Photos and videos courtesy NHRA

NHRA: Brown closes in on Top Fuel title; other Texas winners — Hagan, Skillman, Krawiec

2 Comments

Antron Brown moved a big step closer to capturing his second consecutive Top Fuel championship and third in the last five seasons with a win in Sunday’s AAA Texas FallNationals.

Others capturing wins Sunday were Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) in the 22nd event of 24 on the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Brown essentially won from start to finish, taking his No. 1 qualifying position and riding it all the way to victory lane. Brown (3.744 seconds at 321.12 mph) defeated Steve Torrence (3.750 at 323.12) in the final round to take home his 61st career win, seventh this season and third at Texas Motorplex.

“We had a great drag race out there,” Brown said. “It could’ve went either way. We were both close on the tree, but we snuck one out there.

“Nobody is blowing people out anymore. The only way you win is by inches. To win that final was monumental for our team. We needed to do that. We’re still not done working yet.”

Even though he says nobody is blowing people out anymore, Brown is doing just that: he now has a 150-point lead over second-ranked Doug Kalitta with just two races remaining (Oct. 27-30 in Las Vegas, and the season finale, Nov. 10-13 in Pomona, California).

And with a maximum of 260 points remaining to be earned in the last two races, Brown also saw two (Richie Crampton and Clay Millican) of the nine drivers chasing him eliminated from further advancement in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship.

In Funny Car, former two-time champion Hagan won Sunday’s final round, but points leader Ron Capps remains in charge as he closes in on his first career championship.

Hagan (3.913 seconds at 327.03 mph) held off Capps (3.906 at 322.19) by getting the advantage at the starting line and rode it all the way to the finish line.

It was Hagan’s fourth win of the season, the 22nd of his career and second at Dallas (also won in 2010). While Hagan moved into third in the standings, he’s still 88 points behind Capps, who also increased his edge over second-ranked Tommy Johnson Jr. from 24 to 64 points.

“That was a huge round,” Hagan said. “It’s just unfortunate that we’re facing [Capps] so late in rounds. In Reading I had him in the semi’s and he spanked me on the tree, and this time I was able to get a little payback.”

Capps, who became the 15th driver in NHRA history to reach 100 final rounds in his career, has not finished any lower than the semifinals in each of the first four races of the six-race Countdown.

And while it would seem Capps is in the driver’s seat for the championship, Hagan isn’t giving up.

“I actually try to minimize everything out of my control and just focus on leaving on time, keeping it in the groove, and turning on the win light, and let the rest take care of itself,” Hagan said. “We can’t worry about who might mess up or how many rounds someone might go; we just need to do the best job we can and turn on as many win lights as we can.”

Alexis DeJoria, who upset John Force in the first round Sunday, was officially eliminated from the Countdown.

In Pro Stock, Skillman (6.661 seconds at 209.36 mph) defeated non-Countdown driver Alex Laughlin (6.708 at 208.30) to earn his second win of the season and third of his career.

“We have struggled so badly with this race car,” Skillman said. “We were lost, and going into the Countdown that’s the worst time of the year to be lost.

“We had some luck on our side this weekend. I drove decent, and the car at least went. We’re going the right direction, I think. We need to test again. We’re going to get back out there. We’re going to hit these last two races hard, so that’s where we’re going to go.”

While Jason Line and teammate Greg Anderson remain 1-2 in the Pro Stock standings heading to Las Vegas, two drivers were eliminated from further advancement in the Countdown: five-time champion Jeg Coughlin and two-time defending Pro Stock Erica Enders.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec not only won, he took over the points lead from teammate, defending PSM champ and five-time champion Andrew Hines.

Krawiec (6.880 seconds at 196.36 mph) defeated Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie (6.856 at 196.76) in the final round. It was Krawiec’s fifth win of the season, 36th of his career and second at Texas Motorplex.

“Anytime you’ve got to race [Savoie], you’ve got to be focused,” said Krawiec, who is chasing his fourth career PSM championship. “As a matter of fact, you have to be focused for just about anybody out there.

“When you look at this category as a whole right now, it’s some of the best racing that there could be. You see LE (Tonglet) came up from nowhere and took Andrew out, then I’ve got to run him, and we run almost neck and neck with each other.

“You have to be on your game every single round here, no matter who you’re racing and who’s in that other lane.”

Pro Stock Motorcycle is the only class that has not seen any Countdown contestants eliminated yet.

