Jeg Coughlin earns first win since 2014. Photo and videos courtesy NHRA.

NHRA: Millican, Hight, Coughlin, Smith win at Joliet; John Force in top 10 for first time in 2018

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JOLIET, Illinois – Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were the big winners at Sunday’s JEGS Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.

In Top Fuel: Millican continues to be on fire, winning for the second straight race and third of his career, defeating Leah Pritchett in the final round.

Millican, who won at Topeka two weeks ago, returned to the site of his first-ever NHRA race, back in 1998, when Route 66 Raceway hosted its first NHRA national event.

“It took me 19 years to get that first (win), then less than a year to that second one and less than two weeks to get the third,” Millican said. “I like this trend.

“This place is really special and my team gave me such a good car. It wasn’t necessarily my best weekend, but it was certainly pretty cool to have the team pull together and just keep turning those win lights on.


“I just felt like we were going to win. Our goal at the start of the season was to be in the Top 5 when they reset the points (after the U.S. Nationals, prior to the start of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs).

“Now we’re halfway through the (18-race) regular season and we’re in second place. We just have to keep them win lights coming.”

Steve Torrence, who was upset in the first round, continues to lead the Top Fuel rankings with 712 points, followed by Millican (687) and Pritchett (582).

In Funny Car: 2017 NHRA Funny Car champ Robert Hight roared from the No. 12 qualifying spot to beat 2016 champ Ron Capps.

It was Hight’s first win since Dallas last year, where he also defeated Capps in the final round. Hight would go on to win the season championship a few weeks later.

Capps lost traction about mid-track in Sunday’s rematch and Hight drove right past to take his 42nd career win. It was also his first career win at Route 66 Raceway.

“It was a great weekend,” Hight said afterward. “Qualifying didn’t go that well, I think we qualified 12th, which is not exactly where you want to qualify. But when you have this team behind you, you never lose faith.

“This was my 14th time racing here at Chicago. I’ve always wanted to win this one and now I did.”

Courtney Force remains atop the Funny Car standings with 728 points, followed by Jack Beckman (647) and Hight (624).

Of note, John Force, who reached the semifinals Sunday, finally moved back into the top 10 for the first time this season.

“Even though it’s just one race, I’ve moved back in the Top 10,” Force said. “We’ve still got nine races to go (to make the playoffs) and my car is starting to act like a race car.”

In Pro Stock: Five-time champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., driving for his family’s team and company, race sponsor JEGS (Performance Parts), earned his first win since 2014 at Englishtown, New Jersey.

Coughlin easily defeated four-time champ Greg Anderson when the latter jumped the starting line and lost with a red-light violation.

“I drove today aggressive and consistent,” Coughlin said. “I think we broke that ice with a great effort. Seeing the win light felt fantastic.”

With the win in-hand, Coughlin could have coasted to the finish line, but didn’t. He actually laid down the best elapsed time (6.546 seconds) and top speed (211.03 mph) of the day.

“As I was going by the tree and saw the win light, I just had fun out there but I still wanted to give the fans a show,” Coughlin said with a smile.

Coughlin becomes the eighth different winner in Pro Stock in the first nine races of the 24-race season.

Anderson and Summit Racing teammate, former champ Jason Line, remain winless this season.

Even so, Anderson remains atop the Pro Stock standings with 653 points, followed by Vincent Nobile (647) and Erica Enders (594).

In Pro Stock Motorcycle: Matt Smith earned his first win since November 2016 and the 19th of his career.

“It’s a fast hot rod, hateful and proved it today,” Smith said of his Victory motorcycle, which is still seeking a primary sponsor for the remainder of the season. “”We’re just trying to win a race and find a sponsor. We’re just trying to survive out here.”

Smith struggled to the wind with strong 20-plus mph crosswinds that impacted his run to victory.

“I had to ride it pretty hard in the finals,” Smith said. “It moved to the left and kept going more and more to the left. I almost about gave it up.”

There was one other PSM performance of note other than Smith’s win, coming in the quarterfinals.

Hector Arana Jr. continued to be the only PSM rider to surpass the 200 mph barrier, defeating Angie Smith with a run of 200.89 mph. Arana first surpassed the 200 mph mark in mid-March at Gainesville, Florida.

Andrew Hines leads the standings with 348 points, followed by Eddie Krawiec (345) and Scotty Pollacheck (278).



TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican; 2. Leah Pritchett; 3. Doug Kalitta; 4. Blake Alexander; 5. Luigi Novelli; 6. Scott Palmer; 7. Billy Torrence; 8. Kyle Wurtzel; 9. T.J. Zizzo; 10. Pat Dakin; 11. Steve Torrence; 12. Richie Crampton; 13. Brittany Force; 14. Tony Schumacher; 15. Terry McMillen; 16. Antron Brown.

