NHRA at Bristol: Courtney Force earns 7th No. 1 spot of 2018; Greg Anderson takes 100th career No. 1

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When you’re hot, you’re hot.

And at Bristol (Tennessee) Dragway on Saturday, it wasn’t just the weather that was hot but also the racing action to wrap up qualifying for Sunday’s eliminations in the 18th annual Fitzgerald USA NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

Courtney Force, who has been the hottest driver in Funny Car this season, earned her seventh No. 1 qualifying position in the first 11 races – including five of the last seven races – of the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Force led all Funny Car entrants with a pass of 3.993 seconds at 325.92 mph in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro recorded during her second qualifying run Friday, which carried over through Saturday’s final two qualifying efforts.

Force, the youngest daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, was the only driver to run under the four-second mark during Friday’s and Saturday’s four total rounds of qualifying.

“This has been a great start to the season for my team, we have a good thing going and we are really excited with the direction our season is headed,” Force said. “We have a few wins and are in a good spot with the points lead, but we know we have to stay focused one round at a time to keep this success going.”

Force will start off Sunday’s eliminations at Thunder Valley vs. Swedish driver Jonnie Lindberg in the first round.

J.R. Todd qualified second (4.072 seconds at 313.15 mph) ad will face Del Worsham in Sunday’s first round.

But wait, there was even more heat among drivers out there.

In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson took the No. 1 qualifying spot. And like Millican and Force, he also grabbed the top spot during Friday’s two round of qualifying – and then held on through Saturday’s final two make-or-break rounds.

Anderson captured the top spot for the seventh time in this season’s first 11 races with a run of 6.674 seconds at 205.35 mph. It was also the 100th No. 1 qualifying spot for the four-time NHRA Pro Stock world champ.

“Getting to 100 No. 1 qualifiers has taken a lot of hard work and late nights, but it’s a team award and we are definitely going to celebrate this milestone,” Anderson said. “We know it’s going to be hot and rough out there (on Sunday), so it’s going to come down to who can handle this track best on race day.”

However, even though he’s qualified No. 1 seven times, Anderson is still in search of his first win of the season. He hopes to start on the road to that elusive first victory when he faces Wally Stroupe in Sunday’s first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified No. 2 (6.683 seconds at 205.22 mph).

In Top Fuel, Clay Millican earned his fifth No. 1 qualifying spot of the season.

Millican covered the 1,000-foot drag strip in 3.817 seconds at 322.88 mph on Friday, a time and speed that carried through Saturday’s qualifying as well.

Millican is also the defending Top Fuel winner at Bristol and is seeking his third win in the last four races on Sunday.

“The way our car went down the track today with some of the other teams struggling is pretty incredible,” Millican said. “This has just been a great racecar for us right now, and our goal is to put four good runs in a row together for tomorrow.”

Millican faces Terry Totten in Sunday’s first round. Meanwhile, Tony Schumacher, who has seen a resurgence of late, qualified No. 2 (3.830 seconds at 323.66 mph) and will face Terry McMillen in the first round.

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

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS (and top qualifying efforts):

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.817 seconds, 322.88 mph vs. 16. Terry Totten, 6.899, 84.96; 2. Tony Schumacher, 3.830, 323.66 vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 4.724, 159.34; 3. Antron Brown, 3.832, 319.67 vs. 14. Richie Crampton, 4.626, 169.81; 4. Scott Palmer, 3.863, 319.82 vs. 13. Bill Litton, 4.111, 302.82; 5. Brittany Force, 3.875, 320.20 vs. 12. Doug Kalitta, 4.091, 243.81; 6. Steve Torrence, 3.879, 321.81 vs. 11. Shawn Reed, 4.019, 263.62; 7. Dom Lagana, 3.886, 321.19 vs. 10. Pat Dakin, 4.002, 306.53; 8. Mike Salinas, 3.917, 314.97 vs. 9. Leah Pritchett, 4.001, 296.31.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.993, 325.92 vs. 16. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.771, 202.82; 2. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.072, 313.15 vs. 15. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.335, 231.91; 3. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.077, 316.97 vs. 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.298, 290.13; 4. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.078, 312.06 vs. 13. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.262, 251.81; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.109, 304.05 vs. 12. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.215, 295.98; 6. John Force, Camaro, 4.115, 313.51 vs. 11. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.193, 301.07; 7. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.130, 307.86 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.191, 299.00; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.167, 303.03 vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.188, 296.24. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 9.984, 92.31.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.674, 205.44 vs. 16. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 7.552, 133.18; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.683, 205.26 vs. 15. Tommy Lee, Camaro, 7.012, 195.39; 3. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.685, 204.82 vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.866, 201.49; 4. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.688, 205.60 vs. 13. John Gaydosh Jr., Chevrolet Camaro, 6.800, 203.12; 5. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.692, 203.58 vs. 12. Tim Freeman, Camaro, 6.744, 203.46; 6. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.700, 204.57 vs. 11. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.710, 205.26; 7. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.703, 205.22 vs. 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.706, 206.13; 8. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.703, 204.08 vs. 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.704, 205.07.

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Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.