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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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F1: Recapping the past week’s news

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Grosjean Three Penalty Points Away from a One-Race Ban

Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean could face a one-race ban if he accrues three more penalty points, per Formula1.com.

Grosjean, who had seven penalty points to his name entering last week’s Grand Prix of Singapore was assessed two more for ignoring blue flags in last week’s race.

Grosjean was in the midst of a battle with Sergey Sirotkin as race leaders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen approached. FIA rules dictate that when a driver is given a blue flag, he or she must move over and let the faster car(s) through, irrespective of any in-race battle they may be involved in.

However, Grosjean continued to push Sirotkin as they battled for position, and did not immediately yield to Hamilton, which allowed Verstappen to close in.

Hamilton and Verstappen both eventually got by, though Hamilton was particularly alarmed by the incident.

“These guys were moving around … and they wouldn’t let me by,” he said in the aforementioned Formula1.com story. “It was definitely close and my heart was in my mouth for a minute.”

Grosjean did issue an apology afterward, and offered his side of the story.

“I’m sorry if I blocked anyone, it was not my intention,” Grosjean said. “I believe I did my best. I was fighting with Sergey, who was doing a little bit of go-kart racing out there. I couldn’t really slow down. Pierre [Gasly] was on my gearbox and Sergey was on my front wing. I passed him, then as soon as I passed him, I let Lewis by.”

Any driver who accumulates 12 penalty points in a span of 12 months is automatically handed a one-race ban. For Grosjean, his current tally began on October 29, 2017, meaning if he receives three more between now and October 29, 2018, he will be forced to sit out one race.

F1 Signs Sponsorship For In-Play Betting

Per BBC Sport, Liberty Media, which owns Formula 1, has signed a sponsorship rights agreement with Interregional Sports Group to develop and manage in-race betting platforms for grands prix.

The sponsorship, worth a reported $100 million U.S. dollars, would help generate “new ways to engage with the sport,” said managing director Sean Bratches in the BBC Sport story.

Liberty and F1 officials would also work with Sportradar, which collects and analyzes sports data, to track betting and ensure no fraudulent activities take place.

Arrivabene Takes Responsibility for Ferrari Missteps

Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has said he accepts full responsibility for the miscues Ferrari has made during the 2018 Formula 1 season.

“The only mistake you see in front of you is me. I’m responsible for the team,” Arrivabene said in a piece posted on Crash.net.

He added, “When the result is not coming, it’s my responsibility. Not the responsibility of Sebastian (Vettel) or the engineer or the responsibility of the mechanics. It’s my responsibility.”

The statement, made on the Friday press conference prior to the Singapore Grand Prix, is especially poignant in the wake of a somewhat clumsy Italian Grand Prix. The team faced criticism after Kimi Raikkonen scored the pole, ahead of the championship-contending Vettel.

Vettel, too, has not been infallible. Most notably, he had contact with Valtteri Bottas on the opening lap of the French Grand Prix, spinning Bottas and damaging Vettel’s front wing – Vettel eventually finished fifth – and he crashed while leading the German Grand Prix. These incidents are among multiple black marks that have blighted Vettel’s championship challenge.

However, despite the errors, Vettel remains unshaken ahead of the final six races of 2018.

“We don’t have to fear any track that is coming, our car is working well in every track, so there’s nothing to fear until the end of the season. Russia should suit our car, it’s getting better for us every year,” Vettel said in a separate Crash.net piece.

He added, “There are still a lot of races to go and points to score. I never believed we have the faster car by a large margin like people said, but I know we have a very good car.”

Currently, Vettel trails Hamilton by 40 points in the driver’s championship, while Ferrari trails Mercedes by 37 points in the constructor’s championship.

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