NHRA Seattle winners, from left: Tanner Gray, Ron Capps, Antron Brown. Photo and videos courtesy NHRA

NHRA Seattle: Antron Brown, Ron Capps earn milestone wins; Gray also triumphs

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Three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown broke a one-year winless streak Sunday, capturing the CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceway in Kent, Washington (suburban Seattle).

It’s Brown’s first win since capturing last year’s Northwest Nationals. In fact, he’s now won the last three Northwest Nationals.

In addition, Brown becomes the fourth driver in NHRA history to record 50 career Top Fuel wins.

Other winners in the 16th race of the 24-race Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series were Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Tanner Gray (Pro Stock).

Two more races (August 16-19 at Brainerd, Minnesota) and Aug. 29-Sept. 3 (Indianapolis) remain for drivers to qualify for the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

In Top Fuel: Brown roared to victory (3.835 seconds at 322.84 mph) over Don Schumacher Racing teammate Leah Pritchett (3.849 seconds at 320.13 mph).

“It is no secret that we struggled at the beginning of the year,” Brown said in a post-race media release. “Our main focus was one run at a time and to get better each time.

“But today all of the win lights turned on for our team and I couldn’t be so proud of all my guys for how persistent that they have been. It had been so long that I hadn’t even thought about winning 50 (races) but now that we got that win it is just a true blessing.”

Brown defeated Shawn Reed, DSR teammate Tony Schumacher and Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence (in his 120th career final round) before besting Pritchett in the final round.

Pritchett, meanwhile, defeated Troy Buff, Clay Millican and Mike Salinas before falling to Brown in the final round.

In Funny Car: Capps (4.033 seconds at 314.90 mph) defeated points leader Courtney Force (4.115 seconds at 255.63 mph).

By beating Force, Capps prevented a sweep of the annual three-race “Western Swing” by John Force Racing in Funny Car. Team patriarch John Force won at Denver two weeks ago, teammate and president of John Force Racing Robert Hight won last week at Sonoma, California, but Courtney Force would not be able to make it a JFR sweep.

The win was Capps’ second of the season and fourth career triumph at Pacific Raceways. It also was the 60th triumph of his drag racing career.

“There’s a lot of good solid competition out there,” Capps said. “The main thing going through my head was to not let John Force sweep the swing in Funny Car so we put a stop to that.

“This was Rahn Tobler (crew chief) and I’s 24th event victory together since 2012, which is just crazy and I think we’re going to have a lot of success the rest of the season.”

Capps defeated Jonnie Lindberg, DSR teammate Matt Hagan and Tim Wilkerson before beating Courtney Force. Conversely, John Force’s youngest daughter defeated Jim Campbell, Shawn Langdon and Tommy Johnson Jr. on the way to her category-best sixth final round of the season.

In Pro Stock: Gray (6.632 seconds at 210.05 mph) defeat Deric Kramer, who fouled, being automatically disqualified due to tripping the red light on the starting line.

Gray becomes the first driver in Pro Stock this season to earn four wins.

“It is definitely my team that has gotten me to where I am today,” Gray stated. “It was tough day up on the start line and reaction times were a little bit slower here.

“My team worked with me through the mistakes that I’ve made but all in all it was a great day and I couldn’t be happier.”

Along the way to capturing the national event win, Gray defeated Fernando Cuadra, Jason Line, Vincent Nobile and Kramer.

Also of note, Erica Enders, Nobile and No. 1 qualifier Jeg. Coughlin Jr. each joined Greg Anderson by locking in their spot in the 2018 Countdown.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Antron Brown; 2. Leah Pritchett; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Mike Salinas; 5. Richie Crampton; 6. Clay Millican; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Tony Schumacher; 9. Troy Buff; 10. Scott Palmer; 11. Shawn Reed; 12. Bill Litton; 13. Brittany Force; 14. Jim Maroney; 15. Terry McMillen; 16. Ron Smith.

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

PRO STOCK: 1. Tanner Gray; 2. Deric Kramer; 3. Vincent Nobile; 4. Bo Butner; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Jason Line; 7. Jeg Coughlin; 8. Greg Anderson; 9. Matt Hartford; 10. Drew Skillman; 11. Fernando Cuadra; 12. Chris McGaha; 13. Alex Laughlin; 14. Steve Graham; 15. Alan Prusiensky; 16. Joey Grose.

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Antron Brown, 3.835 seconds, 322.88 mph def. Leah Pritchett, 3.849 seconds, 320.13 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.033, 314.90 def. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.115, 255.63.

