NHRA: Brown (Top Fuel), DeJoria (Funny Car), Line (Pro Stock) big winners in Las Vegas

(Image courtesy NHRA)

Racing in Las Vegas couldn’t have been more appropriate for Antron Brown and Alexis DeJoria.

In a town built upon gambling, the defending NHRA Top Fuel Champ (Brown) and Funny car star (DeJoria) rolled the dice and came up big winners in Sunday’s final round of the DENSO Spark Plus NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In addition, Jason Line’s hot streak continued, as he reached his fourth final round of 2016 in Pro Stock, going on to earn his second win of the season and 39th of his career.

Brown (3.843 seconds at 314.60 mph) defeated first-time finalist Troy Buff (3.918 at 307.58) to break through after struggling in the previous three races of the season.

Brown earned his 55th career win in NHRA competition, including his 39th in Top Fuel.

“It never gets boring,” Brown said in an NHRA media release. “It’s more than just a trophy, it’s all the hard work it takes to get here. We struggled the first three races but we just kept digging, we kept our head down and just kept going.”

With his third career win at Las Vegas, Brown makes a big jump in the standings, going from 10th to second behind points leader Brittany Force, who lost to Buff in the second round Sunday.

In Funny Car, DeJoria (3.968 seconds at 315.49 mph) defeated defending class champion Del Worsham (3.988 at 323.58). It was the fourth win of DeJoria’s Funny Car career, snapping a 33-race winless streak.

“This fourth trophy was definitely a difficult one,” said DeJoria, who also won in Las Vegas in 2014. “It took a lot of risks to get here.

“We made consistent passes down the race track all four runs in qualifying and on race day as well. I don’t know when the last time was that we did that. It’s incredible to be a part of this.”

Robert Hight, who lost to DeJoria in the second round, remains atop the Funny Car points standings.

DeJoria’s win was also noteworthy in that it marked the first time in NHRA history where three women have raced to wins in nitro fuel categories in consecutive events, following Top Fuel winners Leah Pritchett (Phoenix) and Brittany Force (Gainesville).

“It’s great to be a part of that history,” DeJoria said.

In Pro Stock, Line continued his dominance as he pursues a third world championship. He defeated KB Racing teammate Butner in the final after Butner redlighted at the starting line. KB Racing has won all four Pro Stock races thus far this season.

“It’s been special to say the least,” Line said. “It’s been a fun ride. Hopefully it continues like this for the rest of the year.”

The fifth race of the 24-race NHRA season is April 22-24: the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

NOTES: Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend was the failure of veteran Funny Car driver Ron Capps to qualify for the final eliminations for the second time in five seasons.

A prior five-time winner at Las Vegas, Capps had been the early season points leader, having one the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona in February, followed up two weeks later by finishing runner-up in Phoenix. He then was the No. 1 qualifier two weeks ago at Gainesville, Florida.

“Nothing is worse than not being able to race on Sunday,” said Capps, the second-winningest driver in Funny Car history with 45 national event victories.

Also, prior to the start of Sunday’s eliminations, the sport honored and remembered starter Mark Lyle, who died tragically in a swimming accident on March 27 while on vacation in Mexico.

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TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Troy Buff; 3.  Dave Connolly; 4.  J.R. Todd; 5.  Leah Pritchett; 6.  Brittany Force; 7.  Doug Kalitta; 8.  Steven Chrisman; 9.  Tony Schumacher; 10.  Scott Palmer; 11.  Clay Millican; 12.  Steve Torrence; 13.  Shawn Langdon; 14.  Richie Crampton; 15.  Terry McMillen; 16. Steve Faria.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Alexis DeJoria; 2.  Del Worsham; 3.  Chad Head; 4.  John Force; 5.  Courtney Force; 6.  Robert Hight; 7.  Jim Campbell; 8.  Jack Beckman; 9.  Matt Hagan; 10.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 11.  John Hale; 12.  Tim Wilkerson; 13.  Jeff Arend; 14.  Cruz Pedregon; 15.  Bob Bode; 16.  Terry Haddock.

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

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Top Fuel: Antron Brown, 3.843 seconds, 314.68 mph  def. Troy Buff, 3.918 seconds, 307.58 mph.

Funny Car: Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.968, 315.49  def. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.988, 323.58.