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

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

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Matt Smith; 2. LE Tonglet; 3. Andrew Hines; 4. Hector Arana Jr; 5. Eddie Krawiec; 6. Angie Smith; 7. Jim Underdahl; 8. Ryan Oehler; 9. Jerry Savoie; 10. Steve Johnson; 11. Joey Gladstone; 12. Scotty Pollacheck; 13. Hector Arana; 14. Kelly Clontz; 15. Marc Ingwersen; 16. Cory Reed.



TOP FUEL: Clay Millican, 3.894 seconds, 289.32 mph def. Leah Pritchett, 4.501 seconds, 192.08 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.073, 310.63 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.310, 230.21.

PRO STOCK: Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.574, 210.67 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Matt Smith, Victory, 6.816, 195.87 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.862, 193.24.



TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Blake Alexander, 3.775, 331.69 def. Richie Crampton, 4.272, 194.58; Scott Palmer, 3.781, 322.58 def. T.J. Zizzo, 3.807, 322.04; Billy Torrence, 3.784, 330.15 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.718, 162.43; Kyle Wurtzel, 3.926, 303.03 def. Brittany Force, 4.292, 239.06; Luigi Novelli, 4.003, 290.51 def. Steve Torrence, 4.237, 221.34; Clay Millican, 3.755, 329.42 def. Pat Dakin, 3.894, 318.69; Leah Pritchett, 3.769, 329.67 def. Antron Brown, 5.402, 134.91; Doug Kalitta, 3.978, 281.48 def. Terry McMillen, 5.161, 135.73; QUARTERFINALS — Kalitta, 3.934, 305.77 def. Novelli, 4.081, 253.85; Millican, 3.960, 254.95 def. Palmer, 4.122, 266.58; Pritchett, 3.929, 298.93 def. Wurtzel, 5.171, 137.16; Alexander, 4.245, 240.94 def. B. Torrence, 4.538, 192.38; SEMIFINALS — Millican, 3.785, 316.75 def. Kalitta, 3.819, 325.53; Pritchett, 3.832, 326.16 def. Alexander, 3.896, 325.06; FINAL — Millican, 3.894, 289.32 def. Pritchett, 4.501, 192.08.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.109, 303.57 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.932, 161.90; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.092, 308.50 def. Justin Schriefer, Charger, 4.305, 222.73; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.017, 320.74 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.442, 246.57; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.213, 237.25 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Dodge Stratus, 6.907, 81.20; John Force, Camaro, 4.059, 318.77 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.670, 175.68; Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.354, 229.00 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 5.036, 155.90; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.475, 250.00 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 5.874, 97.84; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.024, 317.42 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.011, 322.50; QUARTERFINALS — Capps, 4.104, 311.77 def. Langdon, 4.154, 307.16; Tasca III, 4.084, 307.86 def. Hagan, 4.149, 282.95; J. Force, 4.208, 303.09 def. Beckman, 4.451, 241.11; Hight, 4.064, 316.97 def. C. Force, 4.058, 312.42; SEMIFINALS — Capps, 4.058, 313.80 def. J. Force, Foul – Centerline; Hight, 4.076, 315.12 def. Tasca III, 4.886, 165.64; FINAL — Hight, 4.073, 310.63 def. Capps, 4.310, 230.21.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.582, 210.08 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.584, 209.75 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.603, 210.80; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.562, 210.50 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.577, 210.18; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.579, 210.57 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.590, 209.52; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.570, 210.47 def. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.764, 204.57; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.573, 211.13 def. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.579, 210.93 def. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 6.897, 197.59; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.574, 210.44 def. Tim Freeman, Camaro, 7.414, 135.61; QUARTERFINALS — Anderson, 6.618, 210.54 def. Kramer, 6.595, 210.01; Nobile, 6.582, 210.21 def. Line, 6.595, 210.70; Gray, 6.600, 210.31 def. Enders, 6.601, 209.72; Coughlin, 6.567, 210.57 def. Hartford, 6.573, 210.05; SEMIFINALS — Anderson, 6.604, 209.85 def. Nobile, 12.390, 70.57; Coughlin, 6.574, 210.67 def. Gray, 6.592, 210.73; FINAL — Coughlin, 6.574, 210.67 def. Anderson, Foul – Red Light.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.887, 196.42 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.910, 193.46 def. Hector Arana, Buell, Foul – Red Light; Angie Smith, Buell, 6.821, 196.99 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.916, 192.22; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.828, 197.65 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.941, 192.93; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.835, 199.02 def. Marc Ingwersen, Buell, 7.051, 191.43; Matt Smith, 6.784, 198.35 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.868, 195.85; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.815, 197.02 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.006, 195.17; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.801, 198.32 def. Cory Reed, Buell, Broke; QUARTERFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.793, 200.89 def. A. Smith, 6.839, 196.64; Tonglet, 6.807, 198.93 def. Krawiec, Foul – Red Light; Hines, 6.818, 198.47 def. Oehler, 7.105, 192.30; M. Smith, 6.788, 198.96 def. Underdahl, Foul – Red Light; SEMIFINALS — Tonglet, 6.814, 198.55 def. Arana Jr, 7.636, 135.81; M. Smith, 6.796, 198.64 def. Hines, 6.818, 197.31; FINAL — M. Smith, 6.816, 195.87 def. Tonglet, 6.862, 193.24.



TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 712; 2. Clay Millican, 687; 3. Leah Pritchett, 582; 4. Tony Schumacher, 578; 5. Doug Kalitta, 570; 6. Brittany Force, 471; 7. Terry McMillen, 464; 8. Antron Brown, 456; 9. Scott Palmer, 350; 10. Richie Crampton, 329.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, 728; 2. Jack Beckman, 647; 3. Robert Hight, 624; 4. Matt Hagan, 601; 5. J.R. Todd, 539; 6. Ron Capps, 535; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 522; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 433; 9. Shawn Langdon, 429; 10. John Force, 383.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, 653; 2. Vincent Nobile, 647; 3. Erica Enders, 594; 4. Deric Kramer, 592; 5. Tanner Gray, 575; 6. Bo Butner, 550; 7. Drew Skillman, 529; 8. Chris McGaha, 527; 9. Jason Line, 499; 10. Jeg Coughlin, 487.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 348; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 345; 3. Scotty Pollacheck, 278; 4.  LE Tonglet, 249; 5. Jerry Savoie, 240; 6. Matt Smith, 235; 7. Hector Arana Jr, 233; 8. Hector Arana, 192; 9. Angelle Sampey, 187; 10. Cory Reed, 173.

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Penske won’t discuss if Castroneves returns to Indy in 2020

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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INDIANAPOLIS – NBC asked Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Roger Penske if three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves would return to the team in 2020?

Penske immediately brushed off the question.

“We’re not going to talk about that right now,” Penske told NBC “I’m just not going to talk about it. We’re going to have a meeting about it before we decide, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.

“Simon won the race and that is what I’m focused on right now.”

Simon Pagenaud, gave Penske a record-extending 18thIndy 500 win on Sunday. Penske confirmed that Pagenaud will be back with the team in 2020 after he scored his first win in Sunday’s 103rdIndianapolis 500.

Castroneves was an NTT IndyCar Series regular at Team Penske from 2000 until the 2017 season. After that, Castroneves was shifted over to the team’s Acura IMSA Sports Car program, but the three-time Indy 500 winner was given a ride at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the past two years.

The popular driver from Brazil is trying to join AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners.

But the whispers in Gasoline Alley indicate his future with Team Penske at Indy remain uncertain.

“I’ve heard the rumors, too,” Castroneves told NBC on pit lane after his disappointing finish in the Indy 500. “I will definitely give it a good, hard think about coming back in 2020. I want to be the rest of the season, here.”

But, will Castroneves run the Indy 500 again?

“Who knows?” Castroneves told NBC “Let’s see what happens.”

Castroneves’s bid for a fourth Indianapolis 500 was derailed in a pit road incident after his first pit stop when he ran into James Davison’s Chevrolet on the team’s first pit stop on Lap 30.

The front wing of Castroneves’s Chevrolet was damaged and INDYCAR officials gave him a “Drive Through” penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” Castroneves would ultimate drop three laps down but finished one lap down in 18thplace.

Castroneves explained what happened to him earlier in the race and how it affected the rest of his Indy 500.

“The accident that happened in the pits hurt us for sure,” Castroneves explained. “We had a problem with the fuel mapping, and I couldn’t go over 200 miles an hour for four or five laps. We lost 35 seconds. There was a bug in the system.

“Then, we went back out and that was it. I wasn’t able to recoup after that. I was excited. The car was very, very good entering the race.”

Castroneves spoke with second-place finisher Alexander Rossi, who was furious with the driver from Brazil earlier in the race for not moving out of the way, even though he was three laps down at the time.

The two drivers hugged, and Castroneves walked back up pit lane.

“I did what the team told me to do, and they told me to go as fast as I could,” Castroneves explained after talking to Rossi. “It’s racing and everybody is upset they didn’t win.”

Castroneves hopes his walk up pit lane is not the final time as an Indy 500 competitor.

But it could be.

“I hope I can come back next year,” Castroneves said. “I’m really upset as a competitor, but extremely happy for Team Penske and for Simon Pagenaud for winning the race.

“The good news is I go back to the Acura sports car, but I will be dreaming about coming back here again.”