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

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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

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

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

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Eddie Krawiec; 2.  Jerry Savoie; 3.  LE Tonglet; 4.  Angelle Sampey; 5.  Andrew Hines; 6.  Matt Smith; 7.  Hector Arana; 8.  Chip Ellis; 9.  Steve Johnson; 10.  Karen Stoffer; 11.  Cory Reed; 12. Melissa Surber; 13.  Shawn Gann; 14.  Joey Gladstone; 15.  Hector Arana Jr; 16.  Joe DeSantis.

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

FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Antron Brown, 3.744 seconds, 321.12 mph  def. Steve Torrence, 3.750 seconds, 323.12 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.913, 327.03  def. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.906, 322.19.

PRO STOCK: Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.661, 209.36  def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.708, 208.30.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.880, 196.36  def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.856, 196.76.

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

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Doug Kalitta, 3.715, 325.30 def. Richie Crampton, 4.815, 166.31; Brittany Force, 3.721, 325.69 def. Terry McMillen, 3.919, 307.16; Tony Schumacher, 3.720, 327.11 def. Kebin Kinsley, 3.963, 249.12; Antron Brown, 3.709, 325.53 def. Chris Karamesines, 4.705, 162.25; Leah Pritchett, 3.955, 232.55 def. Scott Palmer, 3.967, 307.44; Shawn Langdon, 3.725, 327.98 def. Larry Dixon, 3.786, 319.60; J.R. Todd, 3.723, 324.36 def. Troy Buff, 3.849, 313.58; Steve Torrence, 3.713, 327.43 def. Clay Millican, 6.269, 100.24; QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 3.724, 323.12 def. Force, 4.181, 245.00; Langdon, 3.756, 322.65 def. Schumacher, 3.751, 322.73; Torrence, 3.736, 314.61 def. Pritchett, 4.173, 246.93; Brown, 3.729, 320.74 def. Kalitta, 3.765, 327.19; SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.737, 325.92 def. Langdon, 3.765, 324.90; Brown, 3.731, 319.52 def. Todd, 3.849, 279.90; FINAL — Brown, 3.744, 321.12 def. Torrence, 3.750, 323.12.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.866, 329.99 def. Brandon Welch, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.451, 133.33; Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.908, 325.92 def. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.020, 308.21; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.932, 312.57 def. John Hale, Charger, 4.070, 308.64; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.888, 330.63 def. John Bojec, Toyota Camry, 4.023, 288.95; Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.894, 324.20 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.959, 322.81; Del Worsham, Camry, 3.909, 328.14 def. Chad Head, Camry, 3.924, 323.74; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.859, 325.92 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 5.278, 147.04; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.922, 324.36 def. John Force, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — Worsham, 3.907, 324.75 def. Johnson Jr., 4.036, 291.82; Capps, 3.964, 300.26 def. Beckman, 3.938, 320.51; Hight, 3.885, 329.83 def. DeJoria, 3.918, 326.00; Hagan, 3.896, 329.34 def. C. Force, Foul – Red Light; SEMIFINALS — Capps, 3.904, 321.35 def. Worsham, 3.900, 327.11; Hagan, 3.899, 327.19 def. Hight, 4.686, 171.38; FINAL — Hagan, 3.913, 327.03 def. Capps, 3.906, 322.19.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.630, 209.10 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.743, 204.63; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.648, 207.66 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.683, 207.08; Shane Tucker, Camaro, 6.675, 207.53 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.669, 208.81; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.608, 209.56 def. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.668, 206.80; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.607, 209.46 def. Erica Enders, Dart, Foul – Red Light; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.620, 209.01 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.658, 207.21; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.602, 209.17 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, Foul – Red Light; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.622, 208.33 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.658, 208.10; QUARTERFINALS — Laughlin, 6.668, 208.39 def. Tucker, 6.709, 207.69; Gray, 6.626, 209.10 def. Butner, 6.691, 207.56; Anderson, 6.623, 208.91 def. Johnson, 7.762, 124.48; Skillman, 6.647, 208.91 def. Line, 6.632, 208.84; SEMIFINALS — Skillman, 6.670, 209.04 def. Gray, 6.681, 209.33; Laughlin, 6.637, 208.59 def. Anderson, 6.659, 209.14; FINAL — Skillman, 6.661, 209.36 def. Laughlin, 6.708, 208.30.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.854, 194.91 def. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.879, 194.94 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.958, 193.85; Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.163, 162.06 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.897, 193.93 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 6.944, 193.10; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.843, 196.30 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.924, 193.46; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.810, 196.36 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Matt Smith, 6.893, 194.35 def. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.926, 190.43; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.847, 195.70 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.898, 194.02; QUARTERFINALS — Savoie, 6.853, 195.36 def. M. Smith, 6.958, 191.05; Sampey, 6.923, 193.18 def. Ellis, Foul – Red Light; Krawiec, 6.873, 195.62 def. Arana, 6.976, 194.16; Tonglet, 6.877, 195.39 def. Hines, 6.864, 195.59; SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.892, 195.48 def. Sampey, 6.946, 192.00; Krawiec, 6.905, 194.60 def. Tonglet, 6.944, 192.33; FINAL — Krawiec, 6.880, 196.36 def. Savoie, 6.856, 196.76.

