NHRA: 86-year-old Chris Karamesines hits 305.01 mph in Brainerd qualifying

Photos: NHRA
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UPDATE: Unfortunately, Karamesines’ Cinderella story to potentially reach Sunday’s final round fell short, losing to Clay McMillen in the opening round of eliminations.


This weekend’s qualifying for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minnesota) International Raceway was one where some of the sport’s most veteran drivers really flexed their muscle — at over 10,000 horsepower.

The biggest and most pleasant surprise came Friday when veteran Top Fuel drag racer Chris Karamesines qualified No. 13 with a run of 4.003 seconds at 305.01 mph.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal until you realize Karamesines — colorfully nicknamed “the Golden Greek” because of his nationality — is 86 years old.

Chris Karamesines

At least that’s what the Karameines, who was inducted in 2006 into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of Amerca, and NHRA records say he is: reportedly born Nov. 11, 1931.

Others that know him say the Chicago native is actually 88 or even 89.

Karamesines, who is rumored to be retiring at the end of this season after nearly seven decades of racing, will face No. 4 qualifier Clay Millican (3.790 seconds at 323.04 mph) in Sunday’s first round of eliminations.

It’s the second time in five years that Karamesines — named to the 50 Greatest Drivers in NHRA history in 2001 — has exceeded 305 mph at Brainerd, having done so in 2014 (305.98 mph at 3.945 seconds).

His career-best speed, according to NHRA records, is 313.51 mph at the 2015 Gatornationals.

He also had a run of 3.979 seconds at 301.00 mph at St. Louis in 2016, and reached 300.06 mph this past June during eliminations at Norwalk, Ohio.

And then there’s Billy Torrence, the father of current Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence. Having just turned 60 in April, Billy Torrence, earned the first No. 1 qualifying spot of his nearly three-decade drag racing career.

Billy Torrence

Billy Torrence ran 3.784 seconds at 326.32 mph to bump his son from the No. 1 qualifying spot in the final round of Saturday’s qualifying. Billy Torrence will face Terry Totten in Sunday’s first round of eliminations.

Steve Torrence, who is the current points leader, qualified second following his run of 3.786 at 325.37 and will race Bill Litton on Sunday.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III