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NHRA Topeka: C. Force wins 3rd of year; Millican (TF), Kramer (PS) also win

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John Force isn’t the only member of the family that can make news in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

Youngest daughter Courtney Force won her third race of the season in Monday’s rain-delayed Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals in Topeka, Kansas.

Force has now back-to-back races and three of the first eight races of the 24-race 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Final eliminations were originally scheduled for 12 Noon ET on Sunday, but weather forced an eight-hour delay before racing resumed.

With the lateness of the evening, as well as additional bad weather approaching, NHRA and Heartland Park Topeka officials were forced to complete elimination rounds on Monday.

Other victorious drivers included Clay Millican, who earned his second career Top Fuel win, and Deric Kramer earned his first career Pro Stock national event triumph.

Millican, Kramer and Force all were No. 1 qualifiers going into final eliminations. It was also Force’s fifth No. 1 qualifier this season.

Here’s how the final round of eliminations played out:

IN FUNNY CAR: Force defeated reigning NHRA Funny Car champion and John Force Racing teammate, Robert Hight, in Monday’s final round.

Force covered the 1,000-foot drag strip in 3.928 seconds at 329.83 mph to earn the 11th win of her Funny Car career. This has been a turnaround season for Force, who did not win any races in 2017.

“Coming off a back-to-back win is just insane,” Force said. “I got on the radio and told my guys that they’re unbelievable and that it’s so much fun to drive this race car.

“Coming out to a track where the conditions have changed a lot, I have to give credit to my crew chiefs Brian Corradi and Dan Hood.”

IN TOP FUEL: Millican was not to be denied of his second career Top Fuel win, defeating Terry McMillen in the final round.

Millican won the race with an ET of 3.727 seconds at a stout 332.59 mph. It was only the second time in 10 final rounds in NHRA Top Fuel competition that he emerged victorious.

“The car has been really good,” Millican said. “Pretty much didn’t matter what I did because that car was going to win today.

“It’s just awesome with all of the work [crew chief] David Grubnic has put in. He found some consistency which is what I’ve been saying all along.”

IN PRO STOCK: Kramer captured his first Pro Stock win with a pass of 6.615 seconds at 209.36 mph, defeating two-time Pro Stock world champ Erica Enders in the final round.

Kramer becomes the 67th different driver to earn a NHRA Pro Stock national event win.

“I’ve been working a long time for this,” Kramer stated. “The first win leaves me a little speechless but I’m already looking for the next one.

“Always great as a driver to do your part and I’ve certainly been doing that all weekend.”

The NHRA national event tour enjoys the Memorial Day weekend off before resuming May 31st to June 3rd at the JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois (about 50 miles southwest of downtown Chicago).

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican; 2. Terry McMillen; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Tony Schumacher; 5. Billy Torrence; 6. Doug Kalitta; 7. Brittany Force; 8. Leah Pritchett; 9. Scott Palmer; 10. Bill Litton; 11. Antron Brown; 12. Richie Crampton; 13. Kebin Kinsley; 14. Mike Salinas; 15. Terry Totten; 16. Terry Haddock.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force; 2. Robert Hight; 3. J.R. Todd; 4. Shawn Langdon; 5. Matt Hagan; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 7. Jack Beckman; 8. Jonnie Lindberg; 9. Tim Wilkerson; 10. Ron Capps; 11. John Force; 12. Dale Creasy Jr.; 13. Richard Townsend; 14. Cruz Pedregon; 15. Jim Campbell; 16. Bob Tasca III.

PRO STOCK: 1. Deric Kramer; 2. Erica Enders; 3. Jason Line; 4. Greg Anderson; 5. Tanner Gray; 6. Drew Skillman; 7. Matt Hartford; 8. Richard Freeman; 9. Vincent Nobile; 10. Mark Hogan; 11. Chris McGaha; 12. Will Hatcher; 13. Alex Laughlin; 14. Jeg Coughlin; 15. Bo Butner; 16. Alan Prusiensky.

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FINAL RESULTS:

 TOP FUEL: Clay Millican, 3.727 seconds, 332.59 mph def. Terry McMillen, 6.169 seconds, 104.47 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.928, 329.83 def. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.087, 265.90.

