Photos, videos courtesy NHRA

NHRA: Robert Hight, Antron Brown, Greg Anderson are first day 4-wide No. 1 qualifiers at Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are the provisional No. 1 qualifiers following Friday’s first of two days of qualifying for the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.

This is the first-ever four-wide race at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s sister track, zMAX Dragway in suburban Charlotte, has held a four-wide race annually since 2010.

The second round of qualifying will be Saturday, with final eliminations set for Sunday for the fourth race on the 24-event 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

In Funny Car: Hight set the pace with a run of 3.693 seconds at 321.42 mph. He’s hoping to hold on to his lead in Saturday’s final two qualifying rounds – for his first No. 1 qualifier of the season (he had eight last season – to go into Sunday’s eliminations as the driver to beat.

“I know we will likely have to improve our time to hold onto the No. 1 qualifier tomorrow,” Hight said. “Everyone at Las Vegas Motor Speedway worked their tails off over the winter to get this track done, but they got it done ahead of schedule and did an amazing job.”

Tommy Johnson Jr. currently sits in second (3.983 seconds at 315.49 mph), while teammate Ron Capps is third.

In Top Fuel: Brown is the provisional No. 1 with a run of 3.772 seconds at 324.83 mph. Like Hight, Brown is also seeking his first No. 1 spot of the season heading into Sunday’s eliminations.

“Our goal is to keep getting better and better each day because we haven’t been hitting our marks so far this year,” Brown said. “But Vegas has always been a breakout race for us, and we are hoping to do that again this year.”

Doug Kalitta qualified second (3.786 seconds at 320.51 mph, as he seeks his second win of the season (won in the season-opening race at Pomona, California).

In Pro Stock: Anderson paced his class (6.669 seconds at 206.45 mph). He is looking for his second consecutive and 95th career No. 1 qualifying position after earning the top spot at Gainesville.

“We had an extra challenge today in preparing for the four-wide, but we hit it on the bulls eye from the intel we got from my team,” Anderson said. “Today was a pretty cool day, and I can’t tell you how great a job this track did on the race surface, it has great traction and each lane is done as well as the others.”

Qualifying continues at 3:10 p.m. ET on Saturday.

**********************

FIRST DAY OF QUALIFYING RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Antron Brown, 3.772 seconds, 324.83 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.786, 320.51; 3. Leah Pritchett, 3.802, 320.58; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.817, 318.39; 5. Billy Torrence, 3.819, 313.66; 6. Richie Crampton, 3.829, 313.66; 7. Brittany Force, 3.846, 301.60; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.850, 322.50; 9. Terry McMillen, 3.917, 252.05; 10. Troy Buff, 3.931, 283.37; 11. Clay Millican, 3.987, 236.46; 12. Terry Haddock, 4.025, 270.92; 13. Mike Salinas, 4.111, 278.46; 14. Steve Torrence, 4.394, 182.26.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.963, 321.42; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.983, 315.49; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.992, 316.82; 4. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.005, 313.00; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, Toyota Camry, 4.011, 306.46; 6. John Force, Camaro, 4.018, 314.39; 7. Gary Densham, Ford Mustang, 4.021, 306.26; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.028, 310.05; 9. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.040, 302.28; 10. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.048, 312.93; 11. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.055, 310.48; 12. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.087, 310.91; 13. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.153, 303.91; 14. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.202, 288.83; 15. Phil Burkart, Charger, 4.307, 288.52; 16. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.319, 216.69. Not Qualified: 17. J.R. Todd, 4.824, 164.01; 18. Jim Campbell, 5.023, 163.18; 19. Bob Bode, 5.728, 137.81; 20. Cruz Pedregon, 14.504, 64.70.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.669, 206.45; 2. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.681, 205.63; 3. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.702, 205.32; 4. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.705, 205.10; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.709, 204.63; 6. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.710, 204.94; 7. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.714, 205.57; 8. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.715, 204.35; 9. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.722, 205.51; 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.734, 205.38; 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.734, 204.88; 12. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.747, 205.44; 13. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.754, 204.05; 14. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.797, 203.25; 15. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.961, 200.02; 16. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 7.074, 196.39.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

F1 Preview: 2018 German Grand Prix

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The German Grand Prix continues its biennial presence on the Formula 1 calendar – it’s hosted F1 events in even numbered years since 2014 – as Formula 1 returns to the Hockenheimring this weekend.

