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

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

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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.

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.”