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NHRA Gatornationals: Millican (TF), Beckman (FC), Anderson (PS), Hines (PSM) qualify No. 1

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Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) will be the drivers to beat in Sunday’s Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

All four drivers qualified No. 1 in their respective classes between Friday and Saturday’s sessions.

Here’s how the day played out:

In Top Fuel: Millican’s Friday-best pass of 3.708 seconds at 324.8 mph stood up during Saturday’s two qualifying rounds to keep him at the top of the heap.

It’s Millican’s second No. 1 qualifiying position in the season’s first three races, and the 12th of his career.

Next on Millican’s agenda: earning his first win at the Gatornationals.

 “Tomorrow, we must do better than what we did today,” Millican said. “We came into the weekend wanting to slow the car down. We’re still not on the consistency train. We don’t want to be that one-hit-wonder. Being hot tomorrow will be interesting for us.”

Millican will face No. 16 seed Terry Totten in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations.

In Funny Car, Beckman earned his No. 1 qualifying spot of the season and 24th of his career with a pass of 3.911 seconds at 332.18 mph.

“We didn’t have the best car on Saturday,” Beckman said. “Today’s conditions are going to be a lot more like the conditions we race in (Sunday). We just didn’t give credit to the sunshine out there since this is a warmer track than what we’ve run so far this year.”

Beckman will face No. 16 seed Jim Campbell in the first round of eliminations

John Force Racing teammates Courtney Force and defending Funny Car champ Robert Hight qualified No. 2 and 3, respectively.

In Pro Stock, four-time champ Anderson held on to the No. 1 spot with Friday’s best qualifying pass of 6.522 seconds at 213.00 mph.

Anderson is seeking his fifth career win in the Gatornationals and 91st overall win of his illustrious career.

“A little bit tougher today,” Anderson said. “This is still a great tune-up for tomorrow though. We think the weather is going to be exactly like this tomorrow. We made four really nice runs and that’s probably the best its been all year.”

Anderson faces No. 16 qualifier Wally Stroupe in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines knocked teammate Eddie Krawiec off the No. 1 spot with a Saturday qualifying pass of 6.773 seconds at 198.64 mph.

Hines’ last win at Gainesville came in 2004 and he was runner-up in last year’s race.

Obviously, he’s looking to return to the victory circle for the first time in 14 years.

“Coming here it was just a progression of taking our notes from last year and just making sure we are making the proper calls at the right time,” Hines said.

Sunday’s four rounds of final eliminations for the third of 24 NHRA national events begins at 11 a.m. ET.

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Sunday’s first-round pairings:

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.708 seconds, 324.98 mph vs. 16. Terry Totten, 7.106, 96.49; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.739, 323.19 vs. 15. Mike Salinas, 5.557, 117.91; 3. Antron Brown, 3.751, 327.74 vs. 14. Audrey Worm, 5.133, 137.96; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.785, 329.67 vs. 13. Brittany Force, 5.021, 138.17; 5. Pat Dakin, 3.810, 291.26 vs. 12. Shawn Reed, 4.128, 239.74; 6. Leah Pritchett, 3.811, 325.77 vs. 11. Terry Haddock, 4.038, 252.90; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.827, 327.19 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.942, 305.49; 8. Terry McMillen, 3.830, 320.74 vs. 9. Scott Palmer, 3.889, 316.08.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.911, 332.18 vs. 16. Jim Campbell, Charger, 5.142, 156.37; 2. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.914, 327.66 vs. 15. John Force, Camaro, 4.281, 222.88; 3. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.917, 333.66 vs. 14. Dave Richards, Ford Mustang, 4.133, 300.93; 4. Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 3.926, 327.03 vs. 13. Gary Densham, Mustang, 4.089, 308.57; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.933, 327.27 vs. 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.084, 290.26; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.941, 328.22 vs. 11. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.004, 315.05; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.944, 325.06 vs. 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.989, 321.58; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.962, 326.40 vs. 9. Del Worsham, Camry, 3.979, 325.14.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Cory Lee, 8.943, 85.95; 18. Jonnie Lindberg, 9.393, 80.65.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 213.00 vs. 16. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 7.042, 196.73; 2. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.525, 212.59 vs. 15. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.664, 209.36; 3. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.529, 213.27 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.612, 211.03; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.534, 213.03 vs. 13. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.602, 210.24; 5. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.534, 212.93 vs. 12. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.581, 209.75; 6. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.541, 212.59 vs. 11. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.571, 212.83; 7. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.541, 212.69 vs. 10. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.570, 211.53; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.544, 212.83 vs. 9. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.554, 212.06.

