NHRA Atlanta — Friday No. 1 qualifiers: Millican (TF), Hight (FC), Anderson (PS), M. Smith (PSM)

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Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

COMMERCE, GA. – The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continued Friday evening as Clay Millican set the Top Fuel track speed record at the NHRA Southern Nationals Powered by Mello Yello at Atlanta Dragway.

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are provisional qualifying leaders at the seventh of the 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

In Top Fuel, Millican piloted his Parts Plus / Great Clips dragster to a pass of 3.758-seconds and track record speed of 331.12 mph during the second round of qualifying. He currently holds the national elapsed time record which was set at Pomona earlier this season. Millican is seeking his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and 13th of his career.

“To go 331 mph in Atlanta is pretty cool,” Millican stated. “The car is the quickest in the world and I’m proud of that. We’ve had a little problem when it’s hot outside. What surprised me is that this car is starting to run speed because last year we didn’t run speed.”

Coming off his win at the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Steve Torrence piloted his Capco Contractors dragster to the No. 13 qualifying position.

In Funny Car, defending world champion Hight’s second qualifying pass of 3.952 at 327.59 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro took him to the top of the category. He is striving for his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 59th of his career.

“I’m pretty impressed with that run,” Hight stated. “If you look at all the other runs, the others were in the right lane. The left lane is a little trickier here. To get the No. 1 spot out of the left lane is pretty impressive. We haven’t run that well in a couple of races.”

In Pro Stock, veteran Anderson currently holds the top spot after driving to a 6.593 at 210.11 run in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro. He is seeking his fourth No. 1 qualifier and first victory of the season.

“Qualifying No. 1 is great, but usually means its by thousands of a second,” Anderson said. “That’s how close the class is. So, anyone can still win on Sunday, but with bonus points I’ve gotten a ton of them this year the way my car has qualified. That is going to help in the long run.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith currently sits in the No. 1 qualifier position with a 6.882 at 196.13 on his Victory Magnum during the first round of qualifying. He chose to sit out the second round.

“We made a pretty good pass the first run,” Smith stated. “We decided to save parts and pieces. For Saturday, we’re going down one pass. I think we’ll be pretty good and if the weathers good we should be able to put a good time down.”

Reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Eddie Krawiec is currently seeded second overall.

Qualifying continues at the NHRA Southern Nationals Powered by Mello Yello at 11:15 a.m. ET on Saturday. 

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FRIDAY’S RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.758 seconds, 331.12 mph; 2. Leah Pritchett, 3.789, 314.83; 3. Brittany Force, 3.799, 319.60; 4. Doug Kalitta, 3.800, 323.81; 5. Richie Crampton, 3.870, 294.43; 6. Blake Alexander, 3.884, 316.23; 7. Bill Litton, 3.901, 311.92; 8. Mike Salinas, 3.927, 304.46; 9. Pat Dakin, 4.193, 206.13; 10. Tony Schumacher, 4.219, 212.26; 11. Antron Brown, 4.435, 185.10; 12. Terry McMillen, 4.880, 152.50; 13. Steve Torrence, 5.066, 136.50; 14. Terry Haddock, 5.530, 120.95; 15. Audrey Worm, 6.070, 99.88; 16. Scott Palmer, 9.528, 88.29.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.952, 327.59; 2. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.969, 316.38; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.974, 319.90; 4. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.987, 312.64; 5. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.001, 316.15; 6. John Force, Camaro, 4.042, 320.81; 7. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.045, 315.93; 8. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.055, 313.80; 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.061, 316.82; 10. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.183, 296.89; 11. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.606, 181.03; 12. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.666, 174.64; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.850, 166.72; 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.857, 171.75; 15. Jim Campbell, Charger, 6.020, 107.26; 16. John Smith, Chevy Monte Carlo, 7.189, 84.84.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.593, 210.11; 2. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.601, 209.46; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.603, 207.94; 4. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.606, 209.07; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.615, 207.88; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.620, 209.39; 7. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.620, 209.33; 8. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.627, 209.20; 9. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.630, 208.84; 10. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.658, 208.01; 11. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.729, 207.08; 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.750, 205.26; 13. John Gaydosh Jr., Chevrolet Camaro, 6.798, 203.71; 14. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 6.890, 201.79; 15. Val Smeland, Camaro, 7.222, 146.51; 16. Bo Butner, Camaro, 7.753, 124.90.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.882, 196.13; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.884, 195.05; 3. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.889, 193.13; 4. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.891, 195.22; 5. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.895, 193.88; 6. Hector Arana Jr., EBR, 6.901, 197.02; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.904, 192.58; 8. Hector Arana, EBR, 6.911, 196.62; 9. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.915, 194.80; 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.919, 193.24; 11. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.942, 193.85; 12. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.953, 192.06; 13. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.971, 192.47; 14. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.980, 193.18; 15. Melissa Surber, Buell, 6.981, 188.41; 16. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 7.041, 189.66. Not Qualified: 17. Karen Stoffer, 7.053, 190.35; 18. Mark Paquette, 7.056, 188.20; 19. Kelly Clontz, 7.155, 186.12; 20. Andie Rawlings, 7.231, 181.76.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.