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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.

Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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