NHRA Topeka: Top qualifiers Millican, C. Force, Kramer are ones to beat Sunday

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NHRA Media Release

TOPEKA, Kan. – Qualifying concluded Saturday as Clay Millican drove to the Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier at the 30th annual Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series race at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kan.

Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Deric Kramer (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the eighth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

In Top Fuel: Millican earned the top spot with a run of 3.739-seconds at 331.12 mph in his Strutmasters / Great Clips dragster during the third qualifying pass of the weekend and first of the day. He secured his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season, the 14th of his career, and he now sets his sights on his second career Top Fuel victory.

“When I drove by the scoreboard I couldn’t believe we had such a great run, but we are all excited to have jumped from the number 16 qualifier to the top of the board,” Millican said. “I’m giddy because our cars are running such high speeds but that was just a crazy run altogether.”

Millican will take on Terry Totten in the first round of eliminations on Sunday. Points leader Steve Torrence qualified second with a 3.747 at 328.30 and is set to meet Terry Haddock in competition.

In Funny Car: Force remained atop the Funny Car 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 on Friday. The current Funny Car points leader locked down her fifth No. 1 qualifier of the 2018 campaign and third consecutive.

“My mindset didn’t change much despite that solid pass we had from yesterday, but we knew a lot of cars could improve their times and jump past us so we just kept pushing today,” Force said. “It’s great to kick off the weekend here at Heartland Motorsports Park in the top spot, but we are hoping for a great day tomorrow.”

Force is set to face off against Richard Townsend when eliminations get underway. Jonnie Lindberg sits at second with a 3.962 at 316.23 and will meet Jim Campbell in round one Sunday.

In Pro Stock: Kramer, behind the wheel of his American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro, took over the No. 1 qualifying position after driving to a 6.613 at 208.42 pass during the final pair of Pro Stock qualifying. He now has two top qualifying spots on the season, after also leading the pack in Phoenix.

“We didn’t expect to go to the top spot going into that final run,” Kramer said. “I want to thank all of our sponsors for helping us get here, and we are excited to see what we can do when we get underway tomorrow.”

Kramer matches up with Will Hatcher in the first round. Erica Enders slots into the second spot after a 6.616 at 207.69 run in the final round of qualifying as she prepares for Mark Hogan in the first round.

Eliminations begin at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.739 seconds, 331.12 mph vs. 16. Terry Totten, 4.227, 246.35; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.747, 328.30 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.098, 256.94; 3. Billy Torrence, 3.762, 331.36 vs. 14. Kebin Kinsley, 4.019, 271.52; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.771, 331.12 vs. 13. Bill Litton, 3.915, 305.08; 5. Leah Pritchett, 3.776, 324.51 vs. 12. Antron Brown, 3.832, 322.96; 6. Terry McMillen, 3.792, 321.65 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.813, 318.32; 7. Brittany Force, 3.792, 305.42 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.811, 321.65; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.798, 321.81 vs. 9. Scott Palmer, 3.806, 326.87. Did Not Qualify: 17. Audrey Worm, 4.983, 147.09.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.911, 321.73 vs. 16. Richard Townsend, Toyota Camry, 4.247, 254.14; 2. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 3.962, 316.23 vs. 15. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.185, 297.02; 3. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.980, 314.68 vs. 14. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.163, 259.96; 4. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.996, 320.89 vs. 13. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.088, 309.70; 5. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.006, 315.93 vs. 12. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.086, 304.53; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.008, 313.00 vs. 11. John Force, Camaro, 4.053, 314.97; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.021, 317.79 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.052, 314.31; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.028, 315.78 vs. 9. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.048, 311.56. Did Not Qualify: 17. Todd Simpson, 4.617, 197.94; 18. Shane Westerfield, 5.357, 140.58.

PRO STOCK: 1. Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.613, 208.42 vs. 16. Will Hatcher, Dodge Dart, 7.649, 140.99; 2. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.616, 207.69 vs. 15. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.887, 201.10; 3. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.620, 208.94 vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.717, 205.16; 4. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.626, 208.10 vs. 13. Richard Freeman, Camaro, 6.682, 206.07; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.627, 208.04 vs. 12. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.655, 207.18; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.629, 208.01 vs. 11. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.649, 208.26; 7. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.632, 208.17 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.645, 207.85; 8. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.633, 207.37 vs. 9. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.635, 207.30.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds