NHRA Brainerd top qualifiers for Sunday’s eliminations: Hight, B. Torrence, Enders, Smith

Billy Torrence earned the first No. 1 qualifying position of his nearly three-decade career Saturday. Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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NHRA Media Release

BRAINERD, Minn. – Robert Hight raced to his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and the 59th of his career at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the 17th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Hight was able to better his run from Friday in the third qualifying session by posting a time of 3.959-seconds at 324.67 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car. Hight has one win at this event, and is a two-time and defending Funny Car world champion. He has two wins this season and will face Cruz Pedregon in the first round of eliminations.

“I’m pretty jazzed,” said Hight. “This is the time of the year you better have your act together and it is starting to come together for us. We were number one here last year but didn’t get the win so we need to do one better this year and get the win.”

Qualifying second was Ron Capps with his pass of 3.969 at 319.67 and he will face Jonnie Lindberg. Points leader Courtney Force qualified 10th with her run of 4.025 at 318.02 and will face Jim Campbell.

In Top Fuel, Billy Torrence in his Capco Contractors raced to the first No. 1 qualifying position of his 27-race career coming in the final session with a run of 3.784 at 326.32. He bumped his son Steve from the top spot and will face Terry Totten when racing begins.

“It felt good, it is a big deal for that Capco team to be number one and two, that is Capco strong right there,” said Torrence. “We intend to do that same deal tomorrow and have two Capco cars in the finals.”

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.

In Pro Stock, Enders secured her first No. 1 qualifying position since the Las Vegas 2 event in 2015 with her run of 6.609 at 207.53 in her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Enders has 19 top qualifying positions in her career and will face David River Sunday during eliminations.

“It has been a long road for us since our back-to-back championships,” said Enders. “2016 was a huge struggle and ’17 we got our feet wet again. It is more like a well-oiled machine now and things are going great for our entire program.”

Chris McGaha qualified second with his run of 6.609 at 205.73 and will face Mark Hogan while points leader Greg Anderson is ninth following his qualifying pass of 6.626 at 208.52 and will face Jeg Coughlin who qualified eighth.

Smith recorded his second Pro Stock Motorcycle No. 1 qualifying position of the season during his run of 6.852 at 198.47 during the first qualifying session on Friday and was able to hold onto the top spot. This is his second No. 1 qualifying position at Brainerd on his Elite Motorsports/Denso EBR and he will face Jim Underdahl in the first round of eliminations.

“The bike is working good,” said Smith. “We tried something today first round and it bogged down real bad but we went back and adjusted that and were low E.T. again in Q four. All in all, this new EBR bodywork we have is pretty fast and we have a good package right now.”

Hector Arana Jr. remained second with a 6.877 at 197.08 pass and will face Scotty Pollacheck and points leader Andrew Hines qualified fourth and will race Karen Stoffer in eliminations.

Eliminations begin on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT at Brainerd International Raceway.

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BRAINERD, Minn. — Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations for the 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the 17th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.

Top Fuel — 1. Billy Torrence, 3.784 seconds, 326.48 mph vs. 16. Terry Totten, 12.286, 72.31; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.786, 328.14 vs. 15. Bill Litton, 7.177, 78.39; 3. Antron Brown, 3.789, 325.45 vs. 14. Luigi Novelli, 4.646, 167.95; 4. Clay Millican, 3.790, 323.04 vs. 13. Chris Karamesines, 4.003, 305.01; 5. Mike Salinas, 3.797, 322.19 vs. 12. Doug Kalitta, 3.947, 257.43; 6. Brittany Force, 3.803, 325.53 vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.878, 310.55; 7. Tony Schumacher, 3.818, 326.87 vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.846, 319.60; 8. Leah Pritchett, 3.818, 324.83 vs. 9. Scott Palmer, 3.834, 323.04.

Funny Car — 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.959, 326.95 vs. 16. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.081, 305.84; 2. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.969, 319.67 vs. 15. Jonnie Lindberg, Ford Mustang, 4.081, 314.53; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.990, 324.51 vs. 14. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.029, 317.05; 4. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.991, 318.32 vs. 13. John Force, Camaro, 4.029, 322.04; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.003, 317.42 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.028, 321.04; 6. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.013, 321.04 vs. 11. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.026, 318.09; 7. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.014, 313.15 vs. 10. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.025, 318.02; 8. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.018, 318.17 vs. 9. Bob Bode, Charger, 4.018, 316.01. Did Not Qualify: 17. Gary Densham, 4.107, 315.64; 18. Dale Creasy Jr., 4.141, 267.59.

Pro Stock — 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.609, 207.72 vs. 16. Dave River, Chevy Cobalt, 7.002, 197.33; 2. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.613, 208.36 vs. 15. Mark Hogan, Pontiac GXP, 6.854, 200.59; 3. Alex Laughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.613, 207.59 vs. 14. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.737, 204.45; 4. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.614, 208.78 vs. 13. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.677, 207.08; 5. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.615, 208.71 vs. 12. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.659, 207.53; 6. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.615, 208.10 vs. 11. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.642, 207.72; 7. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.622, 207.91 vs. 10. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.640, 208.04; 8. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.623, 208.23 vs. 9. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.626, 208.52.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — 1. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.852, 198.47 vs. 16. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.997, 191.21; 2. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.877, 197.22 vs. 15. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.985, 192.06; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.886, 195.45 vs. 14. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.983, 192.49; 4. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.899, 195.76 vs. 13. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.979, 191.00; 5. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.909, 193.07 vs. 12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.972, 192.03; 6. Mark Paquette, Buell, 6.917, 193.32 vs. 11. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.965, 193.90; 7. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.924, 193.27 vs. 10. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.960, 192.80; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.924, 192.82 vs. 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.946, 193.74.  Did Not Qualify: 17. Cory Reed, 7.040, 191.35; 18. Kelly Clontz, 7.072, 190.35.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.