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NHRA: B. Force, Worsham, Skillman and Hines are Brainerd winners

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Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the winners in Sunday’s final of the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has completed 17 of its scheduled 24 events, with the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis being the final race for drivers to qualify for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Force captured her third win of both her career and season in four final round appearances in 2016.

Force (4.169 seconds at 180.21 mph) defeated defending Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown (6.566 seconds/103.47 mph).

Brown not only lost traction shortly after leaving the starting line, Force had her own problems as her dragster backfired and then prematurely released her parachute before reaching the finish line.

“It’s awesome to be able to win here,” said Force, who is fourth in the Top Fuel points standings. “I felt good coming in this weekend because we had some success last year and I’m pretty sure we did well the year before.

“We are exactly where we want to be as we go into the Countdown and our biggest race of the season in Indy. It feels so good to bring home another win.”

Even with the defeat, Brown remains atop the Top Fuel point standings.

In Funny Car, Worsham, who is seeking his second consecutive championship, had a winning run of 3.908 seconds at 327.27 mph, defeating former champ Matt Hagan (8.095 seconds/71.33 mph), who lost traction early in his run.

It was Worsham’s first win in the regular season, his first career win at Brainerd Raceway, the 39th win of his career and 31st of his Funny Car career.

Last season, Worsham failed to win any races in the 18-race regular season, but then roared to four wins in the six-race Countdown to capture the championship, becoming only the third driver in NHRA history to earn titles in both Funny Car and Top Fuel.

“Brainerd has always been a special place to me,” said Worsham, who moved up to third in the Funny Car point standings. “Going back to 1991, my first No. 1 qualifier came here 25 years ago. I’m excited to be here. It’s a great place, great facility and the team did a great job. I’m happy to get the win, go to Indy and start the NHRA Mello Yello Series Countdown.”

Still, even with Worsham’s win, it wasn’t a complete loss for Hagan. During Saturday’s qualifying, he set a new NHRA Funny Car elapsed time record of 3.822 seconds, breaking Worsham’s mark that was set two weeks ago at Seattle.

Also of note, points leader Ron Capp sewed up the No. 1 seed in the Countdown, reaching the semifinals Sunday.

In Pro Stock, Skillman (6.648 seconds at 208.97 mph) captured his first win of the season, defeating points leader Jason Line (6.681 seconds/206.64 mph).

The win clinches a berth in the Countdown for Skillman, who was the 2015 Rookie of the Year.

“My guys have been working very hard and this is for their hard work today,” Skillman said. “(The class) is getting much, much closer. I think by the end of the season we’ll be very tight and next year I think you will see a very competitive class across the board.”

Lastly, in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines pulled off a rarity en route to winning his fourth race of the season: he cut a perfect .000 reaction time and went on to win his final round match with a 6.866 second/194.94 mph effort over runner-up Jerry Savoie (6.863 seconds/194.88 mph).

Last season’s defending series champion, it was also Hines’ third win at Brainerd and 46th of his overall career.

“I was definitely a little nervous because we came here with the intentions of preparing for the Countdown,” said Hines, the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle racer in NHRA history. “We put brand new tires on the bike which turned out, in hindsight, to be a very bad decision because the track is so good here.

“We were battling with the tune up on Friday. We just pecked away at it all weekend. We took our chance at it in the final round, put an old tire back on it, and it went nice and straight. I was pressing it because I knew I needed an advantage over Jerry.”

It was the third runner-up finish for Savoie in as many final round appearances this season.

The next race, the biggest of the season on the NHRA circuit, is Aug. 31-Sept. 5 in the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in suburban Indianapolis.

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

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Brittany Force; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Shawn Langdon; 4.  Tony Schumacher; 5.  Doug Kalitta; 6. Terry McMillen; 7.  J.R. Todd; 8.  Clay Millican; 9.  Steve Torrence; 10.  Chris Karamesines; 11. Richie Crampton; 12.  Terry Haddock; 13.  Scott Palmer; 14.  Luigi Novelli; 15.  Morgan Lucas; 16. Leah Pritchett.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Del Worsham; 2.  Matt Hagan; 3.  Ron Capps; 4.  Courtney Force; 5.  Tim Wilkerson; 6.  Robert Hight; 7.  Jack Beckman; 8.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 9.  John Force; 10.  John Bojec; 11.  Cruz Pedregon; 12.  Dale Creasy Jr.; 13.  Chad Head; 14.  John Hale; 15.  Brian Stewart; 16.  Bob Bode.

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

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

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

FINAL ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Brittany Force, 4.169 seconds, 180.21 mph  def. Antron Brown, 6.566 seconds, 103.47 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.908, 327.27  def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 8.095, 71.33.

PRO STOCK: Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.648, 208.97  def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.681, 206.64.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.866, 194.94  def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.863, 194.88.

