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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Three-time F1 champion Niki Lauda dies at 70

AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File
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BERLIN (AP) Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.

The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away peacefully” on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”

Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.

In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.

Lauda remained closely involved with the Formula One circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.

Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna industrial family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father’s footsteps into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.

Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.

Lauda joined Ferrari in 1974, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain and his first drivers’ title with five victories the following season.

Facing tough competition from McLaren’s James Hunt, he appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.

“The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds,” he recalled nearly a decade later. “It was something like 800 degrees.”

Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that “for three or four days it was touch and go.”

“Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left,” he added. “I was really lucky in a way that I didn’t do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that.”

Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.

He recalled “shaking with fear” as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, “I can’t drive.”

The next day, Lauda said he “started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I’m capable of driving these cars again.” The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races “I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal.”

He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he “didn’t want to drive around in circles anymore.”

Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $3 million a year.

He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge out teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.

Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.

Lauda occasionally took the controls of the airline’s jets himself over the years. In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, he resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.

Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany’s Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018 after it fell victim to its parent’s financial woes.

He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki’s successor, LaudaMotion.

On the Formula One circuit, Lauda later formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.

Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16

Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.

In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a “serious lung illness.” It didn’t give details.

Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.