(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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Scott McLaughlin will make IndyCar debut for Team Penske at St. Pete

Scott McLaughlin IndyCar debut
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Two-time defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will make his NTT IndyCar Series debut with Team Penske in the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

McLaughlin, 27, drove for Penske in preseason IndyCar testing at Circuit of the Americas, Sebring International Raceway (in a rookie evaluation) and Texas Motor Speedway, and he was announced Feb. 5 as making his debut with the team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delayed the start of the season.

Travel restrictions also made it difficult for the New Zealand native to leave Australia, where he leads the points for DJR Team Penske in the Virgin Australia Supercars series with three races remaining. He set a Supercars record last season with 18 victories.

The Supercars season will conclude Oct. 18 with the prestigious 24 Hours of Bathurst. McLaughlin then will head directly to the States to drive the No. 3 Dallara-Chevrolet at St. Pete as a teammate of Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” McLaughlin, who also has won at Barber and Indianapolis while unofficially finishing first in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, said in a release. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my IndyCar debut.”

McLaughlin, whose wife, Karly, is from New York, said he has discussed racing in America with car owner Roger Penske since he was hired by the team for the 2017 season.

“I’ve always said I’d love to have a crack at something else,” McLaughlin told reporters in February during the preseason test at Austin, Texas. “My goal was always to win the championship in Bathurst and Australia. I ticked those boxes, and then opportunities arise over time. The conversation between me and Roger was pretty short. ‘Would you be interested in IndyCar?’ I’d literally drive a wheelbarrow with a Team Penske sticker on it. I’d race anything that comes with the opportunity.

“I’ve always intended I’d love to get America one day potentially if I’ve done my goals in Australia. I’ve always said whether it’s now or 30 years down the track, I’d love to finish up (in America). I’ve promised Karly that we would come back here eventually. She’s not pushing me by any means, but I’ve always had a passion for American motorsport and certainly would love the opportunity.”

McLaughlin also has indicated a desire to try racing in NASCAR for Team Penske. He discussed his comfort with stock cars during a 2017 episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast (click on the link below to hear it).

Here’s the release from Team Penske:

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (September 17, 2020) – Team Penske announced today that Scott McLaughlin, the current Virgin Australia Supercars Championship points leader, is scheduled to make his long-awaited NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the series’ 2020 season finale on the Streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday, October 25.

The two-time and defending Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP) was set to compete in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race earlier this year on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the COVID-19 global pandemic forced several delays and postponements on racing schedules, along with international travel restrictions. Before the pandemic shutdown, McLaughlin participated in the INDYCAR SERIES preseason open test at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where he ran consistently well and posted the third-fastest time of the test session. The 27-year-old native of New Zealand also competed in separate tests at the Sebring International Raceway road course and the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my INDYCAR debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”

McLaughlin currently leads the Supercars point standings with just three rounds of competition remaining on the 2020 schedule. McLaughlin has produced a series-best 10 wins and 10 poles and holds a 143-point lead over Jamie Whincup entering this weekend’s race at The Bend. Over the course of his Supercars career, McLaughlin has won an impressive 53 races and 71 poles, while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019 and winning the driver’s title in each of the last two seasons. He also earned his first win in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in 2019 with co-driver Alex Premat. Though he is in just his fourth season competing for Team Penske, McLaughlin already ranks third on the organization’s all-time wins list, trailing only Brad Keselowski and Mark Donohue.

Earlier this year, McLaughlin made his “virtual” INDYCAR debut, competing in the series’ iRacing Challenge and winning two races among the full field of current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers that were competing against each other while traditional racing was put on hold.

“Our plan has always been for Scott to run a race in the INDYCAR SERIES this season, but we never wanted to take the focus away from the main goal, which is winning another Supercars Championship,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “COVID-19 certainly altered those plans early on, but with the way the schedules have lined up at the end of this season, St. Pete became an available option and we remain committed to getting him some INDYCAR seat time. We know Scott is ready for this challenge and this should add even more excitement to the 2020 season finale in St. Petersburg.”

McLaughlin will pilot the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was postponed from its original date in March and will now take place on Sunday, October 25. The race on the 1.8-mile street circuit will be seen live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, with radio coverage on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network and SIRIUS XM.