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

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 3.696, 326.32 def. Leah Pritchett, 10.748, 77.27; Doug Kalitta, 3.726, 322.73 def. Morgan Lucas, 5.879, 119.32; Brittany Force, 3.725, 324.75 def. Terry Haddock, 4.242, 212.66; Shawn Langdon, 4.206, 258.17 def. Luigi Novelli, 4.706, 162.31; Antron Brown, 3.730, 325.06 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.118, 222.91; Tony Schumacher, 3.748, 316.67 def. Scott Palmer, 4.299, 197.45; Terry McMillen, 3.793, 318.47 def. Steve Torrence, 3.855, 314.75; J.R. Todd, 3.736, 329.10 def. Richie Crampton, 4.165, 255.87; QUARTERFINALS — Schumacher, 3.753, 322.34 def. McMillen, 4.221, 205.10; Brown, 3.735, 315.19 def. Millican, 6.190, 103.70; Langdon, 3.729, 330.96 def. Todd, 4.885, 156.68; Force, 3.711, 325.53 def. Kalitta, 3.939, 265.01; SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.726, 322.58 def. Schumacher, 3.754, 326.16; Force, 3.717, 324.36 def. Langdon, 3.736, 328.86; FINAL — Force, 4.169, 180.21 def. Brown, 6.566, 103.47.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.859, 330.15 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.838, 163.45; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.390, 182.43 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Chevy Impala, 4.966, 165.13; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.899, 324.59 def. John Bojec, Toyota Solara, 4.368, 204.23; Del Worsham, Camry, 3.890, 329.26 def. Bob Bode, Solara, 9.320, 103.13; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.919, 322.42 def. John Hale, Charger, 6.435, 101.45; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.878, 328.54 def. Brian Stewart, Ford Mustang, 8.074, 89.38; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.923, 324.75 def. John Force, Camaro, 3.954, 288.39; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.885, 330.96 def. Chad Head, Camry, 5.194, 162.45; QUARTERFINALS — C. Force, 3.913, 327.19 def. Johnson Jr., 9.760, 86.82; Capps, 3.909, 305.56 def. Beckman, 4.087, 238.85; Hagan, 3.869, 332.34 def. Hight, 3.915, 321.35; Worsham, 3.904, 328.06 def. Wilkerson, Foul – Red Light; SEMIFINALS — Worsham, 3.926, 324.20 def. C. Force, 7.129, 84.36; Hagan, 3.893, 331.20 def. Capps, 3.923, 319.29; FINAL — Worsham, 3.908, 327.27 def. Hagan, 8.095, 71.33.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.591, 209.56 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.616, 209.95; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.629, 209.52 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Dart, 6.622, 207.62; Erica Enders, Dart, 6.619, 207.94 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.593, 209.36; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.625, 209.04 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.633, 208.10; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.599, 208.68 def. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 7.259, 150.75; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.589, 209.49 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.720, 205.26; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.611, 209.52 was unopposed; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.605, 208.97 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.776, 202.88; QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.656, 207.40 def. Johnson, 6.732, 189.34; Skillman, 6.626, 209.46 def. Butner, 6.626, 209.07; Nobile, 6.625, 208.71 def. Anderson, 6.625, 208.97; Line, 6.592, 210.01 def. McGaha, 6.642, 209.07; SEMIFINALS — Skillman, 6.613, 209.36 def. Nobile, 10.523, 83.36; Line, 6.595, 209.79 def. Enders, 6.644, 207.75; FINAL — Skillman, 6.648, 208.97 def. Line, 6.681, 206.64.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.817, 195.82 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.871, 193.52; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.856, 195.19 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.924, 192.66; Cory Reed, Buell, 6.835, 194.16 def. Michael Ray, Buell, 6.897, 193.85; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.820, 195.25 def. Chip Ellis, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.804, 197.10 def. Angie Smith, 6.950, 191.16; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.929, 195.14 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 18.101, 40.16; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.836, 195.25 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.898, 193.52; Matt Smith, 6.833, 196.07 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.885, 195.05; QUARTERFINALS — Hines, 6.893, 193.60 def. Reed, 8.178, 113.22; Arana Jr, 6.871, 194.83 def. M. Smith, 6.920, 192.74; Krawiec, 6.911, 195.39 def. Stoffer, 7.622, 130.73; Savoie, 6.831, 196.82 def. Sampey, 6.829, 196.16; SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.822, 195.93 def. Krawiec, 6.872, 194.83; Hines, 6.893, 194.27 def. Arana Jr, Foul – Red Light; FINAL — Hines, 6.866, 194.94 def. Savoie, 6.863, 194.88.

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

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown, 1,424*; 2.  Doug Kalitta, 1,257*; 3.  Steve Torrence, 1,216*; 4.  Brittany Force, 1,161*; 5.  Tony Schumacher, 1,117*; 6.  J.R. Todd, 998*; 7.  Shawn Langdon, 968*; 8.  Richie Crampton, 840*; 9.  Clay Millican, 822; 10.  (tie) Terry McMillen, 637; Leah Pritchett, 637.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Ron Capps, 1,413**; 2.  Courtney Force, 1,198*; 3.  Del Worsham, 1,192*; 4.  Jack Beckman, 1,146*; 5.  Matt Hagan, 1,115*; 6.  Robert Hight, 1,040*; 7.  John Force, 1,003*; 8.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 999*; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 915*; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 765.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Jason Line, 1,761*; 2.  Greg Anderson, 1,683*; 3.  Bo Butner, 1,207*; 4.  Allen Johnson, 1,054*; 5.  Vincent Nobile, 1,004*; 6.  Drew Skillman, 953*; 7.  Shane Gray, 825; 8.  Chris McGaha, 802; 9.  Erica Enders, 742; 10.  Jeg Coughlin, 729.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 898*; 2.  Andrew Hines, 856*; 3.  Angelle Sampey, 659*; 4.  Jerry Savoie, 651*; 5.  LE Tonglet, 522*; 6.  Hector Arana, 459; 7.  Chip Ellis, 454; 8.  Matt Smith, 402; 9.  Hector Arana Jr, 386; 10.  Steve Johnson, 331.

* Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

** Clinched No. 1 spot in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.