day.

“I just lost a race to Doug Kalitta by five-ten-thousandths of a second. It’s probably the closest race of all year. That’s how competitive this class has gotten, and that’s what makes this so big and makes it worth it when you can go out there and win a championship like our team has.”

As for Enders, she earned $250,000 for the championship (plus $50,000 for winning the event) and becomes the second female driver in NHRA history to win back-to-back titles. Angelle Sampey won three consecutive Pro Stock Motorcycle crowns from 2000-2002.

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you get the right people around you,” said Enders, who won for the fourth time at Las Vegas. “To do it in front of all my sponsors and family here this weekend it is incredible. To cap off a second world championship here at Vegas is just crazy.”

Of note in Sunday’s eliminations:

* Kalitta earned his third win of the season and 38th of his career, defeating Larry Dixon.

“Once we got past Antron – ‘cause that was an incredibly close race – I was feeling good for the finals. Not sure what happened there in the final. It was a lucky win for us, but we’ll take it. It’s Vegas and anything can happen.”

* Hight earned his second win of the season, his fifth at Las Vegas and 36th of his career, defeating Tommy Johnson Jr. In so doing, Hight moved past Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Cruz Pedregon on NHRA’s all-time Funny Car wins list. He moved from eighth to sixth in Funny Car points.

“It’s really a bummer to me to not be in the points chase this late in the year,” Hight said. “We’re not used to that. It drives you because you want to be there. It makes you dig deep so we’re not in the same position next year.”

* Heading into the season-ending race at Pomona, Del Worsham leads Jack Beckman by 38 points. Johnson is a distant 97 points back, but is still mathematically in contention for the championship.

Worsham is hoping to become only the third driver in NHRA history to win both Top Fuel and Funny Car championships in his career.

* Andrew Hines won his third race of the Countdown for the Championship and fourth of the season. The defending PSM champ heads to Pomona in pursuit of his fifth career title, but Jerry Savoie is not going to make it easy: Hines leads Savoie by just 46 points.

“The biggest thing was that final round battle between one and two in points,” Hines said of defeating Savoie, who fouled on the run. “We’ve been running neck and neck all weekend long. I was in damage control all day and I was lucky enough to turn on a few win lights.

“That final might’ve looked pressure packed, but I was calm and confident. I knew I needed a good race. The team was able to make the motorcycle go quicker in the final and we got the win.”

SUNDAY’S FINAL STATISTICS

FINISHING ORDER:

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

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

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

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

FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel: Doug Kalitta, 4.239 seconds, 207.59 mph  def. Larry Dixon, 8.110 seconds, 73.95 mph.

Funny Car: Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.955, 323.97  def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 8.279, 85.02.

Pro Stock: Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.595, 208.97  def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.610, 209.33.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.920, 193.05  def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, foul.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Richie Crampton, 3.819, 303.64 def. Troy Buff, 3.888, 311.70; Clay Millican, 3.768, 319.52 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.437, 195.08; Antron Brown, 3.787, 321.73 def. Jenna Haddock, 3.850, 311.63; Larry Dixon, 3.770, 328.30 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.185, 266.90; Billy Torrence, 3.772, 325.53 def. Noah Stutz, 3.947, 265.69; Doug Kalitta, 3.791, 321.58 def. Steve Torrence, 3.886, 311.49; Tony Schumacher, 3.796, 321.88 def. J.R. Todd, 5.031, 153.21; Dave Connolly, 3.777, 325.06 def. Brittany Force, 6.075, 133.99;

QUARTERFINALS — Kalitta, 3.796, 317.05 def. Crampton, 3.801, 322.50; Millican, 4.186, 235.51 def. B. Torrence, 8.505, 83.41; Dixon, 3.777, 326.32 def. Schumacher, 3.812, 321.35; Brown, 3.786, 323.74 def. Connolly, 4.515, 173.23.

SEMIFINALS — Dixon, 3.800, 322.65 def. Millican, 3.829, 318.32; Kalitta, 3.774, 322.73 def. Brown, 3.786, 317.94;

FINAL — Kalitta, 4.239, 207.59 def. Dixon, 8.110, 73.95.

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.002, 319.60 def. Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 9.913, 82.26; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.952, 325.53 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.007, 317.94; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.014, 310.98 def. Bob Bode, Toyota Solara, 9.484, 92.63; Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.035, 318.54 def. Gary Densham, Charger, 4.508, 204.94; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.998, 320.28 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.077, 292.46; Chad Head, Camry, 4.028, 314.24 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 10.500, 85.92; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.004, 314.90 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.261, 307.02; Del Worsham, Camry, 3.977, 322.19 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.773, 167.59;

QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 3.988, 321.88 def. Beckman, 3.988, 318.47; Head, 4.012, 314.75 def. C. Force, 4.094, 308.85; Hight, 3.983, 318.92 def. Worsham, 3.994, 319.37; Johnson Jr., 4.008, 309.13 def. DeJoria, 4.008, 291.32;

SEMIFINALS — Johnson Jr., 3.968, 313.07 def. Capps, 3.978, 319.22; Hight, 3.971, 323.89 def. Head, 4.035, 313.88;

FINAL — Hight, 3.955, 323.97 def. Johnson Jr., 8.279, 85.02.