PRO STOCK: Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.632, 210.05 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Mike Salinas, 3.745, 324.59 def. Scott Palmer, 3.840, 323.89; Tony Schumacher, 4.137, 258.47 def. Terry McMillen, 6.626, 91.90; Clay Millican, 3.777, 329.34 def. Jim Maroney, 5.406,124.10; Doug Kalitta, 3.790, 328.78 def. Bill Litton, 3.994, 285.29; Steve Torrence, 3.801, 326.16 def. Ron Smith, Broke; Antron Brown, 3.796, 327.03 def. Shawn Reed, 3.887, 322.58; Leah Pritchett, 3.809, 325.53 def. Troy Buff, 3.798, 315.71; Richie Crampton, 4.308, 274.94 def. Brittany Force, 4.429, 238.72; QUARTERFINALS — Torrence, 3.813, 325.30 def. Crampton, 3.863, 318.69; Salinas, 3.792, 326.08 def. Kalitta, 4.565, 170.60; Pritchett, 3.823, 319.60 def. Millican, 3.957, 266.79; Brown, 4.137, 301.74 def. Schumacher, 4.718, 213.00; SEMIFINALS — Brown, 3.811, 323.97 def. Torrence, 3.800, 325.85; Pritchett, 3.838, 304.74 def. Salinas, 4.045, 237.63; FINAL — Brown, 3.835, 322.88 def. Pritchett, 3.849, 320.13.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.037, 319.75 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.057, 314.46; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.045, 316.52 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.854, 166.11; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.950, 320.36 def. Gary Densham, Mustang, 5.189, 147.13; Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.060, 317.79 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, Foul – Red Light; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.001, 313.15 def. Richard Townsend, Camry, 6.373, 106.37; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.017, 318.69 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.026, 315.56; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.177, 301.74 def. John Force, Camaro, 5.598, 138.27; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.989, 321.04 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.049, 317.79; QUARTERFINALS — Wilkerson, 4.037, 316.52 def. Todd, 4.049, 316.23; Johnson Jr., 4.074, 318.09 def. Hight, 4.551, 215.37; Capps, 3.998, 320.43 def. Hagan, 4.032, 311.27; C. Force, 4.023, 322.11 def. Langdon, 4.036, 318.02; SEMIFINALS — C. Force, 4.011, 320.20 def. Johnson Jr., 4.062, 316.08; Capps, 4.002, 315.49 def. Wilkerson, Broke; FINAL — Capps, 4.033, 314.90 def. C. Force, 4.115, 255.63.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Vincent Nobile, Chevy Camaro, 6.594, 210.08 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.601, 210.14 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.593, 209.17; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.552, 210.87 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.577, 210.11; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.548, 210.31 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.575, 211.00; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.546, 210.73 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.584, 209.56; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 211.30 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.665, 207.46; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.543, 210.11 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.637, 208.84; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.549, 211.23 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.723, 206.35; QUARTERFINALS — Nobile, 6.579, 209.33 def. Coughlin, 6.589, 210.64; Kramer, 6.544, 209.92 def. Enders, 6.566, 210.47; Gray, 6.570, 210.60 def. Line, 6.573, 210.37; Butner, 6.573, 211.13 def. Anderson, 8.996, 108.14; SEMIFINALS — Gray, 6.574, 210.77 def. Nobile, 6.606, 209.75; Kramer, 6.565, 209.88 def. Butner, Foul – Red Light; FINAL — Gray, 6.632, 210.05 def. Kramer, Foul – Red Light.

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UPDATED POINTS STANDINGS (* = Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship):

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,251*; 2. Tony Schumacher, 1,090*; 3. Clay Millican, 1,084*; 4. Leah Pritchett, 1,083*; 5. Doug Kalitta, 995*; 6. Antron Brown, 927; 7. Terry McMillen, 759; 8. Brittany Force, 731; 9. Richie Crampton, 660; 10. Scott Palmer, 649; 11. Mike Salinas, 619; 12. Blake Alexander, 522.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, 1,300*; 2. Ron Capps, 1,146*; 3. Robert Hight, 1,085*; 4. Matt Hagan, 1,064*; 5. Jack Beckman, 999; 6. J.R. Todd, 914; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 892; 8. John Force, 824; 9. Shawn Langdon, 736; 10. Bob Tasca III, 691; 11. Tim Wilkerson, 688; 12. Cruz Pedregon, 641; 13. Jonnie Lindberg, 598; 14. Jim Campbell, 451; 15. Del Worsham, 380.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, 1,189*; 2. Tanner Gray, 1,147*; 3. Erica Enders, 1,082*; 4. Vincent Nobile, 1,052*; 5. Jeg Coughlin, 1,020*; 6. Chris McGaha, 939; 7. Deric Kramer, 928; 8. Drew Skillman, 927; 9. Jason Line, 913; 10. Bo Butner, 895; 11. Alex Laughlin, 681.

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IndyCar’s Vasser-Sullivan expand into IMSA for 2019

James Sullivan and Jimmy Vasser. Photo IndyCar
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Not even one year after returning to the IndyCar ranks, Vasser-Sullivan Racing is taking AIM at the IMSA world, you might say.

While team co-owners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan will continue to partner with Dale Coyne Racing on the IndyCar side, they expanded their holdings Tuesday, announcing a partnership with AIM Autosport to campaign a new two-car Lexus-backed RC F GT3 effort in IMSA’s GT Daytona class.

The new team – named AIM Vasser-Sullivan – will replace 3GT Racing, which was part of Lexus’ sports car program launch in 2016. It will announce its two drivers in the coming weeks, the team said.

“Sulli and I are excited and looking forward to entering a new chapter in our racing careers,” Vasser said in a media release. “I have driven sports cars before, but my career was pretty much limited to the 24 Hours of Daytona, including a ‘class’ win in 1992 and second overall in 2008.

“The AIM Vasser Sullivan team, with the support of Lexus and our sponsors, has the tools to get the job done and we are looking forward to this new challenge.”

Lexus has made significant progress in its first two seasons in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, having earned a combined two race wins, five poles and finished third in the 2018 GTD Manufacturer point standings.

Vasser and Sullivan were part of the ownership group of KVSH Racing in IndyCar from 2011 through 2016 before the organization folded.

They also owned Tony Kanaan’s 2013 Indianapolis 500-winning car.

After sitting out the 2017 season, Vasser, a former CART champion, and Sullivan rejoined forces this past February, just before the start of the 2018 IndyCar season, partnering with Coyne to form a satellite team led by driver Sebastien Bourdais, who previously drove for KVSH.

Bourdais kicked off the new team’s effort with a win in the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He finished seventh in the overall season standings.

AIM Vasser Sullivan will have two home bases for its IMSA program: AIM’s current facility in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, as well as a new U.S. shop in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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