NHRA Sonoma: John Force makes it 2 in a row; Anderson wins 7th of 2016

(Photo courtesy NHRA)
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John Force made it two wins in a row, capturing the Funny Car class in Sunday’s final round of the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

Force won his first race in over a year last Sunday at Bandimere Speedway, just outside of Denver, Colorado.

With Sunday’s triumph, not only does the 16-time champion make it two wins in a row (and a record 145 for his career), he also made a big jump upward in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, climbing from ninth to fifth position.

Others winning in this season’s 15th of 24 national events were J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and L.E. Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Sunday marked the first time this season that a final round was sold-out. There have also been three sell-outs on Saturday’s, as well.

Getting back to Force (3.948 seconds at 324.59 mph), he deprived points leader Ron Capps (3.960/320.13) of his 50th career win.

Still, it was a productive day for Capps, who earned his third runner-up finish of the season to go along with his class-high four wins. In addition, Capps and Courtney Force, John’s youngest daughter, become the first Funny Car pilots to qualify for the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship.

“We won Denver and that got me motivated,” Force said in a media release. “My daughter (Courtney Force) and Robert (son-in-law Robert Hight) were outrunning me in Denver but we got the win. We knew it was going to be a different animal here. We got down here and I was amazed.”

Next week at Seattle, Force goes for a sweep of the annual “Western Swing” – Denver, Sonoma and Seattle. If he wins at Seattle, he will have won the Western Swing for the second time in his career (also did so in 1994).

In Top Fuel, Todd (3.745 seconds at 324.83 mph) earned his first win in nearly a year and the ninth of his career, defeating Richie Crampton (3.806/313.07) in the final round.

“It has been a long time coming,” Todd said. “We have been to a few finals and haven’t been able to close the deal. I had all the faith and confidence in Connie Kalitta and Rob Flynn and they made the right calls all day.”

Also in Top Fuel, Steve Torrence – who qualified No. 1 for Sunday’s eliminations – and Brittany Force joined defending series champion Antron Brown and second-ranked Doug Kalitta in qualifying for the Countdown, as well.

In Pro Stock, Anderson had an especially big day. Not only did he earn his seventh win of the season, he overtook teammate Jason Line for the top spot in the Pro Stock standings.

But most importantly, Anderson earned his 85th career Pro Stock win, tying him with legendary driver Bob Glidden for second place on the all-time Pro Stock wins list. Warren Johnson holds the record with 97 career wins.

Anderson (6.580 seconds at 210.54 mph) defeated teammate Bo Butner (6.622/210.70) for his fifth career win at Sonoma.

“This place is special to me and magical,” Anderson said. “It is everything a Pro Stock racer wants. It is a great racetrack, great weather conditions, and full grandstands. You don’t get any better than that. It cranks us up and gives us a lot of energy.”

Line, Anderson and Butner are now all qualified for the Countdown with three more races remaining for other drivers to make the 10-driver field in each of the four pro classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Lastly, in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Tonglet earned his first win in nearly five years (2011). Tonglet (6.813 seconds at 196.73 mph), defeated defending series champ Andrew Hines (6.864/194.52).

“It has been five years since we have won and to bring home the Wally (winner’s trophy) after beating Andrew and Eddie back to back is just huge for our team,” said Tonglet, who won the 2010 PSM championship. “We just come out here to have fun and it wasn’t getting fun. We had to change some things up and started getting round wins and it is just great.”

The 16th race of the season is next week, Aug. 5-7, in suburban Seattle.

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

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

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

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

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Top Fuel: J.R. Todd, 3.745 seconds, 324.83 mph  def. Richie Crampton, 3.806 seconds, 313.07 mph.

Funny Car: John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.948, 324.59  def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.960, 320.13.

