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

(Photo and videos courtesy NHRA)

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.

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


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.

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


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.

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


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.

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


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

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”


James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”