NHRA Sonoma: Millican, C. Force, Anderson, Krawiec No. 1 qualifiers; Smith wins Pro Bike Battle

Matt Smith won the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle Saturday. Photo and videos courtesy NHRA.
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Courtesy NHRA Communications Dept.

SONOMA, Calif. – Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories for Sunday’s Toyota NHRA Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, the 15th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

In Top Fuel: Millican scored his seventh No. 1 qualifier of 2018 and first at Sonoma, as his pass of 3.700 at 327.98 in his Great Clips/Parts Plus dragster from Friday held up. It is also the 17th career No. 1 qualifier for Millican, who clinched his spot in the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship on Saturday and is also seeking his first career win at Sonoma Raceway.

“I am not ever going to complain about being the No. 1 qualifier and it certainly shows that the team is capable of being the quickest car here,” Millican said. “It’s stacked on our side (of the ladder), but you have to beat them all to get a yellow hat (for a win) and that’s our gameplan. Our goal is to be No. 1 and we achieved that.”

Leah Pritchett, who won last weekend to kick off the Western Swing, will start from second in her Palomar Builders dragster after her 3.727 at 328.38 on Friday. She will meet Bill Litton in the first round. Pritchett and Tony Schumacher both clinched spots in the Countdown to the Championship.

In Funny Car: points leader Courtney Force secured her 10th No. 1 qualifier of the season thanks to her run of 3.910 at 326.16 mph on Friday in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro. It is the 26th career No. 1 qualifier for Force, who claimed the top spot at Sonoma for a second time and will face Del Worsham in the opening round on raceday.

“It’s been a lot of fun for me to drive,” Force said. “They’ve got that thing dialed in. We had a great number in Q2 yesterday that took us to that top spot. We were looking to improve today or at least have a little bit more consistency, but we struggled a little bit. But we were still able to take that top spot, which feels pretty good, especially to hear it’s our 10th this season. That’s pretty incredible and this is exactly how we would like to go into the second race of the (Western) Swing.”

Jack Beckman’s 3.929 at 324.51 from Friday in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T kept him second, setting up a first-round matchup with defending event winner J.R. Todd.

In Pro Stock: Anderson grabbed his ninth top qualifier in 2018, as the points leader’s 6.515 at 211.16 from Friday in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro remained the category leader. It is the 102nd career No. 1 qualifier for the four-time world champion, tying Anderson, who is seeking a second straight win on the Western Swing, with Bob Glidden for the third-most all-time. Anderson also clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship.

“It’s just a heck of an honor to tie that record,” Anderson said. “We try every day to set records and break records, and win races. It feels great to be tied with (Glidden), and I’m pretty happy with that. The depth in this class is deeper than it has ever been and there’s just zero room for error anymore, but that’s what is great about it. I feel it’s the ultimate challenge in racing.”

Anderson will race Joey Grose in the first round of eliminations, while his longtime teammate, Jason Line, starts second after his run of 6.517 at 211.03 on Friday in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro. He will meet Steve Graham in round one on Sunday.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle: defending PSM world champion Krawiec raced to the No. 1 position for the second straight race with a run of 6.757 at 199.94 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. Krawiec, who has five No. 1 qualifiers at the track, will meet Karen Stoffer to kick off eliminations. He also clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship, as did teammate and points leader Andrew Hines.

“We’ve been chasing that 200 mph run and it was right there,” Krawiec said. “The weekend is still not over and (Sunday) it could definitely happen. I’m excited about it. I’m happy to have a green hat (as No. 1 qualifier), but I really wanted to hold that Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle check at the end of the day here. I had a great motorcycle all day and I’m excited going into raceday.”

Hector Arana Jr. stayed in second on his Lucas Oil Racing TV EBR, improving to a 6.775 at 199.88, setting up a first-round matchup with Angelle Sampey.

Also, Matt Smith raced to his first career NHRA Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle win during Saturday’s action. Smith earned a $25,000 payday in the all-star bonus race featuring eight top riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category.