Pro Stock: Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.580, 210.54  def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.622, 210.70.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.813, 196.73  def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.864, 194.52.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.731, 324.59 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.781, 315.19; J.R. Todd, 3.743, 326.95 def. Clay Millican, 6.972, 82.18; Richie Crampton, 3.745, 327.74 def. Troy Buff, Broke; Steve Torrence, 3.746, 325.92 def. Terry Haddock, 3.921, 306.81; Antron Brown, 3.715, 324.59 def. Terry McMillen, 3.819, 315.34; Doug Kalitta, 4.098, 255.48 def. Bill Litton, 5.214, 122.60; Scott Palmer, 3.947, 308.43 def. Shawn Langdon, 5.176, 144.78; Brittany Force, 3.763, 325.45 def. T.J. Zizzo, 3.792, 322.34;

QUARTERFINALS — Kalitta, 3.782, 326.95 def. Force, 3.743, 325.30; Crampton, 3.799, 324.05 def. Palmer, 9.831, 86.50; Torrence, 4.611, 229.94 def. Schumacher, 5.104, 163.08; Todd, 3.746, 326.48 def. Brown, 4.854, 156.81;

SEMIFINALS — Crampton, 3.790, 320.74 def. Torrence, 3.987, 279.27; Todd, 4.122, 264.96 def. Kalitta, 4.513, 231.52;

FINAL — Todd, 3.745, 324.83 def. Crampton, 3.806, 313.07.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.942, 319.45 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.112, 285.05; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.909, 328.70 def. John Hale, Charger, 4.456, 199.35; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.950, 153.86 def. Tim Gibbons, Chevy Impala, Foul – Red Light; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.915, 322.42 def. Gary Densham, Ford Mustang, 8.045, 108.43; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.909, 326.32 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 10.685, 80.30; John Force, Camaro, 3.936, 326.24 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, Foul – Outer Boundary; Chad Head, Camry, 4.011, 325.14 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.221, 249.90; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.921, 323.27 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.988, 296.76;

QUARTERFINALS — C. Force, 3.930, 322.42 def. Head, 3.938, 328.22; Capps, 3.961, 322.96 def. Hagan, 5.229, 203.40; J. Force, 3.927, 324.36 def. Hight, 3.939, 317.64; Worsham, 3.958, 322.04 def. Beckman, 7.608, 86.88;

SEMIFINALS — Capps, 3.938, 324.51 def. Worsham, 3.977, 320.97; J. Force, 3.933, 326.56 def. C. Force, 4.073, 314.97;

FINAL — J. Force, 3.948, 324.59 def. Capps, 3.960, 320.13.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.606, 209.46 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.593, 210.70; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.571, 210.93 def. Erica Enders, Dodge Dart, Broke; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.587, 209.72 def. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.633, 208.71; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.587, 209.88 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.613, 211.03; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.583, 210.08 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.611, 208.91; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.567, 211.10 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, Broke; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.556, 211.23 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.740, 205.32; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.593, 209.88 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.603, 209.39;

QUARTERFINALS — Hartford, 15.796, 71.72 def. McGaha, Foul – Centerline; Gray, 6.609, 210.44 def. Johnson, 13.925, 88.88; Anderson, 6.571, 210.64 def. Nobile, 6.616, 210.57; Butner, 6.609, 210.64 def. Skillman, 6.610, 210.50;

SEMIFINALS — Butner, 6.625, 210.44 def. Hartford, 6.635, 209.49; Anderson, 6.620, 210.01 def. Gray, 6.651, 210.24;

FINAL — Anderson, 6.580, 210.54 def. Butner, 6.622, 210.70.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.813, 196.39 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.879, 195.53; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.804, 197.48 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.873, 196.67; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.820, 197.42 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.802, 198.12; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.795, 197.80 def. Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.730, 199.76 def. Angie Smith, 6.953, 191.13; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.787, 198.67 def. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.891, 197.02; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.747, 199.17 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.864, 196.10; Matt Smith, 6.817, 197.74 def. Michael Ray, Buell, Broke – No Show;

QUARTERFINALS — Tonglet, 6.793, 197.13 def. Arana, 6.838, 196.76; Hines, 6.801, 196.64 def. M. Smith, 6.837, 196.64; Krawiec, 6.784, 196.04 def. Savoie, Broke; Arana Jr, 6.827, 196.73 def. Sampey, 10.865, 73.78;

SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.831, 195.45 def. Arana Jr, Foul – Red Light; Tonglet, 6.812, 196.42 def. Krawiec, 6.831, 195.14;

FINAL — Tonglet, 6.813, 196.73 def. Hines, 6.864, 194.52.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Top Fuel: 1.  Antron Brown, 1,204; 2.  Doug Kalitta, 1,167; 3.  Steve Torrence, 1,072; 4.  Brittany Force, 1,008; 5.  Tony Schumacher, 971; 6.  J.R. Todd, 897; 7.  Shawn Langdon, 836; 8.  Richie Crampton, 754; 9.  Clay Millican, 715; 10.  Leah Pritchett, 586.

