NHRA Charlotte: Cruz Pedregon gets 1st win since 2014, Steve Torrence wins 3rd of 2018

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA

Sunday’s NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals saw one driver who hasn’t won in a while take home a victory, while another driver continues to dominate in 2018.

Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon earned his first win in nearly four years (since Englishtown in 2014), while Steve Torrence continued to dominate the Top Fuel class with his third win in the season’s first six races.

Also winning: Erica Enders in Pro Stock and Jerry Savoie in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

In Funny Car: Pedregon covered the 1,000-foot drag strip in 4.059 seconds at 310.84 mph, outlasting 16-time Funny Car champ John Force, daughter and No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force and Tommy Johnson Jr.

It was Pedregon’s 36th career win in the Funny Car ranks, moving him past legendary Don “Snake” Prudhomme into fifth place for all-time wins in Funny Car.

“I knew we had our work cut out for us when I pulled up to the starting line in the finals, and I actually didn’t believe my ears when my team manager told me that I won,” Pedregon said. “It was surreal, and I cannot believe that I won this race.”

Pedregon snapped a 92-race winless streak.

“Ninety-two is a good number because that’s also the year I won my first championship,” said Pedregon, who became the fifth different winner in six Funny Car races this season. “I didn’t actually believe my ears when I heard we won. It was surreal. It’s still a little bit surreal. I cannot believe we won this race. It’s pretty cool.

“I thought at one point, ‘Man, maybe I’m not destined to win anymore.’ I don’t want to do this if I don’t feel like I’m competitive. This is a lot of stress. I have a daughter who’s seven and this is a lot of travel. … This might be the best, sweetest victory of my career. I’ve been fortunate to drive some good cars and win a lot of races but this one’s big. It meant a lot to me that our competitors, John Force and Courtney Force, came up and congratulated me.”

In Top Fuel: Torrence continued to be the man to beat, earning his third win of 2018 and back into first place in the point standings. It was also Torrence’s 19th national event win and his second career win at zMAX Dragway. It’s also his third straight four-wide win: last year at Charlotte, this year at Las Vegas and again at Charlotte.

Torrence’s 3.813-second pass at 326.56 mph defeated the other three drivers in the final round of Top Fuel eliminations: Doug Kalitta, Clay Millican and Terry McMillen.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Torrence, who also won the four-wide event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 8. “The car performed flawlessly. It did everything it was supposed to. The team deserves the success. I just drive the race car and try not to do anything dumb. They cover my butt.

“If I honestly knew what the recipe (to winning four-wide races) was, I’d try to write it down so I wouldn’t forget.”

In Pro Stock: Enders won her 23rd career NHRA national event win with a performance of 6.535 seconds and 212.73 mph, defeating Vincent Nobile, Chris McGaha and No. 1 qualifier Drew Skillman.

It was Enders’ first win in nearly a year, having last won last season at Epping, New Hampshire.

“We made a car change going into our home race in Houston last week and we made it to the finals,” Enders said, adding “so we came into this race with some confidence. This is definitely a special victory for me.

“I’ve never won a four-wide race so this is definitely significant to me. To be able to come back and win the four-wide is great. I have the best team of guys in all of motorsports.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle: Savoie earned his ninth career NHRA win with a run of 6.784 seconds at 195.73 mph, defeating Andrew Hines, Scotty Pollacheck and Matt Smith.

“We struggled all weekend, but my team worked really hard to get things right so we went out and gave it all we got and figured some things out,” Savoie said. “My reaction times on this bike are traditionally not great, but I was able to do pretty well today and we had the power on this bike to get a win.”

It was an emotional celebration for Savoie, who tried to hold back tears of joy.

“We got after it and it showed,” Savoie said. “It’s pretty cool. I don’t have the best reaction times on the bike, as everyone knows, but I cut a decent light.

“People ask me, ‘Why do you cry when you win?’ It takes a lot of dedication to do this – even to get to the finals. It’s a tough gig. At my age, at 59, when you win one, you never know if it’ll be your last one.”

The next race is this coming weekend, May 4-6: the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia.



TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Doug Kalitta; 3. Terry McMillen; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Dom Lagana; 6. Shawn Reed; 7. Mike Salinas; 8. Audrey Worm; 9. Brittany Force; 10. Tony Schumacher; 11. Antron Brown; 12. Kyle Wurtzel; 13. Leah Pritchett; 14. Scott Palmer; 15. Richie Crampton; 16. Pat Dakin.

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

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

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Jerry Savoie; 2. Andrew Hines; 3. Scotty Pollacheck; 4. Matt Smith; 5. LE Tonglet; 6. Ryan Oehler; 7. Cory Reed; 8. Angelle Sampey; 9. Angie Smith; 10. Karen Stoffer; 11. Joey Gladstone; 12. Jim Underdahl; 13. Eddie Krawiec; 14. Steve Johnson; 15. Hector Arana Jr; 16. Hector Arana.



TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.813 seconds, 326.56 mph def. Doug Kalitta, 4.010 seconds, 278.12 mph and Terry McMillen, 4.361 seconds, 235.72 mph and Clay Millican, 5.295 seconds, 129.97 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.059, 310.84 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.098, 307.93 and Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.143, 275.39 and Courtney Force, Camaro, 6.215, 114.46.

PRO STOCK: Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.535, 212.73 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.520, 212.69 and Chris McGaha, Camaro, 8.237, 118.82 and Drew Skillman, Camaro, 18.515, 43.69.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.784, 195.73 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.873, 197.05 and Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.865, 193.79 and Matt Smith, Victory, DQ;



TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Steve Torrence, 3.709, 331.53 and Terry McMillen, 4.453, 237.71 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 5.500, 122.46 and Pat Dakin, broke; Doug Kalitta, 3.762, 328.70 and Mike Salinas, 4.087, 222.84 def. Antron Brown, 4.872, 130.04 and Richie Crampton, 10.437, 38.24; Dom Lagana, 3.834, 324.05 and Clay Millican, 4.376, 194.18 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.726, 219.72 and Leah Pritchett, 4.999, 174.77; Shawn Reed, 4.045, 238.60 and Audrey Worm, 4.238, 225.86 def. Brittany Force, 4.473, 264.18 and Scott Palmer, 9.401, 91.73; SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 3.809, 317.64 and Millican, 3.874, 317.34 def. Lagana, 3.903, 309.13 and Salinas, 4.934, 155.24; McMillen, 3.850, 321.65 and Torrence, 3.873, 286.80 def. Reed, 3.956, 285.47 and Worm, broke; FINAL — Torrence, 3.813, 326.56 def. Kalitta, 4.010, 278.12, McMillen, 4.361, 235.72 and Millican, 5.295, 129.97.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.566, 273.27 and Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.585, 218.16 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.703, 174.91 and Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 9.074, 77.52; Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.979, 311.41 and John Force, Camaro, 4.307, 283.19 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.686, 199.17 and Jim Campbell, Charger, 5.052, 157.72; Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.156, 243.55 and Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.374, 215.00 def. John Smith, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.315, 256.84 and Matt Hagan, Charger, 5.145, 127.07; J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.031, 305.42 and Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.427, 237.71 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.667, 167.63 and Shawn Langdon, Camry, 14.795, 79.49; SEMIFINALS — Pedregon, 4.055, 309.20 and Johnson Jr., 4.007, 314.02 def. Hight, 4.610, 192.49 and Capps, 5.233, 140.44; J. Force, 4.108, 299.66 and C. Force, 4.115, 255.68 def. Todd, 4.435, 245.94 and Beckman, 4.717, 204.79; FINAL — Pedregon, 4.059, 310.84 def. J. Force, 4.098, 307.93, Johnson Jr., 4.143, 275.39 and C. Force, 6.215, 114.46.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.548, 211.96 and Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.544, 212.33 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 7.149, 154.16 and Deric Kramer, Camaro, 7.957, 103.40; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.515, 212.66 and Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.513, 212.16 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 7.283, 150.06 and Matt Hartford, Camaro, 10.321, 89.57; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.534, 211.30 and Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.540, 212.03 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.541, 212.93 and Kenny Delco, Camaro, 15.879, 52.83; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.500, 212.56 and Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.524, 212.03 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.539, 211.46 and Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.639, 209.23; SEMIFINALS — McGaha, 6.545, 211.63 and Nobile, 6.540, 211.93 def. Coughlin, 6.547, 211.76 and Gray, 6.546, 212.06; Enders, 6.517, 212.86 and Skillman, 6.526, 212.79 def. Butner, 6.552, 211.49 and Laughlin, 6.535, 211.96; FINAL — Enders, 6.535, 212.73 def. Nobile, 6.520, 212.69, McGaha, 8.237, 118.82 and Skillman, 18.515, 43.69.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Andrew Hines, Harley Street Rod, 6.843, 195.03 and Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.847, 194.66 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki TL1000, 6.924, 191.48 and Hector Arana, EBR, 16.364, 27.42; Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki GSXR, 6.822, 193.88 and Matt Smith, Victory, 6.893, 194.69 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.907, 193.79 and Steve Johnson, TL1000, 6.924, 195.25; LE Tonglet, 6.854, 195.59 and Jerry Savoie, TL, 6.857, 191.95 def. Jim Underdahl, GSXR, 7.111, 176.95 and Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 9.362, 92.90; Cory Reed, Buell, 6.819, 194.66 and Ryan Oehler, Buell XB9R, 6.896, 194.88 def. Joey Gladstone, GSXR, 6.946, 187.11 and Eddie Krawiec, Street Rod, 6.881, 197.45; SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.765, 195.73 and Hines, 6.800, 197.94 def. Tonglet, 6.839, 196.02 and Sampey, 13.129, 57.27; Pollacheck, 6.844, 194.21 and M. Smith, 6.883, 194.24 def. Oehler, 6.930, 193.68 and Reed, 6.947, 194.16; FINAL — Savoie, 6.784, 195.73 def. Hines, 6.873, 197.05, Pollacheck, 6.865, 193.79 and M. Smith, DQ.



TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 503; 2. Tony Schumacher, 426; 3. Doug Kalitta, 401; 4. Clay Millican, 384; 5. Antron Brown, 362; 6. Leah Pritchett, 315; 7. Brittany Force, 311; 8. Terry McMillen, 305; 9. Richie Crampton, 263; 10. Scott Palmer, 249.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman, 466; 2. Courtney Force, 425; 3. J.R. Todd, 403; 4. Matt Hagan, 395; 5. Robert Hight, 381; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 376; 7. Ron Capps, 352; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 274; 9. Shawn Langdon, 269; 10. Jonnie Lindberg, 256.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner, 434; 2. Vincent Nobile, 417; 3. Erica Enders, 406; 4. Chris McGaha, 403; 5. Greg Anderson, 377; 6. Drew Skillman, 362; 7. Deric Kramer, 359; 8. Tanner Gray, 340; 9. Jason Line, 335; 10. Alex Laughlin, 316.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 204; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 166; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, 154; 4. Jerry Savoie, 148; 5. Cory Reed, 107; 6. (tie) Hector Arana, 105; Angelle Sampey, 105; 8. LE Tonglet, 95; 9. Steve Johnson, 88; 10. (tie) Ryan Oehler, 83; Karen Stoffer, 83.

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‘It’s gnarly, bro’: IndyCar drivers face new challenge on streets of downtown Detroit

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment

DETROIT – It was the 1968 motion picture, “Winning” when actress Joanne Woodward asked Paul Newman if he were going to Milwaukee in the days after he won the Indianapolis 500 as driver Frank Capua.

“Everybody goes to Milwaukee after Indianapolis,” Newman responded near the end of the film.

Milwaukee was a mainstay as the race on the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but since 2012, the first race after the Indy 500 has been Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

This year, there is a twist.

Instead of IndyCar racing at the Belle Isle State Park, it’s the streets of downtown Detroit on a race course that is quite reminiscent of the old Formula One and CART race course that was used from 1982 to 1991.

Formula One competed in the United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. Beginning in 1989, CART took over the famed street race through 1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle, where it was held through last year (with a 2009-2011 hiatus after the Great Recession).

The Penske Corp. is the promoter of this race, and they did a lot of good at Belle Isle, including saving the Scott Fountain, modernizing the Belle Isle Casino, and basically cleaning up the park for Detroit citizens to enjoy.

The race, however, had outgrown the venue. Roger Penske had big ideas to create an even bigger event and moving it back to downtown Detroit benefitted race sponsor Chevrolet. The footprint of the race course goes around General Motors world headquarters in the GM Renaissance Center – the centerpiece building of Detroit’s modernized skyline.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

JOSEF’S FAMILY TIESNewgarden wins Indy 500 with wisdom of father, wife

Motor City is about to roar with the sound of Chevrolet and Honda engines this weekend as the NTT IndyCar Series is the featured race on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course.

It’s perhaps the most unique street course on the IndyCar schedule because of the bumps on the streets and the only split pit lane in the series.

The pit lanes has stalls on opposing sides and four lanes across an unusual rectangular pit area (but still only one entry and exit).

Combine that, with the bumps and the NTT IndyCar Series drivers look forward to a wild ride in Motor City.

“It’s gnarly, bro,” Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward said before posting the fastest time in Friday’s first practice. “It will be very interesting because the closest thing that I can see it being like is Toronto-like surfaces with more of a Long Beach-esque layout.

“There’s less room for error than Long Beach. There’s no curbs. You’ve got walls. I think very unique to this place.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Speeds from the first session

“Then it’s a bit of Nashville built into it. The braking zones look really very bumpy. Certain pavements don’t look bumpy but with how the asphalt and concrete is laid out, there’s undulation with it. So, you can imagine the cars are going to be smashing on every single undulation because we’re going to go through those sections fairly fast, and obviously the cars are pretty low. I don’t know.

“It looks fun, man. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be learning through every single session, not just for drivers and teams but for race control. For everyone.

