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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.

Penske won’t discuss if Castroneves returns to Indy in 2020

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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INDIANAPOLIS – NBC Sports.com asked Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Roger Penske if three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves would return to the team in 2020?

Penske immediately brushed off the question.

“We’re not going to talk about that right now,” Penske told NBC Sports.com. “I’m just not going to talk about it. We’re going to have a meeting about it before we decide, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.

“Simon won the race and that is what I’m focused on right now.”

Simon Pagenaud, gave Penske a record-extending 18thIndy 500 win on Sunday. Penske confirmed that Pagenaud will be back with the team in 2020 after he scored his first win in Sunday’s 103rdIndianapolis 500.

Castroneves was an NTT IndyCar Series regular at Team Penske from 2000 until the 2017 season. After that, Castroneves was shifted over to the team’s Acura IMSA Sports Car program, but the three-time Indy 500 winner was given a ride at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the past two years.

The popular driver from Brazil is trying to join AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners.

But the whispers in Gasoline Alley indicate his future with Team Penske at Indy remain uncertain.

“I’ve heard the rumors, too,” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com on pit lane after his disappointing finish in the Indy 500. “I will definitely give it a good, hard think about coming back in 2020. I want to be the rest of the season, here.”

But, will Castroneves run the Indy 500 again?

“Who knows?” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com. “Let’s see what happens.”

Castroneves’s bid for a fourth Indianapolis 500 was derailed in a pit road incident after his first pit stop when he ran into James Davison’s Chevrolet on the team’s first pit stop on Lap 30.

The front wing of Castroneves’s Chevrolet was damaged and INDYCAR officials gave him a “Drive Through” penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” Castroneves would ultimate drop three laps down but finished one lap down in 18thplace.

Castroneves explained what happened to him earlier in the race and how it affected the rest of his Indy 500.

“The accident that happened in the pits hurt us for sure,” Castroneves explained. “We had a problem with the fuel mapping, and I couldn’t go over 200 miles an hour for four or five laps. We lost 35 seconds. There was a bug in the system.

“Then, we went back out and that was it. I wasn’t able to recoup after that. I was excited. The car was very, very good entering the race.”

Castroneves spoke with second-place finisher Alexander Rossi, who was furious with the driver from Brazil earlier in the race for not moving out of the way, even though he was three laps down at the time.

The two drivers hugged, and Castroneves walked back up pit lane.

“I did what the team told me to do, and they told me to go as fast as I could,” Castroneves explained after talking to Rossi. “It’s racing and everybody is upset they didn’t win.”

Castroneves hopes his walk up pit lane is not the final time as an Indy 500 competitor.

But it could be.

“I hope I can come back next year,” Castroneves said. “I’m really upset as a competitor, but extremely happy for Team Penske and for Simon Pagenaud for winning the race.

“The good news is I go back to the Acura sports car, but I will be dreaming about coming back here again.”