Photos and videos courtesy NHRA

NHRA U.S. Nationals: Steve Torrence, J.R. Todd, Drew Skillman, Eddie Krawiec win ‘the Big Go’

Leave a comment

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) emerged as the winners in Monday’s final eliminations of the 63rd NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana.

In Top Fuel, Torrence earned his first career U.S. Nationals title with a run of 3.757 seconds at 322.96 mph, while also ending the Cinderella story of the weekend, fellow Texan Kebin Kinsley (lost traction at starting line), in the final round of the biggest race of the season.

A tearful Torrence told Fox Sports, “This is the biggest day of my life. It’s a lot of hard work. My dad ain’t here. This is for you, Dad (holding the winner’s trophy). I’m proud like a little kid. We’ve been here three times in the final and didn’t get it done. This is bad-ass!”

Torrence swept the weekend, winning Sunday’s Traxxas Nitro Top Fuel Shootout and the $100,000 prize that came with it, and leaves Indianapolis as the No. 1 seed in the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship, Sept. 15-17 at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C.

“This is surreal,” Torrence said after earning his 14th career NHRA Top Fuel win, and fifth this season. “I don’t even know if I’m realizing what’s going on right now. This is what we race our careers for, is to try and win Indy and it’s a marathon. I’m wore out.

“Unless you’re a racer and in this situation, I don’t think I can explain the feelings that you get. This is us winning the biggest race of our sport. I said this the other day, you can win a bunch of championships but if you don’t win Indy then you haven’t really done much. So, we’ve won Indy.”

In Funny Car, Todd — an Indiana native — knocked off 2016 NHRA Funny Car champ Ron Capps (3.923 seconds at 325.61 mph). Both drivers were seeking their first U.S. Nationals title, and Todd (3.949 seconds at 325.53 mph) did so.

“This was where it all started for me in Junior Dragsters,” Todd said. “I remember watching Capps as a kid and now I raced him in the final round of Indy. It’s too surreal. Like Torrence said, you win Indy and you know you’ve beaten the best in the sport. Ron Capps and those guys out there are the best in the sport.”

Capps told Fox Sports, “We’ve got to wait until next year. That’s what’s so special about this race. It comes once a year and you have your chance. The gods here at Indy, when they decided it’s time for me, hopefully we’ll get that win. Tough race. Obviously, the fans got a good race. (Todd) stepped it up and outran us. I’m disappointed we lost, obviously, but also very excited about our chances going into the Countdown.”

Capps is the No. 1 Countdown seed in Funny Car.

In Pro Stock, it was a battle of old school racing (veteran and three-time champ Greg Anderson) vs. youthful local Indianapolis racer Drew Skillman.

Anderson (6.660 seconds at 208.01 mph) would be deprived of his seventh U.S. Nationals win, as the young gun had a better reaction time and carried it all the way (6.676 seconds at 206.621 mph) to the finish line, earning his first career U.S. Nationals title.

“That’s a lifetime achievement right there,” Skillman told Fox Sports. “I got two goals off my back: I got Greg Anderson, who I’ve never beat, and finally got him, and I won my hometown race. This is huge. This is record book stuff for me.”

What made Skillman’s win all the more impressive is the engine in his car broke after the quarterfinals, forcing his team to scramble to replace it with a brand new motor that had never been tested beforehand.

As for Anderson, he told Fox Sports, “The other driver did a better job, he was better on the tree, I had a better car and I lost. I apologize to all my guys. I’ve had such a great car all weekend. It was my race to win. Worst (starting) light I had all weekend. My hat’s off to Drew Skillman. He did a better job. Next race, we start over and try again … but a golden opportunity lost.”

Bo Butner is No. 1 heading into the Countdown.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, No. 1 qualifier Eddie Krawiec (6.868 seconds at 196.90 mph) earned his second career U.S. Nationals win and 39th overall win of his career, defeating Hector Arana Jr. (6.886 seconds at 195.48 mph) by less than the length of a tire.

“It couldn’t be any better than this,” Krawiec told Fox Sports. “We struggled through the early part of the season. It looks now like we’ve turned the corner. It’s an awesome deal.”