PRO STOCK MOTOCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.773, 199.05 vs. 16. Mark Paquette, Victory, 6.943, 193.21; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.785, 199.67 vs. 15. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.929, 196.64; 3. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.793, 196.93 vs. 14. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.917, 198.64; 4. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.806, 201.01 vs. 13. Cory Reed, Victory, 6.910, 191.67; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.816, 197.51 vs. 12. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.902, 195.59; 6. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.821, 196.50 vs. 11. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.889, 195.14; 7. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.855, 197.74 vs. 10. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.889, 196.10; 8. Angelle Sampey, Victory, 6.856, 196.07 vs. 9. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.881, 195.22.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Matt Smith, 6.945, 195.87; 18. Kelly Clontz, 6.970, 192.11; 19. Lance Bonham, 7.205, 694.44; 20. Andie Rawlings, 7.223, 182.45.

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Indianapolis 500 weather forecast: Rain chances decreasing for start

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the green flag keeps approaching for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the chances of clear skies Sunday keep increasing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The chance of rain at the start of the race was down to about 30%, according to the wunderground.com site as of late Saturday night, and the forecast seemed good until late afternoon when the odds of precipitation rose to about 80%.

If the race starts on time at12:45 p.m. ET, that should be a long enough window to run the full 500 miles and certainly an official race (102 of 200 laps).

With Indiana on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone and a 9:02 p.m. sunset on race day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles said the green flag probably could be held as late as 6 p.m. if a worst-case scenario of bad weather hits.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch

“We ran the NASCAR race (in 2017) almost right up to sunset,” Boles said. “The challenge of getting closer to sunset is just getting people out when it’s still light. The race itself is more than 2 hours and 40 minutes so you have to back-time yourself.

“We’ll sit down with IndyCar over the next 24 hours and at least have that in the back of our mind. If there’s a window to get it done, our intent would be get it in Sunday, so we would want to go as late as we could.”

Boles said National Weather Service representatives are on site this weekend to help with forecasting. Regardless of if there still is a threat of rain, the track will start the race on time as long as the surface is dry.

“I can’t imagine we’d postpone the start because we think it might rain,” Boles said. “If it’s not raining, we’re running the race.

Boles said track officials are monitoring Sunday’s weather daily but won’t discuss any potential contingency plans until Saturday night. Regardless of whether it’s raining Sunday morning, some pre-race ceremonies likely will remain in place.

“It’s hard to speculate on what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s likely Sunday morning will be the first time that we have any definitive statement on what we think is going to happen. Instead of giving you information that we don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’d rather wait until that Sunday when we see the conditions, and we’ll let you know.

“Obviously, if it’s raining, then we’ll have to decide what the next steps are.”

Boles said Indiana weather traditionally is unpredictable, noting that qualifying was completed last Sunday despite predictions of a complete washout.

“Last year the prediction was it was going to rain on race day, we got up next morning, and it was perfect,” Boles said. “It just changes so rapidly around here.”

Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on time,. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.

During the previous 102 runnings of the Indy 500, there have been 12 impacted by rain: three complete postponements; two partial postponements and seven shortened races.

So what happens if it does rain? Some options:

Rain-shortened race

The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain.

The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over with Dario Franchitti in the lead when rain again hit at the 415-mile mark.

Partial postponement

If fewer than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans on holiday Monday because of Memorial Day, a partial postponement still might allow for a healthy audience at the track and watching on NBC.

The race has been partially postponed only twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.

Complete postponement

Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day with the start time dependent on the forecast.

The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday before rain again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and ’86 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.