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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.

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.