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NHRA Brainerd: Antron Brown, Robert Hight, Erica Enders, Matt Smith early No. 1 qualifiers

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NHRA Media Release

BRAINERD, Minn. – Antron Brown is the preliminary No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway and is shaping into a contender for his fourth Top Fuel world championship.

Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also preliminary No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the 17th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Brown won the most recent event in Seattle for his first win of the season and his surging Matco Tools dragster took the No. 1 position during the second qualifying session with his run of 3.789-seconds at 325.45 mph.

Brown has yet to record a No. 1 qualifying position this season but has 49 in his career. Brown also secured his position in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship following the first qualifying session.

“We have been working hard for this,” said Brown. “It is no secret, we have been through our bumps and bruises but the thing about it is that is why you go through the struggles so you have days like this and what we had in Seattle.”

Clay Millican was the leader after the first qualifying session and ends up second with a run of 3.790 at 323.04 and points leader Steve Torrence is 12th with his run of 4.445 at 180.91.

Hight is the current leader in the Funny Car category with his run of 3.971 at 326.95 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS. Hight has one No. 1 qualifying position this season, two wins, three runner-up finishes and is currently third in the points standings.

“Good day, six bonus points, and see if we can get more tomorrow,” said Hight. “The goal tomorrow is to be ahead of everybody but keep going down the track. If we get six more points tomorrow that is big.”

Matt Hagan is qualified second with his run of 3.990 at 324.51 and points leader Courtney Force is 15th following her run of 4.097 at 313.15. Jack Beckman, the 2012 Funny Car world champion, earned his berth into the Countdown to the Championship after the opening qualifying session.

Enders, who is currently third in Pro Stock points, aims for her first No. 1 qualifying position of the season after driving to a 6.609 at 207.53 in her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro during the second session of the day. Enders has yet to record a No. 1 qualifying position this season but has one win this season and five runner-up finishes.

“We are really excited to be No. 1 even if it is for just Friday night, we will try to hold onto it Saturday,” Enders said. “Our car is running awesome, I’m definitely driving better so that is encouraging. It was great to go to the No. 1 spot, I have a good hot rod and I’m excited.”

Chris McGaha is second with a pass of 6.613 at 208.33 and points leader Greg Anderson is eighth following his run of 6.626 at 208.52.

Smith, who has one win on the season and one No. 1 qualifying position this year, is the current Pro Stock Motorcycle leader with his run of 6.852 at a track record-setting 198.47 on his Elite Motorsports/Denso EBR. His last No. 1 qualifying position came in Norwalk, Ohio, and he has one No. 1 qualifying position at the facility.

“We debuted a new body and we were low both sessions,” said Smith. “All and all can’t say enough about Richard Freeman from Elite Performance, Mark Stockseth, Lucas Oil, Denso, and everybody that helps me. I couldn’t do this without them.”

Hector Arana Jr. is second at 6.877 at 197.08, Eddie Krawiec is third with his run of 6.886 at 195.45 and points leader Andrew Hines is fourth following his pass of 6.899 at 195.05.

Qualifying continues at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday at Brainerd International Raceway.

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BRAINERD, Minn. — Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

Top Fuel — 1. Antron Brown, 3.789 seconds, 325.45 mph; 2. Clay Millican, 3.790, 323.04; 3. Mike Salinas, 3.797, 322.19; 4. Billy Torrence, 3.823, 326.48; 5. Scott Palmer, 3.834, 318.17; 6. Leah Pritchett, 3.841, 324.83; 7. Terry McMillen, 3.846, 319.60; 8. Tony Schumacher, 3.946, 308.92; 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.947, 257.43; 10. Chris Karamesines, 4.003, 305.01; 11. Brittany Force, 4.187, 210.44; 12. Steve Torrence, 4.445, 180.91; 13. Richie Crampton, 5.024, 141.59; 14. Luigi Novelli, 5.234, 140.63; 15. Terry Totten, 12.286, 72.31.

Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.971, 326.95; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.990, 324.51; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.996, 316.67; 4. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.014, 313.15; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.017, 317.42; 6. Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 4.024, 318.39; 7. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.026, 318.09; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.039, 311.99; 9. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.067, 314.75; 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.070, 316.67; 11. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.081, 314.53; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.081, 305.84; 13. John Force, Camaro, 4.082, 321.42; 14. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.097, 313.15; 15. Bob Bode, Charger, 4.113, 307.72; 16. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.495, 214.93. Not Qualified: 17. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.529, 175.87; 18. Gary Densham, 5.222, 157.91.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.609, 207.53; 2. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.613, 208.33; 3. Alex Laughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.613, 207.59; 4. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.614, 208.78; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.622, 207.88; 6. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.623, 208.23; 7. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.624, 208.71; 8. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.626, 208.52; 9. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.632, 208.01; 10. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.640, 207.72; 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.648, 207.08; 12. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.659, 207.53; 13. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.683, 207.08; 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.771, 203.80; 15. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.854, 200.59; 16. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 7.002, 197.33.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.852, 198.47; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.877, 197.22; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.886, 195.45; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.899, 195.76; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.909, 193.07; 6. Mark Paquette, Buell, 6.917, 193.32; 7. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.924, 193.27; 8. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.960, 192.58; 9. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.965, 193.90; 10. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.969, 193.16; 11. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.979, 191.00; 12. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.985, 192.03; 13. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.985, 191.76; 14. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.997, 191.21; 15. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.002, 191.19; 16. Angie Smith, Buell, 7.033, 189.87. Not Qualified: 17. Kelly Clontz, 7.072, 190.35; 18. Cory Reed, 7.146, 185.36.

Penske won’t discuss if Castroneves returns to Indy in 2020

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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INDIANAPOLIS – NBC Sports.com asked Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Roger Penske if three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves would return to the team in 2020?

Penske immediately brushed off the question.

“We’re not going to talk about that right now,” Penske told NBC Sports.com. “I’m just not going to talk about it. We’re going to have a meeting about it before we decide, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.

“Simon won the race and that is what I’m focused on right now.”

Simon Pagenaud, gave Penske a record-extending 18thIndy 500 win on Sunday. Penske confirmed that Pagenaud will be back with the team in 2020 after he scored his first win in Sunday’s 103rdIndianapolis 500.

Castroneves was an NTT IndyCar Series regular at Team Penske from 2000 until the 2017 season. After that, Castroneves was shifted over to the team’s Acura IMSA Sports Car program, but the three-time Indy 500 winner was given a ride at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the past two years.

The popular driver from Brazil is trying to join AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners.

But the whispers in Gasoline Alley indicate his future with Team Penske at Indy remain uncertain.

“I’ve heard the rumors, too,” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com on pit lane after his disappointing finish in the Indy 500. “I will definitely give it a good, hard think about coming back in 2020. I want to be the rest of the season, here.”

But, will Castroneves run the Indy 500 again?

“Who knows?” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com. “Let’s see what happens.”

Castroneves’s bid for a fourth Indianapolis 500 was derailed in a pit road incident after his first pit stop when he ran into James Davison’s Chevrolet on the team’s first pit stop on Lap 30.

The front wing of Castroneves’s Chevrolet was damaged and INDYCAR officials gave him a “Drive Through” penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” Castroneves would ultimate drop three laps down but finished one lap down in 18thplace.

Castroneves explained what happened to him earlier in the race and how it affected the rest of his Indy 500.

“The accident that happened in the pits hurt us for sure,” Castroneves explained. “We had a problem with the fuel mapping, and I couldn’t go over 200 miles an hour for four or five laps. We lost 35 seconds. There was a bug in the system.

“Then, we went back out and that was it. I wasn’t able to recoup after that. I was excited. The car was very, very good entering the race.”

Castroneves spoke with second-place finisher Alexander Rossi, who was furious with the driver from Brazil earlier in the race for not moving out of the way, even though he was three laps down at the time.

The two drivers hugged, and Castroneves walked back up pit lane.

“I did what the team told me to do, and they told me to go as fast as I could,” Castroneves explained after talking to Rossi. “It’s racing and everybody is upset they didn’t win.”

Castroneves hopes his walk up pit lane is not the final time as an Indy 500 competitor.

But it could be.

“I hope I can come back next year,” Castroneves said. “I’m really upset as a competitor, but extremely happy for Team Penske and for Simon Pagenaud for winning the race.

“The good news is I go back to the Acura sports car, but I will be dreaming about coming back here again.”