“Everybody has to go into it knowing not every call is going to be smooth. It’s a tall task to ask from such a demanding racetrack. I think it’ll ask a lot from the race cars as well.”

The track is bumpy, but O’Ward indicated he would be surprised if it is bumper than Nashville. By comparison to Toronto, driving at slow speed is quite smooth, but fast speed is very bumpy.

“This is a mix of Nashville high-speed characteristics and Toronto slow speed in significant areas,” O’Ward said. “I think it’ll be a mix of a lot of street courses we go to, and the layout looks like more space than Nashville, which is really tight from Turn 4 to 8. It looks to be a bit more spacious as a whole track, but it’ll get tight in multiple areas.”

The concept of having four-wide pit stops is something that excites the 24-year-old driver from Monterey, Mexico.

“I think it’s innovation, bro,” O’Ward said. “If it works out, we’ll look like heroes.

“If it doesn’t, we tried.”

Because of the four lanes on pit road, there is a blend line the drivers will have to adhere to. Otherwise, it would be chaos leaving the pits compared to a normal two-lane pit road.

“If it wasn’t there, there’d be guys fighting for real estate where there’s one car that fits, and there’d be cars crashing in pit lane,” O’Ward said. “I get why they did that. It’s the same for everybody. I don’t think there’s a lot of room to play with. That’s the problem.

“But it looks freaking gnarly for sure. Oh my God, that’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing believes the best passing areas will be on the long straights because of the bumps in the turns. That is where much of the action will be in terms of gaining or losing a position in the race.

“It will also be really easy to defend in my opinion,” Palou said. “Being a 180-degree corner, you just have to go on the inside and that’s it. There’s going to be passes for sure but its’ going to be risky.

“Turn 1, if someone dives in, you end up in the wall. They’re not going to be able to pass you on the exit, so maybe with the straight being so long you can actually pass before you end up on the braking zone.”

Palou’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was at the Honda simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, before coming to Detroit and said he was shocked by the amount of bumps on the simulator.

Race promoter Bud Denker, the President of Penske Corporation, and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, sent the track crews onto the streets with grinders to smooth out the bumps on the race course several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a decent amount of work, and even doing the track walk, it looked a lot better than what we expected,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I hope not. That’ll be something to take into account.

“I think the track layout doesn’t look like the most fun. Maybe not the most challenging. But I love these types of tracks with rules everywhere. It’s a big challenge, and you have to build up to it. That’s the types of tracks that I love to drive. It’s a very much Marcus Ericsson type of track. I like it.”

Scott Dixon, who was second fastest in the opening session, has competed on many new street circuits throughout his legendary racing career. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing likes the track layout, even with the unusual pit lane.

I don’t think that’s going to be something that catches on where every track becomes a double barrel,” Dixon said. “It’s new and interesting.

“As far as pit exit, I think Toronto exit is worse with how the wall sticks out. I think in both lanes, you’ve got enough lead time to make it and most guys will make a good decision.”

It wasn’t until shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Friday that the IndyCar drivers began the extended 90-minute practice session to try out the race course for the first time in real life.

As expected, there were several sketchy moments, but no major crashes during the first session despite 19 local yellow flags for incidents and two red flags.

Rookie Agustin Canapino had to cut his practice short after some damage to his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet, but he was among many who emerged mostly unscathed from scrapes with the wall.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was third fastest in the practice after coming off his first career IndyCar victory in the most recent street race at Long Beach in April. “I think a lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall (too hard), which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected. Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job between the two manufacturers. I’m sure everyone had pretty much the same we were able to base everything off of. We felt pretty close to maximum right away.”

Most of the preparation for this event was done either on the General Motors Simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina, or the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Now, we have simulators that can scan the track, so we have done plenty of laps already,” Power told NBC Sports. “They have ground and resurfaced a lot of the track, so it should be smoother.

“But nothing beats real-world experience. It’s going to be a learning experience in the first session.”

As a Team Penske driver, Power and his teammates were consulted about the progress and layout of the Detroit street course. They were shown what was possible with the streets that were available.

“We gave some input back after we were on the similar what might be ground and things like that,” Power said.

Racing on the streets of Belle Isle was a fairly pleasant experience for the fans and corporate sponsor that compete in the race.

But the vibe at the new location gives this a “big event” feel.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” Power said. “The location, the accessibility for the fans, the crowd that will be here, it’s much easier. I think it will be a much better event.

“It feels like a Long Beach, only in a much bigger city. That is what street course racing is all about.”

Because the track promoter is also the team owner, Power and teammates Scott McLaughlin and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden will have a very busy weekend on the track, and with sponsor and personal appearances.

“That’s what pays the bills and allows us to do this,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500