Photos: NHRA

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

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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.

ORIGINAL STORY:

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.

Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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