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

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Antron Brown, 2,504; 2.  Doug Kalitta, 2,354; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 2,332; 4.  Brittany Force, 2,313; 5.  Steve Torrence, 2,307; 6.  Tony Schumacher, 2,295; 7.  J.R. Todd, 2,260; 8.  Leah Pritchett, 2,250; 9.  Richie Crampton, 2,195; 10.  Clay Millican, 2,168.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Ron Capps, 2,465; 2.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,401; 3.  Matt Hagan, 2,377; 4.  Jack Beckman, 2,334; 5.  Del Worsham, 2,320; 6.  Robert Hight, 2,278; 7.  John Force, 2,267; 8.  Courtney Force, 2,238; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 2,228; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 2,151.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Jason Line, 2,454; 2.  Greg Anderson, 2,428; 3.  Vincent Nobile, 2,340; 4.  Shane Gray, 2,320; 5.  Bo Butner, 2,314; 6.  Drew Skillman, 2,269; 7.  Chris McGaha, 2,222; 8.  Allen Johnson, 2,213; 9.  Jeg Coughlin, 2,146; 10.  Erica Enders, 2,135.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 2,425; 2.  Andrew Hines, 2,408; 3.  Jerry Savoie, 2,376; 4.  Angelle Sampey, 2,365; 5.  Chip Ellis, 2,328; 6.  LE Tonglet, 2,288; 7.  Cory Reed, 2,229; 8.  Hector Arana, 2,211; 9.  Matt Smith, 2,202; 10.  Hector Arana Jr, 2,183.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

INDYCAR’S contract at Laguna Seca not affected by new track management

INDYCAR Photo
Leave a comment

INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles told NBC Sports.com that INDYCAR’s season-ending race at WeatherTech Raceway in Monterey, California is not in any type of jeopardy after Monterey County officials sought a new management company for the Laguna Seca facility.

After 62 years of continuous management of the Laguna Seca Raceway, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) was advised via email by County of Monterey Assistant County Administrative Officer (ACAO) Dewayne Woods last month. The email said, “…the County is now in negotiations with another proposer for management services at Laguna Seca Recreational Area.”

At a November 19 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, a proposal centered on Monterey County’s direct management of the Raceway and Recreation Area.  The Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to have a management group led by Monterey businessman John Narigi take over for SCRAMP.

The NTT IndyCar Series returned to Laguna Seca in September for the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. It was the first time IndyCar had competed at Laguna Seca since September 12, 2004 after it had been a regular on the CART schedule from 1983 to 2004.

NBC Sports.com asked Miles if the new management group would impact the multi-year contract at the picturesque road course near Monterey, California.

“I’m happy to answer that,” Miles told NBC Sports.com. “We have following the situation closely for several months. At this point, we don’t have any concerns. Our sanctioning agreement is with the county and not was not with SCRAMP. The county is excited about the event and looking forward to the next edition in 2020.

“The county has appointed a new management team for the operation of the facility. There is plenty of work to do on their part and on our part to make sure they understand the requirements for the event and to make sure they execute well.

“The event is certainly going on. The financial underpinnings and the contractual obligations are between us and the county. They think they have selected the best possible management team and we look forward to working with them.”

Miles said INDYCAR vice president of promoter and media partner relations Stephen Starks has been working directly with the new management group at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

“The agreement is between us and the county and the county is absolutely comitted and excited about the future, they have appointed a new management team at Laguna Seca, and we look forward to working with them,” Miles said.

INDYCAR officials believe the series return to Laguna Seca was very successful in terms of promotion and spectator turnout.

“We were really pleased,” Miles said. “I think we under-estimated how outstanding it is both for the race and for the venue and the region. I thought it was better than we expected but it bodes well for the future.