L.E. Tonglet is the No. 1 seed heading into the Countdown.

Here’s the final statistics from Monday’s final eliminations of the U.S. Nationals:

 

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:
TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Kebin Kinsley; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. Leah Pritchett; 5. Antron Brown; 6. Doug Kalitta; 7. Pat Dakin; 8. Shawn Langdon; 9. Brittany Force; 10. Clay Millican; 11. Bob Vandergriff; 12. Ashley Sanford; 13. Terry McMillen; 14. Scott Palmer; 15. Richie Crampton; 16. Wayne Newby.
FUNNY CAR: 1. J.R. Todd; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Jack Beckman; 4. Tim Wilkerson; 5. Cruz Pedregon; 6. Robert Hight; 7. Del Worsham; 8. Jim Campbell; 9. Alexis DeJoria; 10. Jonnie Lindberg; 11. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 12. Courtney Force; 13. John Force; 14. Justin Schriefer; 15. Brian Stewart; 16. Matt Hagan.
PRO STOCK: 1. Drew Skillman; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Tanner Gray; 4. Alex Laughlin; 5. Jason Line; 6. Allen Johnson; 7. Chris McGaha; 8. Bo Butner; 9. Vincent Nobile; 10. Matt Hartford; 11. Johnny Gray; 12. Shane Gray; 13. Erica Enders; 14. Jeg Coughlin; 15. Deric Kramer; 16. Kenny Delco.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec; 2. Hector Arana Jr; 3. Jerry Savoie; 4. Matt Smith; 5. Scotty Pollacheck; 6. Chip Ellis; 7. Andrew Hines; 8. LE Tonglet; 9. Angelle Sampey; 10. Steve Johnson; 11. Karen Stoffer; 12. Cory Reed; 13. Jim Underdahl; 14. Angie Smith; 15. Joey Gladstone; 16. Mike Berry.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.757 seconds, 322.96 mph def. Kebin Kinsley, 10.820 seconds, 48.47 mph.

FUNNY CAR: J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.923, 325.61 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.949, 325.53.

