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Hamilton’s 4th title ranks him among F1’s great drivers

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Lewis Hamilton is driving his name toward the top levels of Formula One’s record books. The final word on his standing among F1’s greatest drivers is still to come, but with four championships, he’s made a strong argument he belongs among the very best.

Hamilton won his fourth career championship Sunday with his ninth-place finish at the Mexican Grand Prix. A tough race didn’t produce the podium celebration he wanted, but clinching the title with his lowest finish of the season and two races to go defined a year in which he fought off an early challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel .

This championship, along with his first in 2008, should quiet some of those who argue Hamilton is F1’s master of good fortune, a driver who won titles on the strength of a car no one outside the Mercedes garage could match.

“It’s been a long journey these past 10 years,” Hamilton said. “It’s crazy to think I continue to put the Hamilton stamp, the Hamilton name, in the history books. Beyond my time there will be kids that know the name, and that’s probably what I’m most proud of.”

Hamilton’s 2017 title ties him with Vettel and Alain Prost as four-time winners. Juan Manuel Fangio won five, and Michael’s Schumacher’s seven championships still tower over the sport.

Could Hamilton push for Schumacher’s record? He’s 32 and said he wants to keep racing. With both he and Vettel still driving in the front, many pages of the record book could still be re-written.

“I’ll continue to race while I love it,” Hamilton said. “I think there’s more in me.”

This championship pushed Hamilton past the three won by his idol, Aryton Senna, who was killed in a crash in Italy in 1994 and is regarded as one of F1’s greatest and most skillful drivers. It also puts him ahead of Sir Jackie Stewart for the most titles won by a British driver. After Sunday’s race, Hamilton grabbed a British Union Jack and waived it on a “victory” lap before draping it over his shoulders as he celebrated.

Stewart credits Hamilton’s seat in a dominant Mercedes car as the key ingredient to his success. Stewart won his titles in 1969, 1971 and 1973.

“If you have the right car at the right time, it’s not very difficult to win the world championship. If you continue to have the best car, you continue to win the world championship, like Sebastian did, like Schumacher did,” Stewart told The Associated Press.

“In my era, we had a lucky time. Most of us drove the Ford engine, so there was no difference between one or another and they were relatively small teams winning the world championship. The competition was more even. Now I don’t think anyone would say Mercedes hasn’t been totally dominant, and before them Red Bull.

“Take Fangio, who drove so consistently in Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, Ferraris and Mercedes. He just went in and did it with great style,” Stewart said.

Mercedes has been dominant.

Hamilton won his first championship with McLaren and his other with Mercedes. Of his 62 career victories, which rank second to Schumacher’s 91, 40 have come since 2014 when F1 adopted its current turbo hybrid engines.

When Hamilton didn’t win in 2016, his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg did. Those two fought pitched battles for the championship in 2014 and 2015 that ruined a childhood friendship and tested Hamilton’s nerves inside his own team.

But Hamilton wants credit for his decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes in 2013 with an eye on the future. While Mercedes has dominated, McLaren has flailed around the middle or the back of the pack.

“I wonder how many people thought it was the worst move to Mercedes?” Hamilton said Sunday. “Isn’t it cool to see someone take a risk like I did and it to come out the way it has?”

Hamilton and Vettel have raced in a much safer era than previous greats. Many of F1’s safety reforms came after Senna was killed. Hamilton said last week that Senna would have won more titles if safety conditions were better.

“The nervousness on the starting grid is a shadow of what it was,” Stewart said. “Everybody has their own era. Lewis, it’s his era.”

Hamilton’s contemporary, Williams driver Felipe Massa, counts Hamilton among the best. The Brazilian has raced against Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton, and it was Hamilton’s last lap in Sao Paolo that beat Massa to the championship in 2008.

“Lewis is definitely one of the best drivers in the history of Formula 1,” Massa said. “He’s there.”

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso called Hamilton a “champion of his generation.” The former two-time champion and Hamilton were teammates in 2007 when the rookie Hamilton upstaged Alonso and finished second in the championship by a single point.

“He won races when the car was good, and when it was not so good,” Alonso said.

Hamilton’s legacy among F1’s giants may also be measured by his impact beyond the sport. He’s an international celebrity with a persona like a rock star. He’s a world traveler even outside of Formula One’s far-flung locations and his social media presence draws millions of followers.

Emerson Fittipaldi, who won championships in 1972 and 1974, said Hamilton is the star and winner Formula One needs.

“As an ambassador for Formula One, he is incredible. He reaches a broader public than anyone else can reach,” Fittipaldi said. “We need a champion like Lewis.”

NHRA: Pritchett, C. Force, Kramer, Krawiec all No. 1 going into Denver eliminations

Leah Pritchett was one of the four no. 1 qualifiers. Photos and videos: NHRA
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NHRA Media Release

MORRISON, Colo. – Leah Pritchett raced to her third No. 1 qualifying position of the season at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals and set the Top Fuel track speed record during her final qualifying pass on Saturday at Bandimere Speedway.

