NHRA: Torrence, C. Force, Enders early No. 1 qualifiers at Topeka

Photo of Steve Torrence courtesy NHRA
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NHRA Media Release

TOPEKA, Kan. – The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continued Friday as Courtney Force powered to the Funny Car qualifying lead at the 30th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties at Heartland Motorsports Park.

Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) are also provisional qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the eighth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

In Funny Car: Force is atop the category with a run of 3.911-seconds at 321.73 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevy Camaro SS recorded during her second qualifying pass of the day. The current Funny Car points leader is chasing the top position in Topeka as she aims for her fifth No. 1 qualifier of the 2018 campaign and third consecutive.

“We had a decent run in the first qualifying round but I knew we had more with this crew tuning my car and we were able to get that top spot back,” Force said. “It’s definitely a big deal to be running consistently, but there are still plenty of runs tomorrow where we will have to hold onto that number one position.”

Jonnie Lindberg is currently qualified second after a 3.962 at 316.23 run in his Head Racing Ford Mustang Funny Car, while Cruz Pedregon slotted into third.

In Top Fuel: Torrence is the current No. 1 qualifier with a run of 3.770 at 325.92 in his Capco Contractors dragster during the final qualifying pass of the day and his father Billy qualified second after his 3.796 at 320.97 run in his dragster.

“To go up there and put the Capco cars on top at the end of the day was really as good of a finish to a Friday as I could have imagined,” Torrence said. “Any day you can put your whole team in the top of the qualifying board makes you really proud and it’s just a great way to cap off the day.”

In Pro Stock: Enders currently holds the top spot after driving to a 6.625 at 207.59 pass in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro during the second round of qualifying. The two-time world champion is chasing the first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and first since 2015.

“The more time I have with this car the more comfortable I get, and I’m really just thrilled to have a car that is competitive that you are able to drive to the winner’s circle on Sunday,” Enders said. “I can hear the confidence back in my crew chief’s voice which gives me a ton of confidence every time I hit the track.”

Vincent Nobile sits at second with a run of 6.629 at 208.01 in his Mountain View Tire Chevy Camaro, as defending event winner Tanner Gray rounds out the top three.

Qualifying continues at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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FRIDAY’S RESULTS

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 3.770 seconds, 325.92 mph; 2. Billy Torrence, 3.796, 320.97; 3. Doug Kalitta, 3.798, 321.81; 4. Terry McMillen, 3.809, 320.89; 5. Tony Schumacher, 3.836, 324.51; 6. Antron Brown, 3.840, 319.45; 7. Leah Pritchett, 3.840, 286.07; 8. Brittany Force, 3.852, 277.03; 9. Scott Palmer, 3.855, 321.50; 10. Richie Crampton, 3.875, 318.32; 11. Bill Litton, 3.915, 305.08; 12. Mike Salinas, 3.929, 260.56; 13. Kebin Kinsley, 4.019, 271.52; 14. Terry Haddock, 4.098, 256.94; 15. Terry Totten, 4.227, 246.35; 16. Clay Millican, 4.470, 176.03. Not Qualified: 17. Audrey Worm, 4.983, 147.09.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.911, 321.73; 2. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 3.962, 316.23; 3. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.983, 314.68; 4. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.996, 320.89; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.008, 313.00; 6. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.028, 315.78; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.048, 311.56; 8. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.052, 314.31; 9. John Force, Camaro, 4.053, 314.97; 10. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.058, 313.80; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.086, 304.53; 12. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.088, 309.70; 13. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.095, 305.70; 14. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.163, 259.96; 15. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.247, 248.16; 16. Todd Simpson, Charger, 4.617, 196.47. Not Qualified: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.659, 191.32; 18. Shane Westerfield, 5.357, 140.58.

PRO STOCK: 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.625, 207.59; 2. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.629, 208.01; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.640, 207.30; 4. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.641, 206.42; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.642, 207.30; 6. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.645, 207.88; 7. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.649, 207.37; 8. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.653, 207.85; 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.656, 206.39; 10. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.663, 206.26; 11. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.671, 206.54; 12. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.671, 206.54; 13. Richard Freeman, Camaro, 6.714, 205.98; 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.717, 205.16; 15. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 7.033, 172.17; 16. Will Hatcher, Dart, 9.684, 97.85.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”