Photo courtesy NHRA

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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Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.