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

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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.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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.

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FINAL RESULTS:

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;

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

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.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

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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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).