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

Photos and videos courtesy NHRA

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In tears after the Indianapolis 500, Santino Ferrucci is proud of his third-place finish


INDIANAPOLIS – Santino Ferrucci was in tears after last Sunday’s 107th Indy 500.

The AJ Foyt Racing driver from Woodbury, Connecticut had just driven the best race of his career, only to have the final yellow flag of the race fly just a second or two before he would have been in position for the win.

The field had just been given the green flag with four laps to go and Ferrucci was charging in the No. 14 Chevrolet into Turn 1, about to pass both Josef Newgarden for second place, which would have put him in prime position to draft past Marcus Ericsson for the victory.

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But IndyCar race control issued the third red flag stoppage in the final 15 laps of the race and with Ferrucci 2 inches behind Newgarden’s Chevrolet, he was lined up third.

When IndyCar had the remaining drivers refire the engines for three-quarters of a lap behind the Pace Car followed by a one-lap green and white flag dash to the finish, Ferrucci knew there was little he could do to get past the front two cars.

Newgarden passed Ericsson on the backstretch and went on to take the checkered flag for his first Indianapolis 500 victory. Ericsson was just 0.0974-of-a-second away from winning the Indy 500 for the second year in a row and Ferrucci was 0.5273-of-a-second away from winning his first career NTT IndyCar Series race.

It was a fantastic effort for Ferrucci, but to come so close to winning the biggest race in the world, the kid from Connecticut was heartbroken.

“We were so good this month,” Ferrucci told NBC Sports after climbing out of his car. “When you are that fast all month long, you just want it that much more. The way we did everything to finish the race under green, it’s great for the fans, IndyCar did the right thing, but sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow restarting third like that when you are really second.

“It’s all timing and scoring. That doesn’t lie. If it says we are third, we are third. It’s very bittersweet.”

When Ericsson and Newgarden were both “Unleashing the Dragon” with the draft-breaking zigzag moves at the end of the race, Ferrucci admitted he was hoping it would play into his favor if those two made contact ahead of him.

“I was hoping and praying because when you are third, that’s all you can do – hope and pray,” Ferrucci said.

His prayers were not answered, but his determination to win the Indianapolis 500 remains undeterred.

He has never finished outside of the top 10 in the Indianapolis 500. Ferrucci was seventh as a rookie in 2019, fourth in 2020, sixth in 2021, 10th last year and third this past Sunday.

“I love this place,” the driver said. “I love coming here. I’m always so comfortable in the race. We are good at avoiding all of the accidents that happened in front of us.

“We will win it eventually. We have to.”

Ferrucci has proven he likes to rise to the big moments.

“I like the pressure,” he said. “We do well under pressure.

“But you have to take third, sometimes.

“We had a really good shot at winning this race. We made the most of it.”

Ferrucci continues to display the uncanny knack for racing hard and avoiding trouble. When he took the lead in the No. 14 car made famous by his team owner, legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 winner AJ Foyt, many of the fans in the crowd of 330,000 roared with approval.

Ferrucci was in front for 11 laps and was in prime position to pounce at the end, before the final 15 laps brought out red flag fever.

Because of that, and the timing of where he was when the last yellow light came on before the final red, put him in a difficult position to win the race.

“It’s just emotional, bittersweet,” he said. “It was emotional getting in the car, which was kind of strange because you feel like there’s a lot of people that really want this, the team really wants this.

“We worked so hard to be where we were. We ran out front all day long. It’s definitely one of the more difficult races that I’ve probably ever run, and just we also knew that we had a really good car.

“We got really close with Felix Rosenqvist when he was wrecking so very thankful, we were able to avoid that. And then yeah, coming to the end, I think on the second to final restart, me and Marcus battling it into 1, and obviously it going red when it did, it’s part of this place, it’s part of racing, it’s part of the Speedway.

“I’m just bummed. I’m sure Marcus Ericsson thinks the same thing I do.

“All three of us could have won it at any point in time.

“Yeah, it’s bittersweet.”