“We’re going to be looking at how to take better advantage of it in the promotion of the series.

“There is plenty of room for growth and they will find ways to manage that from a traffic perspective,” Miles said. “We thought it was a great success. We think it can be even bigger. We have the commitment of the county and look forward to working with the new management team.”

Miles and INDYCAR are optimistic of continued success at WeatherTech Raceway with new management. However, the decision to end a 62-year relationship with SCRAMP was a surprise.

“This news comes as a surprise to the SCRAMP organization,” said Tim McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and SCRAMP, who took over the position in June 2018. “We were starting to make real progress on getting the facility and the raceway operations turned around and poised for the future, but it appears at this time we may not have the opportunity to see these plans through.”

SCRAMP believed the Monterey County Board of Supervisors denied the chance for it to continue with its plan.

“As the existing facility operator, we were stunned by the fact that we were not provided the opportunity to discuss our proposal with the ACAO,” McGrane said. “The entire process has been unconventional, ranging from the bypassing of the County’s usual Request For Proposal (RFP) process, the announcement in mid-October requesting proposals from any interested parties with only two weeks’ notice, and complaints that SCRAMP had not met deadlines to submit a proposal when in fact a submission date had been agreed upon in May, and subsequently met, has been challenging.

“We have been in this position before with the County administration, but we, our fans, racing series and teams, do have to look at the possibility of the era of SCRAMP operating Laguna Seca Raceway coming to an end.”

In 2015, Monterey County began private talks with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) who, after a careful review of the operational parameters of the facility, determined not to submit a formal proposal for management of the track. In 2016, the Monterey County Administrators Office entered into negotiations with another group to replace SCRAMP for 2017 but were unable to agree to terms that were mutually acceptable. The County then reverted back to a three-year agreement with SCRAMP to continue running Laguna Seca.

According to a statement from SCRAMP, in 2018, the SCRAMP-run Laguna Seca Raceway attracted 263,888 attendees and generated $84.4 million in direct spending generated by event attendees over 26 days of the seven major events. 2019 saw SCRAMP orchestrate the long-awaited and highly successful return of IndyCars to Laguna Seca, with a larger than anticipated spectator count for the weekend.

2019 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

“We’ve delivered an extensive, forward-looking proposal to the County for a new, long-term 20-year management and operating agreement that incorporates solid plans for revenue generation and expense reduction, expansion of the use of existing facilities, and development of Laguna Seca into a world-class destination,” said CEO McGrane. “We are building the right team, both paid staff and volunteers, with extensive motorsports experience, institutional knowledge, and the dedication to lead this important Monterey County asset into a successful future. We hope we still have the opportunity to present our plans directly to the County Board of Supervisors and we would be proud to continue SCRAMP’s 62-year stewardship of Laguna Seca on behalf of Monterey County.”

The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, a 501(c)4 not-for-profit, was formed in 1957 by local business owners and civic leaders. SCRAMP’s goal was to raise the funds needed to construct a permanent motor racing circuit to maintain the tradition of sports car racing on the Monterey Peninsula which had begun in 1950 in the Del Monte Forest at Pebble Beach. SCRAMP is comprised of a Board of Governors, Race and Events Committees, and hundreds of loyal volunteers who donate thousands of hours each year to ensure the successful operation of events here.

The SCRAMP organization acquired leased land from the US Army at Fort Ord on August 7, 1957, and the now-legendary track, built with funds raised by SCRAMP, held its first race, the 8th Annual Pebble Beach at Laguna Seca SCCA National Championship Sports Car Road Races, on November 9 & 10, 1957. In 1974 the site was transferred from the Army to Monterey County, who together with SCRAMP, have managed the facility through this year.

SCRAMP’s current three-year management and operating agreement with Monterey County ends on December 31, 2019. SCRAMP currently employs a full-time professional staff of just over 40 team members.

INDYCAR, itself, is about to have an ownership change as racing and business icon Roger Penske and the Penske Corporation completes its acquisition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500, INDYCAR and IMS Productions sometime after January 1. Miles and the INDYCAR staff as well as the staffs at IMS and IMS Productions will be retained.

Miles will become CEO of Penske Entertainment and will continue his duties that he currently has. Since the sale was announced on November 4, Miles and key officials have met with Penske and his top officials on a weekly basis.

“It’s been great,” Miles said. “We are covering tons of ground. Roger and his team are all about adding value.

“It’s a very focused effort that is making great progress.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500