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NHRA Force power: Brittany, Courtney Force remain No. 1 qualifiers in Charlotte

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NHRA MEDIA RELATIONS

CONCORD, North Carolina– The final day of qualifying for the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals concluded on Saturday afternoon.

Funny Car racer Courtney Force along with her sister Brittany in Top Fuel, retained their No. 1 qualifying positions from Friday at zMAX Dragway.

Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the sixth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Courtney Force was able to use her 3.873-second pass at 332.92 mph run during the first day of qualifying in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro to maintain the top position. This is her third No. 1 of the year, her most recent at the event in Las Vegas, and the 20th career.

“I’m really excited for us to come here and race four-wide,” said Courtney Force. “For us to do it with my sister Brittany and her Monster Energy team right beside us is pretty amazing. I’m really excited and I hope it is something good for what is to come tomorrow and Brittany and I can celebrate in the winner’s circle.”

With the unique four-wide eliminations format she will face No. 16 qualifier Jim Campbell as well as her father John Force, and Tim Wilkerson in the first round.

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force secured her first No. 1 of the season and the ninth of her career with her run of 3.689 at 318.39 in her Monster Energy Dragster. Brittany Force and her team suffered a setback at the season opening race when she was involved in an incident. While she was uninjured, her primary car was destroyed in the accident. Her team debuted a new car at the most recent event in Houston, which she won, and now has a No. 1 qualifying position with the new machine.

“This is the third car we have run this season and it isn’t easy when you have to rebuild a whole new car,” said Brittany Force. “We went out and won the debut race and that is pretty impressive. I have to give credit to Alan Johnson (consultant) and Brian Husen (crew chief) and my Monster guys for making it happen. We are on a role and I’m happy we qualified No. 1 last night, held onto that spot but tomorrow is a whole new day. The plan is to go some rounds and win the thing.”

When eliminations begin on Sunday, she will face Audrey Worm as well as Shawn Reed and Scott Palmer.

Pro Stock is led by Skillman, who raced to the sixth No. 1. qualifying position of his career as his 6.534 at 210.37 run from Friday remained the category leader. It is his first top position since the Sonoma event in 2017 for the driver of the Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro.

“Our car has run pretty good all weekend,” said Skillman. “After the second hit we had a lot of momentum going forward this weekend and we have a little bit of work to go yet before Sunday but our team is ready, our car is ready, and I’m ready to go.”

Skillman has yet to win this season and will face Val Smeland, Erica Enders and Jason Line in search of his sixth career victory.

Tonglet, in his first race back with the White Alligator Racing (WAR) Pro Stock Motorcycle team owned by 2016 world champ Jerry Savoie, raced to the No. 1 position with his run of 6.812 at 196.99 in the third round of qualifying. Tonglet the defending event winner, is the 2010 category champion, and earned his sixth career top position on his KPK/Nitrofish Suzuki.

“The success is all on team WAR and we couldn’t do it without them,” said Tonglet. “The build an awesome team, a really good program, and I’m just fortunate to be part of it. The bike is flying and I’m looking forward to going three rounds tomorrow. This is the only track I can say that. We just need to go out there and get win lights at the other end and I feel like I can do that.”

Tonglet will square off against Jim Underdahl, his team owner Savoie and Hector Arana Jr.

Eliminations at the NGK Sparkplugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals begin at noon ET on Sunday.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force, 3.689 seconds, 318.39 mph vs. 16. Audrey Worm, 4.143, 256.84 vs. 8. Shawn Reed, 3.838, 323.43 vs. 9. Scott Palmer, 3.841, 313.58; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.692, 331.61 vs. 15. Leah Pritchett, 4.004, 294.31 vs. 7. Clay Millican, 3.773, 323.27 vs. 10. Dom Lagana, 3.846, 270.21; 3. Antron Brown, 3.719, 331.77 vs. 14. Richie Crampton, 3.938, 307.86 vs. 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.758, 327.98 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.884, 309.77; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.731, 330.72 vs. 13. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.906, 301.40 vs. 5. Terry McMillen, 3.744, 329.75 vs. 12. Pat Dakin, 3.905, 315.34. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 4.227, 283.43.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.873, 332.92 vs. 16. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.135, 307.44 vs. 8. John Force, Camaro, 3.938, 328.06 vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.949, 320.81; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.886, 329.83 vs. 15. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.089, 315.12 vs. 7. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.920, 323.50 vs. 10. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 3.960, 319.29; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.887, 328.70 vs. 14. John Smith, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.082, 307.23 vs. 6. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.908, 321.42 vs. 11. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.966, 320.89; 4. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.888, 330.96 vs. 13. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.983, 316.08 vs. 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.907, 326.16 vs. 12. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.973, 325.45. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.247, 296.37.

PRO STOCK: 1. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.534, 211.69 vs. 16. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.655, 209.07 vs. 8. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.561, 210.60 vs. 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.562, 210.93; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.548, 211.79 vs. 15. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.636, 208.75 vs. 7. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.560, 210.90 vs. 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.564, 211.66; 3. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.549, 210.83 vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.632, 208.39 vs. 6. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.558, 211.06 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.565, 210.93; 4. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.556, 210.90 vs. 13. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.618, 208.81 vs. 5. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.557, 211.26 vs. 12. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.571, 210.93. Did Not Qualify: 17. Wally Stroupe, 6.870, 201.79; 18. Tommy Lee, 15.830, 55.12.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.812, 197.59 vs. 16. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.942, 195.25 vs. 8. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.841, 195.48 vs. 9. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.847, 197.31; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.814, 197.80 vs. 15. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.934, 195.11 vs. 7. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.838, 196.96 vs. 10. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.866, 196.56; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.816, 197.74 vs. 14. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.929, 194.38 vs. 6. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.836, 196.73 vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.866, 193.63; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.827, 198.29 vs. 13. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.919, 194.27 vs. 5. Hector Arana, EBR, 6.833, 199.17 vs. 12. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.898, 196.30. Did Not Qualify: 17. Mark Paquette, 6.980, 192.88; 18. Kelly Clontz, 7.041, 189.87; 19. Scott Bottorff, 7.055, 190.73; 20. Lance Bonham, 7.179, 188.10; 21. Melissa Surber, 7.397, 152.92.

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.