Making his fourth appearance in the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle, Smith had his best career showing on his Victory Magnum, defeating LE Tonglet and Andrew Hines to meet up with Eddie Krawiec in the finals. Smith was quicker off the starting line, scoring the holeshot victory with a pass of 6.793 at 196.93 mph.

“This is huge for our team,” Smith said. “We’ve got a great bike and we’ve got a bike that can win this championship. I saw my win light come on and, man, I was excited. This is big for me.”

Eliminations at the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

 

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SUNDAY’S FIRST ROUND PAIRINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.700 seconds, 327.98 mph vs. Bye; 2. Leah Pritchett, 3.727, 328.38 vs. 15. Bill Litton, 4.056, 251.58; 3. Antron Brown, 3.744, 327.43 vs. 14. Jim Maroney, 4.005, 261.47; 4. Tony Schumacher, 3.747, 329.99 vs. 13. Shawn Reed, 3.903, 298.14; 5. Brittany Force, 3.752, 328.78 vs. 12. Richie Crampton, 3.828, 321.73; 6. Blake Alexander, 3.775, 326.63 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.823, 322.34; 7. Scott Palmer, 3.778, 323.35 vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.811, 325.92; 8. Steve Torrence, 3.785, 330.55 vs. 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.790, 324.05.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.910, 326.16 vs. 16. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.164, 254.18; 2. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.929, 324.51 vs. 15. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.102, 312.13; 3. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.950, 318.47 vs. 14. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.086, 313.07; 4. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.956, 319.98 vs. 13. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.082, 309.91; 5. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.972, 321.42 vs. 12. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.055, 307.72; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.975, 309.56 vs. 11. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.051, 318.24; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.988, 322.04 vs. 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.032, 306.26; 8. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.023, 318.77 vs. 9. John Force, Camaro, 4.026, 315.34. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jeff Diehl, 4.421, 261.72; 18. Terry Haddock, 5.803, 109.54.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.515, 212.59 vs. 16. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.733, 205.82; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.517, 212.49 vs. 15. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.643, 207.82; 3. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.524, 211.43 vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.639, 209.07; 4. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.526, 211.89 vs. 13. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.603, 209.10; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.530, 212.03 vs. 12. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.572, 209.79; 6. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.531, 211.66 vs. 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.553, 210.60; 7. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.540, 212.33 vs. 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.553, 211.06; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.547, 211.33 vs. 9. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.550, 210.70.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.757, 199.94 vs. 16. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.925, 195.48; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.775, 200.11 vs. 15. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.914, 197.80; 3. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.783, 198.12 vs. 14. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.903, 194.63; 4. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.806, 197.57 vs. 13. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.890, 197.22; 5. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.815, 196.22 vs. 12. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.886, 192.91; 6. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.823, 197.74 vs. 11. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.885, 195.08; 7. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.845, 196.62 vs. 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.863, 195.62; 8. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.857, 195.96 vs. 9. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.861, 197.91.

Did Not Qualify: 17. Katie Sullivan, 6.946, 195.48; 18. Freddie Camarena, 6.954, 195.99; 19. Kelly Clontz, 6.958, 193.05; 20. Scott Bottorff, 7.184, 184.17.
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Saturday’s final results from the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle at the 31st annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway. The race is a special race within a race.

FINAL ROUND: Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle — Matt Smith, Victory, 6.793, 196.93 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.764, 198.17.

Final round-by-round results from the Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle at the 31st annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway. The race is a special race within a race.

ROUND ONE — Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.941, 193.60 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.841, 196.44 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.889, 200.02; Matt Smith, 6.783, 197.33 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.898, 197.74; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.848, 198.73 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.910, 180.36; SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 6.757, 199.94 def. Pollacheck, 6.885, 195.08; M. Smith, 6.803, 198.12 def. Tonglet, 6.806, 197.57; FINAL — M. Smith, 6.793, 196.93 def. Krawiec, 6.764, 198.17.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.