A few days have passed since Ferrucci was crying when he got out of the race car. He celebrated his birthday on Wednesday by mowing his lawn after a 12-hour drive back to his home in Texas. On Thursday morning, he flies to Detroit to get ready for this weekend’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on the streets of downtown Detroit.

It has given him a chance to reflect on the biggest weekend of his career.

“Everybody saw on national television I was basically crying,” Ferrucci said. “It’s just one of those competitor things in you that there was so much riding on that race, and it was going so well up until that — it finished really well.

“It wasn’t just pressure to perform but emotional pressure to just be there and to know that we probably had that race won, had it gone yellow two seconds later, it’s just kind of heartbreaking. But still, at the end of the day, you come home in third, to join Helio Castroneves and one other driver, (Harry Hartz, who finished second, second, fourth, fourth and second from 1922-1926), in five of your first five starts in top 10s. And, then you really start to look at what you’ve accomplished at the 500 in your first five starts with four different teams and what you did with A.J. Foyt — what we’ve done at AJ Foyt Racing, who hasn’t had a podium or top 3 since the year 2000 at the Speedway.

“There are so many positives, and that day could have been so much worse. We had so many close calls between pit lane and some of the crashes on track that at the end of the day I was just really, really happy.

“I went to bed that night knowing that I did the best I could, the team did the best they could, and that’s the track.”

Ferrucci stressed that he didn’t have a problem with IndyCar race control doing everything in their power to make sure the race finished the distance under green.

“The way that IndyCar finished under green was 100 percent correct for the fans,” Ferrucci said. “It didn’t affect anything for me. What affected me wasn’t the red, it was the yellow.

“The second it went yellow, had it gone yellow two seconds later had they waited, which you can’t wait when you’re crashing, so there’s nothing you can do, I was in third, I was about 6 inches behind Newgarden, and that’s very clear in the video.

“At the end of the day, nothing changed for me. The fact that they actually went red and restarted the race gave me that opportunity to win again. I just didn’t have a great restart because it’s chaotic when you just go. You’ve got to also remember there’s no restart zone.

“At that point when you’re going green for one lap, it was really cool to see the shootout, I’m not going to lie, but you know that they’re going green, so you were literally at the hands of the leader on a completely random — you could start going into 3 in the middle of 3 and 4 out of 4. He could start the race whenever he wanted to start the race instead of in the zone, so it was completely unpredictable.

“(Ericsson) had a really good jump, and I did not. That’s what took me out of the win at the end of the race. It had nothing to do with IndyCar or the red in my opinion.”

Ferrucci and rookie teammate Benjamin Pedersen helped put a smile on 88-year-old AJ Foyt’s face in what started as the one of the saddest months of Foyt’s life after his wife of 68 years, Lucy, died.

Foyt returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway dealing with grief, but for the past three weeks, he was able to see his racing team return to prominence.

I think he was really proud,” Ferrucci said of Foyt. “There’s truly two people that understood my emotions and felt my emotions on Sunday. A.J. was one, and Michael Cannon (his engineer) was the other.

“If you look at some of the photos from that day, you can kind of see it in my eyes, just — you really have to have it in your hands and then lose it in your hands to kind of understand that feeling of when you work that hard. You have to understand you’re coming from a team with two cars, a budget that’s a quarter of the size of Penske and Ganassi, and that’s all month long. We wanted it probably that much more than everybody else that day.

“To come up that short, A.J.’s finished second and third on dominant days in the ’70s, and he talked about those races, where we had the car to win. We were by far the best car at the end of that race. Once the Team McLarens were out of it and the 10 car and the 21 had the incident in pit lane, that left us.

“We were the car to win, and yeah, just sitting third knowing there’s nothing you can do, after all that hard work, yeah, it’s a feeling that very few people would understand.

“But he was incredibly proud of I think what the organization accomplished. I’m very proud of Larry and what Larry Foyt has done with the team because Larry has had control of this team since 2007, and to see him get his first podium as a team boss and team owner at the speedway was huge.

“I think everybody was incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500