The German fans will undoubtedly be joyful in Sebastian Vettel entering his home race in the championship lead, by nine points over Lewis Hamilton. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, Vettel despite being one of the most successful and decorated drivers of his generation, Vettel has won in Germany only once (2013, at the Nurburgring) and he has never won at Hockenheim.

Conversely, Hamilton has won in Germany three times, including twice at Hockenheim (2008 and 2016).

As such, Vettel will hope to add to his points lead over Hamilton with a win on home soil, though Hamilton may be equally as motivated after watching Vettel his own home race at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, their 2018 championship duel will most certainly continue to be closely fought.

Talking points ahead of the German Grand Prix are below.

A Different World in 2018 vs. 2016

Nico Rosberg during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

The Formula 1 landscape looked completely different back in 2016, the last time Formula 1 visited the Hockenheimring. Bernie Ecclestone was still the chief executive of Formula 1.

Nico Rosberg was partnering Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes team, and was on his way to a driver’s championship that year.

Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were in the midst of a slump as Ferrari went winless in 2016.

The world was still getting to know a then 18-year-old Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman having won the Spanish Grand Prix in May that year.

And the cars looked completely different, with skinnier and taller rear wings and taller rear tires highlighting the appearance differences.

In 2018, Vettel and Ferrari might be the strongest combination. Rosberg is long from Mercedes, and Valtteri Bottas is doing his best to shine in the wake of Hamilton’s enormous shadow.

Verstappen is still a rising star, though he has come under fire at times for overly aggressive driving and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has garnered more headlines this year, with a pair of race wins alongside his status as an F1 free agent after 2018.

In short, the Formula 1 landscape is hardly recognizable from what it was back in 2016. And even though Hamilton won that year, followed by Ricciardo and Verstappen in second and third, very little will carry over from that race two years ago.

Hamilton, Mercedes Look to Take Back Momentum from Vettel, Ferrari

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 leads Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 8, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The seesaw championship fight has tilted back in the favor of Ferrari, with Vettel leading Hamilton after finishes of third and first in Austria and England. Hamilton, meanwhile, DNF’ed in Austria and came home second in England after spinning on Lap 1.

Hamilton trails by nine points, but this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Hamilton in 2018 – he started the year trailing Vettel until he took the championship lead for the first time after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Both teams have had multiple swings of momentum this year – Vettel won the opening two races before finishes of eighth in China (he spun after contact with Verstappen) and a pair of fourth place efforts in Azerbaijan and Spain before getting two more wins in Canada and England.

Hamilton, meanwhile stumbled out of the gates somewhat with finishes of second and third before taking a fortuitous win in Azerbaijan and two dominant wins in Spain and France before the misfortune in Austria.

All told the ebb and flow of the 2018 season seems to change with every race, and while Vettel now leads Hamilton again, things could change this weekend.

Raikkonen Trying to Fend off Ricciardo, Bottas

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 6, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Kimi Raikkonen is somewhat of a forgotten man this Formula 1 season, but he does rank third in the championship at the moment, 10 points ahead of Ricciardo and 12 points ahead of Bottas.

However, both Ricciardo and Bottas are likely thought to have had better seasons – Ricciardo has the aforementioned wins (at China and Monaco) and the only thing that has kept Bottas from the top step of the podium is a string of horrendous luck.

However, Raikkonen, to his credit, has picked up the pieces whenever others around him have faltered, and he has six podium finishes through 10 races.

However, in order to fully silence any critics, and maybe even keep his Ferrari drive, Raikkonen would do well to get a win in 2018.

Misc.

  • The driver challenging Raikkonen’s position within Ferrari is Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari junior driver has five points finishes, and that could have been six if not for a pit stop error at Silverstone that caused him to leave his pit stall with a loose wheel – it forced him to retire. Leclerc’s star is on the rise, and he could shine again in Germany.
  • Nico Hulkenberg is the “other” German driver on the grid. And though he has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win to his name, he is yet to finish on the podium in an F1 race. The Renault package may not be a podium threat in usual circumstances, but if he stays clean and others falter, he could sneak in there…and doing so in his home race would make that overdue podium even sweeter.
  • After a pair of eighth place finishes, Fernando Alonso has helped McLaren at least stop the bleeding after a dismal stretch of races from Monaco through France in which the team scored zero points. However, the team still has a long way to go, and Germany could be another weekend of struggles.

Follow@KyleMLavigne