Courtney Force (Funny Car), Deric Kramer (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the 14th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Pritchett earned her second consecutive No. 1 with a run of 3.799-seconds at 327.19 mph in her Mopar Dodge 1320 dragster as she prepares for Terry Totten in eliminations. This is her 10th career No. 1, she has one win this season, one runner-up finish and is fourth in points. She was the No. 1 qualifier at this event last season and raced to a runner-up finish.

“We were putting the coals to it for sure, licking our chops,” said Pritchett. “We are on the mountain and this is our sponsor’s race, and we are giving it everything we got. We got a new front half on our dragster and I’m sure glad we did. About halftrack I wasn’t sure if the front wheels were on the ground that thing was dancing, dancing, and dancing. I knew we were cooking it and getting it.”

Brittany Force qualified second and will face Jim Maroney and points leader Steve Torrence is third and will race Bill Litton.

In Funny Car, Courtney Force was able to improve on her qualifying from Friday night and earned her ninth No. 1 of the season in her final pass of the evening with a run of 3.949 at 309.91 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro. She is the currents points leader and will face Terry Haddock in the first round.

“It felt awesome and we had nothing to lose,” said Force. “We were watching the cars ahead of us and knew that it would be my dad to take us out of the top spot or we would improve. It was a solid pass for us and we picked up a number of bonus points.”

Kramer, a resident of Sterling, Colo., earned his first No. 1 qualifying position at his home track of Bandimere Speedway with his pass of 6.929 at 197.57 during the final qualifying session in his American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro. This is his third No. 1 of the season, his last coming in Topeka where he parlayed it to his first national event victory. He will square off against Alan Prusiensky in eliminations.

“It is a great feeling coming at your home track and doing as good as we did today,” said Kramer. “I have a ton a laps here so I feel that probably helped a little bit. It was a lot of fun and something that I will remember for a long time.”

Greg Anderson, who is searching for his first win of the season, is second with his run of 6.930 at 196.70 and will face Joey Grose, while points leader Erica Enders is eighth and will face Chris McGaha.

Krawiec earned his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 40th of his career on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with his run of 7.111 at 187.03 during the first session on Saturday. His elapsed time bettered the track record he set during qualifying on Friday. Krawiec has three wins on the season and is the current points leader. He will face Karen Stoffer in the first round on Sunday.

“I got a good bike and we went .711 both laps today and I think that is something to say about how good the program is being very consistent,” said Krawiec. “It makes me feel comfortable going into raceday, we have a good setup for both lanes no matter what, and I have a very consistent motorcycle.”

Hector Arana Jr. qualified second and will face Ryan Oehler and Andrew Hines is third matching up with Joey Gladstone.

Eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday at Bandimere Speedway.

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MORRISON, Colo. — Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 39th annual Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.799 seconds, 327.19 mph vs. 16. Terry Totten, 4.449, 216.13; 2. Brittany Force, 3.808, 321.50 vs. 15. Jim Maroney, 4.295, 261.88; 3. Steve Torrence, 3.811, 325.45 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 4.283, 218.65; 4. Clay Millican, 3.814, 326.71 vs. 13. Greg Carrillo, 4.129, 307.65; 5. Richie Crampton, 3.822, 318.09 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.995, 301.67; 6. Blake Alexander, 3.834, 326.32 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.865, 272.12; 7. Tony Schumacher, 3.834, 325.37 vs. 10. Doug Kalitta, 3.862, 310.91; 8. Antron Brown, 3.856, 318.47 vs. 9. Scott Palmer, 3.860, 317.27.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.949, 322.73 vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Toyota Solara, 4.466, 278.46; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.973, 316.67 vs. 15. Todd Simpson, Charger, 4.462, 270.81; 3. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.986, 321.58 vs. 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.287, 272.50; 4. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.992, 318.32 vs. 13. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.197, 302.08; 5. John Force, Camaro, 3.993, 322.27 vs. 12. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.093, 310.55; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.003, 312.42 vs. 11. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.087, 306.74; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.007, 320.81 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.083, 305.01; 8. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.048, 316.15 vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.056, 293.41. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 5.271, 149.07.

PRO STOCK: 1. Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.929, 197.68 vs. 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 20.336, 65.35; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.930, 197.19 vs. 15. Joey Grose, Camaro, 10.066, 94.07; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.932, 197.10 vs. 14. Will Hatcher, Dart, 7.142, 191.87; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.937, 198.12 vs. 13. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.978, 196.99; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.937, 196.90 vs. 12. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.971, 196.93; 6. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.942, 197.57 vs. 11. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.962, 197.16; 7. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.943, 197.13 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.957, 196.82; 8. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.950, 196.96 vs. 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.953, 196.67.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 7.111, 187.81 vs. 16. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.310, 182.11; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 7.135, 188.86 vs. 15. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 7.306, 183.57; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.146, 188.04 vs. 14. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 7.288, 182.45; 4. Matt Smith, Victory, 7.158, 185.54 vs. 13. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.261, 182.95; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 7.207, 185.77 vs. 12. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 7.259, 183.05; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 7.220, 183.87 vs. 11. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.243, 181.69; 7. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 7.230, 184.95 vs. 10. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 7.243, 185.46; 8. Cory Reed, Buell, 7.230, 184.60 vs. 9. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.234, 185.61. Did Not Qualify: 17. Kelly Clontz, 7.382, 180.69.