NHRA Winternationals winners are: Hagan (FC), Kalitta (TF), Butner (PS)

Photos and videos courtesy NHRA
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It may have been nine days late, but NHRA Funny Car driver Matt Hagan enjoyed his own personal Groundhog Day Sunday.

One year after qualifying No. 1 and winning the 2017 season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, Hagan did both again to start the 2018 campaign Sunday at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

Other winners were Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta, who earned his second career Winternationals crown, and 2017 Pro Stock champ Bo Butner, who began his title defense the best way possible in the first of 24 national events this season.

Hagan defeated 2017 NHRA Funny Car champ Robert Hight in Sunday’s finals. It was Hagan’s 27th career Funny Car victory.

“Everything was clicking this weekend,” Hagan said. “And even more than the parts and pieces, it’s about having the right guys to use what we have. So far we’ve done it well.”

In Top Fuel, Kalitta earned his 44th career NHRA win, defeating eight-time NHRA champ Tony Schumacher in the final round.

“I tip my hat to my guys because I couldn’t do it without him and it’s really special to get a win at a track with so much history,” Kalitta said. “We feel like we have the team in place to have a successful season but I’m really proud of Jim Oberhofer (crew chief) and what he has done for all of our teams.”

In Pro Stock, Butner picked up where he left off in last season’s championship run, defeating teammate Jason Line in the final round for his sixth career Pro Stock win in as many final round appearances.

“Both my crew and my car have been running smooth recently, and we are just trying to keep riding that wave,” Butner said. “I feel great in this car and I have all the confidence in the world in my crew.”

The NHRA returns to action for the Arizona Nationals, Feb. 23-25, at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Antron Brown; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Scott Palmer; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Terry Haddock; 8. Terry McMillen; 9. Richie Crampton; 10. Steven Chrisman; 11. Steve Faria; 12. Mike Salinas; 13. Leah Pritchett; 14. Brittany Force.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan; 2. Robert Hight; 3. Ron Capps; 4. Jack Beckman; 5. J.R. Todd; 6. Cruz Pedregon; 7. Tim Wilkerson; 8. Jonnie Lindberg; 9. Bob Tasca III; 10. Jim Campbell; 11. John Force; 12. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 13. Courtney Force; 14. Del Worsham; 15. Jeff Diehl; 16. Shawn Langdon.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner; 2. Jason Line; 3. Erica Enders; 4. Deric Kramer; 5. Drew Skillman; 6. Vincent Nobile; 7. Alex Laughlin; 8. Greg Anderson; 9. Chris McGaha; 10. Jeg Coughlin; 11. Kenny Delco; 12. Steve Graham; 13. Val Smeland; 14. Joey Grose; 15. Tanner Gray; 16. Alan Prusiensky.

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Doug Kalitta, 3.779 seconds, 324.28 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 4.715 seconds, 145.93 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.823, 335.90 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.866, 336.99.

PRO STOCK: Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.549, 209.62 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.568, 209.59.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: 

ROUND ONE — Tony Schumacher, 3.696, 332.18 def. Terry McMillen, 3.752, 328.06; Scott Palmer, 6.489, 117.35 def. Leah Pritchett, Broke; Clay Millican, 3.709, 332.10 def. Steven Chrisman, 4.258, 210.80; Terry Haddock, No Time Recorded def. Brittany Force, Foul – Centerline; Steve Torrence, 3.717, 333.00 def. Steve Faria, 4.667, 166.29; Doug Kalitta, 4.121, 217.56 def. Richie Crampton, 4.234, no speed; Antron Brown, 4.333, 183.22 def. Mike Salinas, 9.881, 82.53;

QUARTERFINALS — Schumacher, 3.717, 331.85 def. Haddock, 9.851, 84.16; Millican, 9.978, 74.77 was unopposed; Kalitta, 3.760, 329.18 def. Palmer, 3.832, 323.27; Brown, 3.758, 330.07 def. Torrence, Foul – Red Light;

SEMIFINALS — Schumacher, 3.711, 331.45 def. Brown, 3.737, 330.72; Kalitta, 3.866, 307.58 def. Millican, 4.860, 145.02;

FINAL — Kalitta, 3.779, 324.28 def. Schumacher, 4.715, 145.93.

FUNNY CAR: 

ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.833, 167.53 def. Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 10.060, 79.68; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.865, 325.30 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, Foul – Red Light; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.902, 331.53 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.387, 213.77; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.907, 333.00 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.016, 324.12; Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 4.433, 262.54 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.525, 241.71; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.036, 304.12 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.751, 191.95; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.997, 323.58 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.465, 202.76; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.363, 246.17 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.504, 267.69;

QUARTERFINALS — Beckman, 3.901, 330.23 def. Wilkerson, 4.253, 220.51; Hight, 3.937, 329.10 def. Todd, 3.969, 324.36; Hagan, 3.954, 329.34 def. Pedregon, 4.006, 322.11; Capps, 4.001, 324.75 def. Lindberg, Foul – Red Light;

SEMIFINALS — Hight, 3.899, 329.10 def. Beckman, Broke; Hagan, 3.938, 330.07 def. Capps, 3.968, 320.81;

FINAL — Hagan, 3.823, 335.90 def. Hight, 3.866, 336.99.

PRO STOCK: 

ROUND ONE — Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.565, 210.50 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.584, 210.73; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.592, 209.79 def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.595, 209.17; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.557, 210.21 def. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 12.982, 71.74; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.572, 210.21 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.677, 208.81; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.546, 209.88 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.617, 209.20; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.568, 211.06 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.752, 206.32; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.585, 210.18 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, Foul – Centerline; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.561, 211.23 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.716, 206.35;

QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.592, 209.49 def. Skillman, Foul – Red Light; Kramer, 6.586, 209.69 def. Nobile, 6.598, 210.14; Butner, 6.568, 210.05 def. Anderson, 6.622, 210.54; Line, 6.588, 208.42 def. Laughlin, Foul – Red Light;

SEMIFINALS — Line, 16.795, 101.77 def. Kramer, Foul – Red Light; Butner, 6.592, 209.52 def. Enders, Foul – Red Light;

FINAL — Butner, 6.549, 209.62 def. Line, 6.568, 209.59.

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POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta, 112; 2. Tony Schumacher, 95; 3. Clay Millican, 84; 4. Antron Brown, 78; 5. Steve Torrence, 60; 6. Scott Palmer, 47; 7. Brittany Force, 35; 8. (tie) Steve Faria, 32; Leah Pritchett, 32; Mike Salinas, 32.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan, 127; 2. Robert Hight, 101; 3. Jack Beckman, 81; 4. Ron Capps, 78; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, 51; 6. (tie) J.R. Todd, 49; Tim Wilkerson, 49; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 48; 9. Courtney Force, 36; 10. (tie) Tommy Johnson Jr., 32, Shawn Langdon, 32, Del Worsham, 32.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner, 115; 2. Jason Line, 98; 3. Erica Enders, 74; 4. Deric Kramer, 73; 5.  Drew Skillman, 65; 6. Vincent Nobile, 63; 7. Greg Anderson, 61; 8. Alex Laughlin, 54; 9. Chris McGaha, 33; 10. (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 32, Steve Graham, 32, Tanner Gray, 32.

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”