Pro Stock: Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.712, 206.32  def. Bo Butner, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

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ROUND ONE — Troy Buff, 4.967, 191.97 def. Richie Crampton, 7.447, 103.83; Brittany Force, 4.274, 267.48 def. Terry McMillen, 9.263, 85.53; Steven Chrisman, 4.087, 263.31 def. Steve Torrence, 4.682, 204.08; Doug Kalitta, 4.289, 260.61 def. Steve Faria, 10.782, 80.13; Antron Brown, 3.840, 313.88 def. Scott Palmer, 4.121, 249.35; Leah Pritchett, 3.892, 319.75 def. Shawn Langdon, 5.755, 135.33; Dave Connolly, 3.924, 275.34 def. Clay Millican, 4.290, 226.01; J.R. Todd, 3.933, 283.13 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.034, 254.66;

QUARTERFINALS — Buff, 3.924, 311.41 def. Force, 3.972, 301.54; Todd, 4.045, 257.33 def. Chrisman, 4.918, 155.72; Connolly, 3.843, 315.86 def. Kalitta, 4.338, 223.58; Brown, 3.846, 313.95 def. Pritchett, 3.878, 322.11;

SEMIFINALS — Buff, 3.910, 310.55 def. Todd, 9.260, 87.02; Brown, 3.826, 316.90 def. Connolly, 3.865, 297.02;

FINAL — Brown, 3.843, 314.68 def. Buff, 3.918, 307.58.

ROUND ONE — Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.196, 301.47 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.567, 209.10; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.081, 299.53 def. Terry Haddock, Toyota Solara, 11.632, 76.84; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.969, 324.20 def. Bob Bode, Solara, 7.985, 106.02; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.989, 322.27 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 4.786, 170.79; Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.047, 316.38 def. John Hale, Charger, 4.084, 317.42; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.006, 313.00 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.073, 308.85; John Force, Camaro, 4.059, 300.40 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.061, 308.07; Chad Head, Camry, 4.509, 275.90 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.268, 156.59;

QUARTERFINALS — Head, 4.172, 305.84 def. Beckman, 4.310, 316.97; Worsham, 4.056, 314.53 def. Campbell, 4.266, 262.90; J. Force, 3.991, 322.65 def. C. Force, 3.996, 321.58; DeJoria, 4.005, 315.86 def. Hight, 4.004, 320.20;

SEMIFINALS — Worsham, 4.027, 318.39 def. Head, 4.036, 315.05; DeJoria, 4.012, 316.97 def. J. Force, 4.053, 319.52;

FINAL — DeJoria, 3.968, 315.49 def. Worsham, 3.988, 323.58.

ROUND ONE — Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.758, 205.69 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 10.900, 82.19; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.818, 203.80 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 18.813, 31.25; Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.775, 204.29 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.800, 205.22; Erica Enders, Dart, 6.767, 204.42 def. Aaron Strong, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.691, 205.13 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.831, 204.20; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.704, 206.01 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.818, 203.74; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.708, 206.04 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.793, 202.97; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.729, 204.88 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.795, 204.01;

QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.845, 204.70 def. Skillman, 6.807, 204.01; Line, 6.747, 205.38 def. McGaha, 6.750, 205.29; Anderson, 6.725, 205.66 def. Johnson, 6.754, 204.45; Butner, 6.706, 205.22 def. Kramer, 16.622, 49.38;

SEMIFINALS — Line, 6.737, 205.22 def. Enders, 6.801, 204.82; Butner, 6.703, 205.47 def. Anderson, 6.755, 205.88;

FINAL — Line, 6.712, 206.32 def. Butner, Foul – Red Light.

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Top Fuel: 1.  Brittany Force, 307; 2.  Antron Brown, 269; 3.  Doug Kalitta, 267; 4.  Steve Torrence, 249; 5. Clay Millican, 242; 6.  J.R. Todd, 229; 7.  Dave Connolly, 217; 8.  Terry McMillen, 209; 9.  Tony Schumacher, 190; 10.  Leah Pritchett, 188.

Funny Car: 1.  Robert Hight, 341; 2.  John Force, 294; 3.  Ron Capps, 289; 4.  Del Worsham, 283; 5.  Jack Beckman, 271; 6.  Courtney Force, 265; 7.  Chad Head, 236; 8.  Alexis DeJoria, 233; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 221; 10.  Matt Hagan, 150.

Pro Stock: 1.  Jason Line, 463; 2.  Greg Anderson, 415; 3.  Bo Butner, 331; 4.  Drew Skillman, 264; 5.  Chris McGaha, 214; 6.  Allen Johnson, 212; 7.  Jeg Coughlin, 191; 8.  Vincent Nobile, 175; 9.  Erica Enders, 171; 10.  Alex Laughlin, 154.

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IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told NBCSports.com.

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”

Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500