Funny Car: 1.  Ron Capps, 1,214; 2.  Courtney Force, 1,084; 3.  Jack Beckman, 1,031; 4.  Del Worsham, 960; 5.  John Force, 937; 6.  (tie) Matt Hagan, 936; Robert Hight, 936; 8.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 888; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 827; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 765.

Pro Stock: 1.  Greg Anderson, 1,587; 2.  Jason Line, 1,583; 3.  Bo Butner, 1,065; 4.  Allen Johnson, 939; 5.  Vincent Nobile, 811; 6.  Drew Skillman, 805; 7.  Shane Gray, 737; 8.  Chris McGaha, 718; 9.  Jeg Coughlin, 644; 10.  Alex Laughlin, 627.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 824; 2.  Andrew Hines, 735; 3.  Angelle Sampey, 595; 4.  Jerry Savoie, 556; 5.  LE Tonglet, 484; 6.  Hector Arana, 427; 7.  Chip Ellis, 422; 8.  Matt Smith, 344; 9.  Hector Arana Jr, 305; 10.  Steve Johnson, 300.

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‘It’s gnarly, bro’: IndyCar drivers face new challenge on streets of downtown Detroit

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment

DETROIT – It was the 1968 motion picture, “Winning” when actress Joanne Woodward asked Paul Newman if he were going to Milwaukee in the days after he won the Indianapolis 500 as driver Frank Capua.

“Everybody goes to Milwaukee after Indianapolis,” Newman responded near the end of the film.

Milwaukee was a mainstay as the race on the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but since 2012, the first race after the Indy 500 has been Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

This year, there is a twist.

Instead of IndyCar racing at the Belle Isle State Park, it’s the streets of downtown Detroit on a race course that is quite reminiscent of the old Formula One and CART race course that was used from 1982 to 1991.

Formula One competed in the United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. Beginning in 1989, CART took over the famed street race through 1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle, where it was held through last year (with a 2009-2011 hiatus after the Great Recession).

The Penske Corp. is the promoter of this race, and they did a lot of good at Belle Isle, including saving the Scott Fountain, modernizing the Belle Isle Casino, and basically cleaning up the park for Detroit citizens to enjoy.

The race, however, had outgrown the venue. Roger Penske had big ideas to create an even bigger event and moving it back to downtown Detroit benefitted race sponsor Chevrolet. The footprint of the race course goes around General Motors world headquarters in the GM Renaissance Center – the centerpiece building of Detroit’s modernized skyline.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

JOSEF’S FAMILY TIESNewgarden wins Indy 500 with wisdom of father, wife

Motor City is about to roar with the sound of Chevrolet and Honda engines this weekend as the NTT IndyCar Series is the featured race on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course.

It’s perhaps the most unique street course on the IndyCar schedule because of the bumps on the streets and the only split pit lane in the series.

The pit lanes has stalls on opposing sides and four lanes across an unusual rectangular pit area (but still only one entry and exit).

Combine that, with the bumps and the NTT IndyCar Series drivers look forward to a wild ride in Motor City.

“It’s gnarly, bro,” Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward said before posting the fastest time in Friday’s first practice. “It will be very interesting because the closest thing that I can see it being like is Toronto-like surfaces with more of a Long Beach-esque layout.

“There’s less room for error than Long Beach. There’s no curbs. You’ve got walls. I think very unique to this place.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Speeds from the first session

“Then it’s a bit of Nashville built into it. The braking zones look really very bumpy. Certain pavements don’t look bumpy but with how the asphalt and concrete is laid out, there’s undulation with it. So, you can imagine the cars are going to be smashing on every single undulation because we’re going to go through those sections fairly fast, and obviously the cars are pretty low. I don’t know.

“It looks fun, man. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be learning through every single session, not just for drivers and teams but for race control. For everyone.

“Everybody has to go into it knowing not every call is going to be smooth. It’s a tall task to ask from such a demanding racetrack. I think it’ll ask a lot from the race cars as well.”

The track is bumpy, but O’Ward indicated he would be surprised if it is bumper than Nashville. By comparison to Toronto, driving at slow speed is quite smooth, but fast speed is very bumpy.

