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NHRA U.S. Nationals No. 1 qualifiers: Millican (TF), Hagan (FC), Anderson (PS), Krawiec (PSM)

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The field is set for Monday’s final eliminations in the 63rd NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana.

Here’s the No. 1 qualifiers: Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) in the 18th of 24 events on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

It’s also the final race of the regular season. The six-race Countdown to the Championship begins next week.

In addition to the No. 1 qualifiers, “Fast Jack” Beckman won Sunday’s Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Funny Cars, a special race within a race in the world’s largest drag race.

Beckman (3.592 seconds at 324.67 mph) defeated Robert Hight (4.360 seconds at 207.11 mph) in the Traxxas Shootout final round.

Beckman maintains a perfect 3-0 win in the finals of the Traxxas Shootout. He took home $100,000 for the win.

“Just getting in to the Shootout is incredibly difficult,” Beckman said in an NHRA media release. “That’s what makes it exciting, there’s a big litany of ways to make your way into the field but then there’s only one way to get the trophy.

“You’ve got to beat three of the baddest fuel cars on the planet in one day. There’s always something that makes this Traxxas final round eventful.”

In Top Fuel, Millican earned his second consecutive U.S. Nationals No. 1 qualifier.

Millican piloted his Parts Plus / Great Clips dragster to his second consecutive No. 1 U.S. Nationals qualifying position, as well as his third of the season and eighth overall of his career.

Millican led all drivers with a field-best run and LOR track record of 3.663 seconds at 329.10 mph during Saturday’s qualifying.

In Monday’s first round of eliminations, Millican will face No. 16 qualifier Kebin Kensley. No. 2 Leah Pritchett will face Wayne Newby. No. 3 Traxxas Nitro Shootout winner Steve Torrence will face rookie Ashley Sanford.

In Funny Car, Matt Hagan took the top qualifying spot with a run of 3.799 seconds at an amazing 338.77 mph – both track records – that came during Friday’s qualifying session.

It’s Hagan’s fourth No. 1 spot this season, fourth in the U.S. Nationals and 30th of his Funny Car career.

“The U.S. Nats is a huge race,” Hagan said. “We won it last year. I guess no one has ever doubled-up and gone No. 1 twice.

“It’s a pretty tough stat to hear but I hope we can make some history tomorrow and do that. I feel really good about the car, about the race track and what we’re doing.”

Hagan will face Jim Campbell in the first round. No. 2 Hight will face Justin Schriefer. Defending 2016 Funny Car champion Ron Capps qualified 8th for Monday, but in doing so, also clinched the No. 1 seed heading into the Countdown to the Championship.

In Pro Stock, Anderson scored the 90th No. 1 qualifier of his career, his third of the 2017 season and fifth at the U.S. Nationals with a run of 6.561 seconds at 210.11 mph.

“My Chevy is just happy up here, it loves this place just as much as I do,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t seem like it wants to or can make a bad run, knock on wood. I hope it’s going to be great the rest of the weekend.”

Anderson will face Kenny Delco in the first round. Rookie Tanner Gray qualified No. 2 and will race Derik Kramer, while No. 3 qualifier Drew Skillman faces five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr. in the first round, as well.

Lastly, in Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec earned his third No. 1 qualifier of the season, his second at the U.S. Nationals and 36th of his career with Saturday night’s top pass of 6.822 seconds at 196.62 mph.

“Fortunate for me I’ve had low elapsed time pretty much four out of the last five rounds and tied low E.T. of the first session,” Krawiec said “So, I have an awesome motorcycle going into tomorrow.

“And right now my main focus is just going out there keeping good reaction time, making clean laps down the drag strip. Lucas Oil Raceway has been good to me so far so hopefully it’s really good to me tomorrow.”

Krawiec will face Jim Underdahl in the first round of eliminations, while Krawiec’s teammate, No. 2 qualifier Andrew Hines, will face Angelle Sampey in the first round. Points leader LE Tonglet qualified No. 8, but in doing so clinched his No. 1 seed into the Countdown.