PRO STOCK: Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.676, 206.61 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.660, 208.01.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 196.90 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.886, 195.48.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:
TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Pat Dakin, 3.757, 315.64 def. Bob Vandergriff, 3.762, 325.22; Tony Schumacher, 3.736, 319.98 def. Terry McMillen, 3.797, 318.84; Kebin Kinsley, 3.813, 318.02 def. Clay Millican, 3.756, 323.97; Leah Pritchett, 3.711, 323.97 def. Wayne Newby, Broke; Steve Torrence, 3.738, 329.75 def. Ashley Sanford, 3.785, 323.27; Doug Kalitta, 3.874, 315.56 def. Richie Crampton, 4.084, 207.75; Antron Brown, 3.726, 324.44 def. Scott Palmer, 3.828, 300.46; Shawn Langdon, 3.756, 325.69 def. Brittany Force, 3.724, 329.02;
QUARTERFINALS — Kinsley, 3.757, 322.96 def. Langdon, 4.238, 229.47; Schumacher, 3.734, 328.78 def. Kalitta, 3.757, 325.30; Torrence, 3.730, 327.59 def. Brown, 3.745, 322.50; Pritchett, 3.732, 320.97 def. Dakin, 4.071, 221.45;
SEMIFINALS — Kinsley, 3.772, 316.30 def. Schumacher, 3.801, 324.59; Torrence, 3.765, 324.05 def. Pritchett, 9.779, 81.04;
FINAL — Torrence, 3.757, 322.96 def. Kinsley, 10.820, 48.47.
FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.010, 320.97 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.068, 318.17; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.867, 330.15 def. Justin Schriefer, Dodge Charger, 4.172, 295.01; Jim Campbell, Charger, 5.008, 164.63 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 10.951, 77.59; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.946, 328.62 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.055, 300.20; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.890, 327.03 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.925, 329.34; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.914, 329.02 def. Brian Stewart, Ford Mustang, 4.641, 174.55; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.915, 326.71 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.914, 325.14; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.880, 328.54 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.901, 331.94;
QUARTERFINALS — Beckman, 3.878, 327.35 def. Worsham, 4.132, 252.90; Wilkerson, 3.940, 326.79 def. Hight, 4.102, 286.50; Capps, 3.939, 300.60 def. Campbell, 6.609, 100.03; Todd, 3.939, 326.00 def. Pedregon, 3.970, 325.30;
SEMIFINALS — Todd, def. Wilkerson, Foul – Centerline; Capps, 3.940, 324.75 def. Beckman, 3.948, 322.81;
FINAL — Todd, 3.923, 325.61 def. Capps, 3.949, 325.53.
PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.656, 206.86 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.688, 207.15; Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.662, 207.05 def. Johnny Gray, Camaro, 6.688, 207.18; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.660, 206.42 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.703, 206.99; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.669, 206.86 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.692, 206.23; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.669, 206.20 def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.713, 205.66; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.638, 208.07 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.752, 204.23; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.630, 208.04 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 11.441, 77.96; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.651, 207.59 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.674, 207.30;
QUARTERFINALS — Skillman, 6.680, 206.61 def. McGaha, 6.697, 206.54; Laughlin, 6.688, 206.67 def. Butner, Foul – Red Light; T. Gray, 6.669, 207.43 def. Johnson, 6.679, 206.89; Anderson, 6.633, 208.23 def. Line, 6.664, 207.34;
SEMIFINALS — Skillman, 6.692, 206.04 def. T. Gray, 6.689, 206.70; Anderson, 6.664, 207.82 def. Laughlin, 6.691, 207.46;
FINAL — Skillman, 6.676, 206.61 def. Anderson, 6.660, 208.01.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.919, 194.24 def. Angie Smith, Buell, Foul – Red Light; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.898, 194.86 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.881, 193.93 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.940, 191.95; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.882, 197.22 def. Angelle Sampey, 6.933, 193.35; Chip Ellis, 6.898, 194.24 def. Mike Berry, Buell, 9.374, 93.07; Matt Smith, 6.858, 196.24 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 7.003, 190.94; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.842, 196.56 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.989, 193.16; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.891, 194.74 def. Cory Reed, 6.976, 190.54;
QUARTERFINALS — Savoie, 6.901, 193.65 def. Hines, 6.929, 195.96; Arana Jr, 6.882, 195.14 def. Pollacheck, 6.915, 193.63; M. Smith, 6.916, 195.03 def. Ellis, 6.922, 192.11; Krawiec, 6.881, 195.31 def. Tonglet, 6.985, 193.93;
SEMIFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.920, 194.88 def. Savoie, 7.043, 190.57; Krawiec, 6.922, 195.90 def. M. Smith, Broke;
FINAL — Krawiec, 6.858, 196.90 def. Arana Jr, 6.886, 195.48.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,667; 2. Antron Brown, 1,599; 3. Leah Pritchett, 1,563; 4. Tony Schumacher, 1,220; 5. Doug Kalitta, 1,126; 6. Brittany Force, 1,105; 7. Clay Millican, 1,080; 8. Terry McMillen, 770; 9. Scott Palmer, 698; 10. Shawn Langdon, 647.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Ron Capps, 1,530; 2. Robert Hight, 1,344; 3. Matt Hagan, 1,280; 4. Jack Beckman, 1,275; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,229; 6. Courtney Force, 1,072; 7. John Force, 1,007; 8. J.R. Todd, 959; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 902; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 730.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner, 1,616; 2. (tie) Greg Anderson, 1,423; Tanner Gray, 1,423; 4. Drew Skillman, 1,270; 5. Jason Line, 1,206; 6. Erica Enders, 1,093; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 1,054; 8. Vincent Nobile, 947; 9. Allen Johnson, 736; 10. Chris McGaha, 728.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. LE Tonglet, 958; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 884; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 781; 4. Jerry Savoie, 768; 5. Matt Smith, 696; 6. Andrew Hines, 620; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 611; 8. Joey Gladstone, 475; 9. Karen Stoffer, 457; 10. Angie Smith, 443.

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne