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.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.