PRO STOCK:

ROUND ONE — Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.699, 207.94 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.698, 207.43; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.625, 209.07 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.632, 208.59; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.617, 208.88 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, foul; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.608, 208.78 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.636, 208.10; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.619, 208.75 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.670, 207.53; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.598, 209.14 def. Matt Hartford, Pontiac GXP, 6.676, 207.53; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.585, 209.59 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.692, 206.23; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.600, 208.78 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 7.108, 155.65;

QUARTERFINALS — Butner, 6.642, 208.78 def. McGaha, 6.619, 209.07; Skillman, 6.605, 209.04 def. Line, 6.622, 208.55; Nobile, 6.615, 208.75 def. Anderson, 6.630, 209.04; Enders, 6.596, 209.39 def. S. Gray, 6.630, 208.46;

SEMIFINALS — Butner, 6.616, 208.62 def. Nobile, 6.625, 208.65; Enders, 6.598, 208.97 def. Skillman, foul;

FINAL — Enders, 6.595, 208.97 def. Butner, 6.610, 209.33.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:

ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.923, 193.07 def. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 7.065, 191.84; Hector Arana, Buell, 7.032, 191.67 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, foul; Mike Berry, Buell, 7.060, 188.31 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 7.092, 184.55; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.973, 191.97 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.016, 191.54; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.987, 190.81 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.960, 192.36; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.945, 192.96 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.970, 193.21; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.965, 191.76 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, foul; Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.966, 190.70 def. Matt Smith, 7.003, 190.32;

QUARTERFINALS — Savoie, 6.939, 193.60 def. Johnson, 7.011, 190.08; Arana, 7.051, 190.08 def. Berry, 18.023, 22.66; Hines, 6.964, 192.77 def. Pollacheck, 7.007, 190.70; Tonglet, 6.922, 193.79 def. Krawiec, 6.959, 192.93;

SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.973, 191.92 def. Arana, 7.001, 191.54; Savoie, 6.906, 194.10 def. Tonglet, 6.980, 192.66;

FINAL — Hines, 6.920, 193.05 def. Savoie, foul.

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Antron Brown, 2,588; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 2,426; 3.  Larry Dixon, 2,372; 4.  Richie Crampton, 2,356; 5.  Brittany Force, 2,331; 6.  Doug Kalitta, 2,316; 7.  Steve Torrence, 2,289; 8.  Shawn Langdon, 2,275; 9.  Dave Connolly, 2,271; 10.  J.R. Todd, 2,249.

Funny Car: 1.  Del Worsham, 2,545; 2.  Jack Beckman, 2,507; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,448; 4.  Ron Capps, 2,405; 5.  Matt Hagan, 2,361; 6.  Robert Hight, 2,314; 7.  John Force, 2,300; 8.  Alexis DeJoria, 2,260; 9.  Cruz Pedregon, 2,233; 10.  Tim Wilkerson, 2,227.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders, 2,631; 2.  Greg Anderson, 2,409; 3.  Chris McGaha, 2,389; 4.  Drew Skillman, 2,374; 5.  Allen Johnson, 2,331; 6.  Larry Morgan, 2,324; 7.  Jason Line, 2,298; 8.  Vincent Nobile, 2,293; 9.  Jonathan Gray, 2,252; 10.  Shane Gray, 2,236.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Andrew Hines, 2,534; 2.  Jerry Savoie, 2,488; 3.  Eddie Krawiec, 2,451; 4.  Hector Arana Jr, 2,363; 5.  Chip Ellis, 2,337; 6.  Matt Smith, 2,329; 7.  Karen Stoffer, 2,314; 8.  Hector Arana, 2,291; 9.  Jim Underdahl, 2,189; 10.  Scotty Pollacheck, 2,160.

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F1: Max Verstappen provides late-lap thrills at U.S. Grand Prix

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AUSTIN, Texas — Leave it to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to provide some late-race thrills at the U.S. Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s key block on Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton late in Sunday’s race denied Hamilton a chance to maybe chase down Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to win. And it helped deny Hamilton’s bid for the season championship.

Verstappen’s defensive skills allowed the Red Bull driver to finish second, his best result yet at the U.S Grand Prix, his fourth podium in six races. By keeping Hamilton third, it kept the season championship alive, even if just another week to the Mexican Grand Prix.

Last season, Verstappen had surged past Raikkonen on a final-lap pass to finish third. It was the kind of aggressive move that earned him the “Mad Max” nickname. Before he could even reach the podium, race officials declared Verstappen’s move illegal and bumped an angry Verstappen down to fifth.

The Circuit of the Americas this week installed a new curb on the same corner, dubbed “Verstoppen,” to punish drivers who tried anything similar this year. It worked when Verstappen hit it hard enough in qualifying to knock his car out of the session with a damaged suspension and gear box. He started Sunday’s race 18th.

The Dutch driver launched a furious attack through the field and found himself in the thick of things late Sunday. His move to block Hamilton wasn’t on the same corner with the curbs, and it came with him playing defense instead of being the aggressor.

Verstappen had to make multiple moves to keep Hamilton behind him and finally drove the Mercedes wide, forcing Hamilton to finally concede the position and the race.

“I was trying to get close to Kimi but at the same time keeping an eye on Lewis in my mirror. It was close, but we managed to hang on,” Verstappen said. “It is safe to say today went a lot better than expected.”

Knowing Verstappen’s aggressive nature, Hamilton said there was too much at stake to risk a collision.

“The key to me was to make sure I finished ahead of Seb. I don’t care when you win a championship, just that you win,” Hamilton said. “”For Max, to come back from so far, he did a great job.”

Verstappen has been just as aggressive at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

In 2016, race officials ruled he improperly left the track to gain an advantage on Vettel to finish third and he was bumped from the podium. Last season, Verstappen’s strong start sent him into the lead out of the first turn, while Hamilton and Vettel bumped each other. The collision ruptured one of Hamilton’s tires.

Verstappen won the race while Hamilton limped home in ninth place, but still won the season championship.