“This is a mix of Nashville high-speed characteristics and Toronto slow speed in significant areas,” O’Ward said. “I think it’ll be a mix of a lot of street courses we go to, and the layout looks like more space than Nashville, which is really tight from Turn 4 to 8. It looks to be a bit more spacious as a whole track, but it’ll get tight in multiple areas.”

The concept of having four-wide pit stops is something that excites the 24-year-old driver from Monterey, Mexico.

“I think it’s innovation, bro,” O’Ward said. “If it works out, we’ll look like heroes.

“If it doesn’t, we tried.”

Because of the four lanes on pit road, there is a blend line the drivers will have to adhere to. Otherwise, it would be chaos leaving the pits compared to a normal two-lane pit road.

“If it wasn’t there, there’d be guys fighting for real estate where there’s one car that fits, and there’d be cars crashing in pit lane,” O’Ward said. “I get why they did that. It’s the same for everybody. I don’t think there’s a lot of room to play with. That’s the problem.

“But it looks freaking gnarly for sure. Oh my God, that’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing believes the best passing areas will be on the long straights because of the bumps in the turns. That is where much of the action will be in terms of gaining or losing a position in the race.

“It will also be really easy to defend in my opinion,” Palou said. “Being a 180-degree corner, you just have to go on the inside and that’s it. There’s going to be passes for sure but its’ going to be risky.

“Turn 1, if someone dives in, you end up in the wall. They’re not going to be able to pass you on the exit, so maybe with the straight being so long you can actually pass before you end up on the braking zone.”

Palou’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was at the Honda simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, before coming to Detroit and said he was shocked by the amount of bumps on the simulator.

Race promoter Bud Denker, the President of Penske Corporation, and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, sent the track crews onto the streets with grinders to smooth out the bumps on the race course several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a decent amount of work, and even doing the track walk, it looked a lot better than what we expected,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I hope not. That’ll be something to take into account.

“I think the track layout doesn’t look like the most fun. Maybe not the most challenging. But I love these types of tracks with rules everywhere. It’s a big challenge, and you have to build up to it. That’s the types of tracks that I love to drive. It’s a very much Marcus Ericsson type of track. I like it.”

Scott Dixon, who was second fastest in the opening session, has competed on many new street circuits throughout his legendary racing career. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing likes the track layout, even with the unusual pit lane.

I don’t think that’s going to be something that catches on where every track becomes a double barrel,” Dixon said. “It’s new and interesting.

“As far as pit exit, I think Toronto exit is worse with how the wall sticks out. I think in both lanes, you’ve got enough lead time to make it and most guys will make a good decision.”

It wasn’t until shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Friday that the IndyCar drivers began the extended 90-minute practice session to try out the race course for the first time in real life.

As expected, there were several sketchy moments, but no major crashes during the first session despite 19 local yellow flags for incidents and two red flags.

Rookie Agustin Canapino had to cut his practice short after some damage to his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet, but he was among many who emerged mostly unscathed from scrapes with the wall.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was third fastest in the practice after coming off his first career IndyCar victory in the most recent street race at Long Beach in April. “I think a lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall (too hard), which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected. Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job between the two manufacturers. I’m sure everyone had pretty much the same we were able to base everything off of. We felt pretty close to maximum right away.”

Most of the preparation for this event was done either on the General Motors Simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina, or the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Now, we have simulators that can scan the track, so we have done plenty of laps already,” Power told NBC Sports. “They have ground and resurfaced a lot of the track, so it should be smoother.

“But nothing beats real-world experience. It’s going to be a learning experience in the first session.”

As a Team Penske driver, Power and his teammates were consulted about the progress and layout of the Detroit street course. They were shown what was possible with the streets that were available.

“We gave some input back after we were on the similar what might be ground and things like that,” Power said.

Racing on the streets of Belle Isle was a fairly pleasant experience for the fans and corporate sponsor that compete in the race.

But the vibe at the new location gives this a “big event” feel.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” Power said. “The location, the accessibility for the fans, the crowd that will be here, it’s much easier. I think it will be a much better event.

“It feels like a Long Beach, only in a much bigger city. That is what street course racing is all about.”

Because the track promoter is also the team owner, Power and teammates Scott McLaughlin and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden will have a very busy weekend on the track, and with sponsor and personal appearances.

“That’s what pays the bills and allows us to do this,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500