PRO STOCK: Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.615, 209.36 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 7.409, 143.58.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Brittany Force, 3.723, 328.06 def. Richie Crampton, 4.264, 303.98; Terry McMillen, 3.934, 313.22 def. Mike Salinas, 4.674, 165.11; Leah Pritchett, 4.060, 304.39 def. Antron Brown, 4.254, 301.07; Clay Millican, 3.780, 331.36 def. Terry Totten, 5.452, 136.62; Steve Torrence, 3.734, 333.25 def. Terry Haddock, 9.583, 72.99; Billy Torrence, 3.734, 329.75 def. Kebin Kinsley, 4.333, 196.59; Tony Schumacher, 3.781, 326.24 def. Bill Litton, 3.950, 270.48; Doug Kalitta, 3.774, 326.24 def. Scott Palmer, 3.798, 327.90;

QUARTERFINALS — Schumacher, 3.931, 231.71 def. Pritchett, 9.302, 87.02; S. Torrence, 3.684, 334.24 def. Force, 8.715, 78.72; McMillen, 3.781, 319.14 def. B. Torrence, 4.714, 175.64; Millican, 3.724, 334.90 def. Kalitta, 7.301, 72.09;

SEMIFINALS — Millican, 3.676, 331.20 def. Schumacher, 5.198, 139.31; McMillen, 3.758, 326.48 def. S. Torrence, 3.784, 320.51;

FINAL — Millican, 3.727, 332.59 def. McMillen, 6.169, 104.47.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 8.883, 84.25 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, Foul – Red Light; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.766, 262.18 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 6.291, 103.95; Courtney Force, Camaro, 5.323, 176.70 def. Richard Townsend, Camry, 5.929, 138.39; J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.385, 237.17 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 5.347, 155.06; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.776, 186.77 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, Broke; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.950, 325.06 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.391, 284.03; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.021, 322.19 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.322, 315.64; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.942, 326.79 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.024, 314.31;

QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 3.949, 323.12 def. Beckman, 4.058, 310.20; Hight, 3.924, 330.23 def. Johnson Jr., 3.986, 327.98; Langdon, 4.011, 324.12 def. Lindberg, 12.378, 75.64; C. Force, 3.934, 328.54 def. Hagan, 3.936, 328.94;

SEMIFINALS — C. Force, 3.895, 330.39 def. Todd, 4.495, 188.81; Hight, 3.911, 330.55 def. Langdon, 7.038, 97.06;

FINAL — C. Force, 3.928, 329.83 def. Hight, 4.087, 265.90.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 7.378, 135.81 def. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.645, 206.61 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, Broke; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 11.581, 77.19 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.611, 208.97 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 7.736, 125.65; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 7.594, 135.40 def. Will Hatcher, Dodge Dart, 7.616, 145.20; Richard Freeman, Camaro, 6.650, 207.53 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 7.060, 158.20; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.612, 208.39 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.935, 197.54; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.596, 209.79 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, Foul – Red Light;

QUARTERFINALS — Kramer, 6.621, 208.91 def. Hartford, 6.604, 208.65; Enders, 6.550, 209.65 def. Gray, 6.574, 209.33; Line, 6.583, 210.05 def. Freeman, 6.635, 207.69; Anderson, 6.567, 210.93 def. Skillman, 6.594, 209.04;

SEMIFINALS — Kramer, 6.600, 209.49 def. Line, 6.580, 210.11; Enders, 6.603, 209.36 def. Anderson, 6.581, 210.60;

FINAL — Kramer, 6.615, 209.36 def. Enders, 7.409, 143.58.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 664; 2. Clay Millican, 569; 3. Tony Schumacher, 539; 4. Doug Kalitta, 497; 5. Leah Pritchett, 489; 6. Terry McMillen, 432; 7. Brittany Force, 428; 8. Antron Brown, 423; 9. Richie Crampton, 312; 10. Mike Salinas, 308.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, 670; 2. Jack Beckman, 590; 3. Matt Hagan, 540; 4. Robert Hight, 512; 5. J.R. Todd, 504; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 490; 7. Ron Capps, 440; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 399; 9. Shawn Langdon, 373; 10. Jonnie Lindberg, 351.

PRO STOCK: 1. Vincent Nobile, 573; 2. Greg Anderson, 543; 3. Erica Enders, 541; 4. Deric Kramer, 539; 5. Bo Butner, 518; 6. Drew Skillman, 496; 7. Chris McGaha, 495; 8. Tanner Gray, 493; 9. Jason Line, 442; 10. Alex Laughlin, 381.

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”