NHRA Joliet: Torrence, Hagan, Anderson, Hines are ones to beat Sunday

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NHRA Media Release:

JOLIET, Ill. — The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continued Saturday as Steve Torrence held on to the Top Fuel No. 1 qualifying position at the 21st annual JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also qualified first in their respective categories at the ninth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Torrence remained in the top spot after setting both ends of the track record with a pass of 3.677-seconds at 333.58 mph in his Capco Contractors dragster during the second qualifying pass on Friday.

The defending event winner and current Top Fuel points leader recorded his first No. 1 qualifier on the season, as he looks to build upon his category-best three victories this season.

“Yesterday had some pretty optimal conditions which allowed for us to have that strong run, but it is definitely a huge confidence booster to go into race day knowing my team has a strong handle on the tune-up,” Torrence said. “I think we are getting really close to having the most consistent car we have ever had, and it’s fun to be driving this racecar right now.”

Torrence will take on Luigi Novelli in the first round of eliminations on Sunday.

Defending Top Fuel world champion Brittany Force qualified second for the weekend with a 3.721 at 329.34 in her Advance Auto Parts/Monster Energy dragster on Friday, as she will face off against Kyle Wurtzel in eliminations.

Hagan stayed atop the Funny Car class with a run of 3.917 at 326.79 in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T recorded during his second qualifying pass on Friday. The two-time world champion locked in his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and first since the season-opening event in Pomona, where he also earned his lone victory on the year.

“We’ve had to regroup this season and make some wholesale changes, and even though it’s taken some time to get here but I feel like our car is running strong now,” Hagan said. “Our confidence has definitely grown, and we are blessed to have that No. 1 qualifier heading into race day.”

Hagan faces off with Jonnie Lindberg in the elimination round. Hagan’s teammate Ron Capps qualified second and matches up with Justin Schriefer for Sunday’s first round of eliminations.

Anderson held onto the top spot in Pro Stock after driving to a 6.546 at 211.03 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro during the second round of qualifying on Friday night. He now has 98 career No. 1 qualifiers and five this season, the most in the class.

“To have 98 career No. 1 qualifiers is quite a feather in the cap for this whole KB Racing Team, and to have low E.T. of every session this weekend is a good feeling going into Sunday,” Anderson said. “I’ve had a great qualifying car all year so far but we haven’t been able to get it done on Sunday, which we will try to change tomorrow.”

Anderson will go head-to-head with David River in the elimination round. Tanner Gray remained in second after his 6.556 at 210.18 from Friday, as he prepares for Wally Stroupe in the first round.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle class was once again led by Andrew Hines, who used a 6.849 at 194.83 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson in the final pass of the day to reclaim the top spot.

“We had a really good motorcycle today and this track is really good for us, but all-in-all my team is doing a great job and we are all feeling good about racing here tomorrow,” Hines said. “We threw everything we could at the track today, but it all worked out and it’s nice to get down the track so quick.”

Hines will line up against Cory Reed in the first round.

Hector Arana Jr. secured the second qualifying spot after a 6.852 at 197.45 in the final qualifying pass on Saturday, as he prepares for Marc Ingwersen on Sunday.

Eliminations begin at 12 p.m. EST on Sunday at Route 66 Raceway.

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Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 21st annual JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, the ninth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 3.677 seconds, 333.58 mph vs. 16. Luigi Novelli, 3.982, 273.05; 2. Brittany Force, 3.721, 329.34 vs. 15. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.973, 294.88; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.749, 329.99 vs. 14. Billy Torrence, 3.900, 301.87; 4. Clay Millican, 3.753, 326.48 vs. 13. Pat Dakin, 3.841, 323.74; 5. T.J. Zizzo, 3.771, 326.48 vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.839, 326.24; 6. Blake Alexander, 3.781, 328.06 vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.817, 319.52; 7. Antron Brown, 3.781, 327.19 vs. 10. Leah Pritchett, 3.797, 328.30; 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.786, 321.96 vs. 9. Terry McMillen, 3.796, 323.97. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 4.020, 289.82; 18. Chris Karamesines, 4.130, 231.56; 19. Bill Litton, 4.156, 246.66.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.917, 326.79 vs. 16. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.463, 263.36; 2. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.921, 325.92 vs. 15. Justin Schriefer, Charger, 4.155, 277.72; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.944, 322.81 vs. 14. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 4.112, 314.46; 4. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.966, 327.66 vs. 13. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.085, 311.13; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 3.969, 320.05 vs. 12. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.073, 267.85; 6. John Force, Camaro, 3.971, 324.59 vs. 11. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.055, 308.78; 7. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.980, 326.08 vs. 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.011, 323.35; 8. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.981, 320.43 vs. 9. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.007, 322.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Bob Bode, 4.502, 239.19; 18. John Lawson, 4.748, 190.35.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.546, 211.03 vs. 16. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 6.950, 197.28; 2. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.556, 210.21 vs. 15. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 6.813, 203.43; 3. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.559, 209.95 vs. 14. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.803, 202.21; 4. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.560, 210.67 vs. 13. Tim Freeman, Camaro, 6.629, 208.39; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.564, 210.87 vs. 12. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.600, 209.14; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.579, 209.07 vs. 11. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.587, 209.72; 7. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.581, 210.18 vs. 10. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.585, 209.49; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.582, 209.75 vs. 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.584, 210.14.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.849, 194.83 vs. 16. Cory Reed, Buell, 7.038, 189.87; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.852, 197.45 vs. 15. Marc Ingwersen, Buell, 7.026, 187.55; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.862, 194.49 vs. 14. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.005, 191.27; 4. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.871, 194.83 vs. 13. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.987, 190.51; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.881, 193.90 vs. 12. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.975, 192.19; 6. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.891, 194.66 vs. 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.969, 191.76; 7. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.920, 192.66 vs. 10. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.965, 191.65; 8. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.930, 194.41 vs. 9. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.948, 191.46. Did Not Qualify: 17. Mark Paquette, 7.039, 189.42; 18. Karen Stoffer, 7.047, 189.63; 19. Angelle Sampey, 7.060, 189.66.

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.”