Monday’s eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET. However, NHRA will be watching the skies: heavy rain is due to hit the Indianapolis area in the late afternoon, which would be right around the final round of eliminations in all four pro classes.

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STATISTICS:

TRAXXAS FUNNY CAR SHOOTOUT: ROUND ONE — Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.872, 331.77 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.000, 324.98; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.949, 309.98 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.918, 331.45; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.871, 330.55 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 329.91; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.889, 332.34 def. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.956, 316.60;

SEMIFINALS — Hight, 3.893, 332.51 def. J. Force, 3.954, 314.24; Beckman, 4.942, 204.23 def. Capps, 5.568, 129.33;

FINAL — Beckman, 3.952, 324.67 def. Hight, 4.360, 207.11.

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Monday’s first-round eliminations pairings:

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.663 seconds, 329.10 mph vs. 16. Kebin Kinsley, 3.808, 319.29; 2. Leah Pritchett, 3.667, 329.50 vs. 15. Wayne Newby, 3.795, 321.88; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.673, 329.50 vs. 14. Ashley Sanford, 3.775, 322.04; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.680, 330.31 vs. 13. Terry McMillen, 3.770, 321.81; 5. Doug Kalitta, 3.682, 329.58 vs. 12. Richie Crampton, 3.756, 329.91; 6. Antron Brown, 3.689, 329.91 vs. 11. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 328.54; 7. Bob Vandergriff, 3.719, 325.30 vs. 10. Pat Dakin, 3.752, 311.49; 8. Brittany Force, 3.734, 330.23 vs. 9. Shawn Langdon, 3.748, 289.82.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Ike Maier, 3.861, 311.27; 18. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.970, 292.33.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.799, 338.77 vs. 16. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.060, 317.94; 2. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.807, 336.23 vs. 15. Justin Schriefer, Charger, 4.033, 313.95; 3. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.837, 334.90 vs. 14. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.015, 305.70; 4. John Force, Camaro, 3.849, 336.74 vs. 13. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.999, 320.81; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.859, 333.16 vs. 12. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.988, 324.98; 6. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.865, 332.34 vs. 11. Brian Stewart, Ford Mustang, 3.924, 296.44; 7. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.865, 329.83 vs. 10. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.902, 330.23; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.871, 330.55 vs. 9. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.881, 332.02.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.118, 305.01; 18. Bob Bode, 4.983, 158.26.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.561, 210.64 vs. 16. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.661, 208.68; 2. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.566, 209.88 vs. 15. Deric Kramer, Dodge Dart, 6.628, 207.21; 3. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.570, 210.18 vs. 14. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.625, 209.20; 4. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.572, 210.34 vs. 13. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.615, 209.46; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.576, 210.01 vs. 12. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.607, 209.17; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.577, 209.95 vs. 11. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.604, 209.10; 7. Johnny Gray, Camaro, 6.596, 210.11 vs. 10. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.601, 209.43; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.598, 209.62 vs. 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.599, 209.65.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Shane Tucker, 6.668, 206.89; 18. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.681, 207.24; 19. Larry Morgan, 6.684, 207.75; 20. Alan Prusiensky, 6.724, 206.20.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.822, 196.70 vs. 16. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.984, 191.67; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.825, 196.02 vs. 15. Angelle Sampey, Victory, 6.944, 192.06; 3. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.840, 196.16 vs. 14. Cory Reed, Victory, 6.941, 189.02; 4. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.840, 196.02 vs. 13. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.940, 191.81; 5. Chip Ellis, Victory, 6.848, 194.66 vs. 12. Mike Berry, Buell, 6.936, 190.30; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.862, 194.55 vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.932, 192.60; 7. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.864, 194.72 vs. 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.914, 193.93; 8. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.876, 195.96 vs. 9. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.897, 192.82.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Ryan Oehler, 7.026, 189.84; 18. Mark Paquette, 7.061, 187.31; 19. Lance Bonham, 7.347, 184.35; 20. Odolph Daniels, 7.444, 174.68; 21. Wendell Daniels, 7.605, 171.29; 22. Andie Rawlings, 7.917, 169.51.

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Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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