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NHRA Texas: Johnson Jr., Millican, Coughlin Jr. and Smith early No. 1 qualifiers

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NHRA media release

ENNIS, Texas – Tommy Johnson Jr. raced to the provisional qualifying lead in Funny Car on Friday night at the 33rd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.

Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also provisional No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the third of six playoff events during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

Johnson Jr. is aiming for his first No. 1 qualifier of the 2018 season after his second qualifying run of 3.958-seconds at 323.66 mph in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T.

“We ran well first round and went down the race track” John Jr. stated. “John (Collins, crew chief) got after it pretty good. It’s always fun to watch him when cars start to run better out there, and he comes back to lift the box and twist some knobs. So, I knew the car was going to run pretty good.”

Tim Wilkerson is second after the second round of qualifying, going 3.958 at 315.64 in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang, while J.R. Todd’s run of 3.962 at 320.05 has him in third.

Points leader Robert Hight went 4.013 at 318.99 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro.

Top Fuel’s Millican will look to secure his 9th No. 1 qualifier of 2018 following his 3.726 at 328.54 in his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster. It would also mark the 19th career No. 1 qualifier for Millican, who is currently second in the points standings.

“To be honest, we typically have a good idea of what the car is going to run,” Millican said. “That has all gone out the window since the Countdown started. I really didn’t think we were going to go .72 tonight. What David Grubnick (crew chief) is doing right now is totally impressive and the kids putting this together are unbelievable.”

Points leader Steve Torrence moved to the No. 2 spot during the second round of qualifying with his pass of 5.793 at 255.82 in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster.

In Pro Stock, Coughlin Jr. took the lead during the second qualifying session with his pass of 6.599 at 207.53 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro. It would mark his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season and 27th of career, who is currently seeded No. 4 in the points.

“Our goal coming into the Countdown was definitely to be much more aggressive,” Coughlin Jr. said. “I was trying to see if we could earn a couple of small points along the way. The team has done a fantastic job of that and darn near leading the pack with qualifying points.”

Greg Anderson is second with his pass of 6.600 at 208.42 in his Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro and teammate Jason Line rounds out the top three with his run of 6.601 at 207.75.

Matt Smith, current points leaders, finished atop the qualifying order in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a 6.876 at 197.65 on his Elite Motorsports DENSO Auto Parts EBR. He is chasing his fifth No. 1 qualifier of the season and second of his career at Texas Motorplex.

“The conditions are pretty hot today,” Smith stated. “The track seemed good for how hot it was. We were low first round by a hundredth and we will go to that set up tomorrow. We’ve been to two finals in a row and hopefully we can just keep that momentum going.”

Hector Arana Jr. is second after going 6.882 at 195.45 on his Lucas Oil Racing TV EBR and defending world champion Eddie Krawiec follows in third with a run of 6.892 at 192.25.

Qualifying continues at the 33rd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at 2:15 PM (ET) on Saturday. 

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ENNIS, Texas — Friday’s results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 33rd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex, 21st of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations.

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.726 seconds, 328.54 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.781, 328.14; 3. Brittany Force, 3.781, 326.71; 4. Blake Alexander, 3.797, 325.69; 5. Terry McMillen, 3.800, 321.12; 6. Leah Pritchett, 3.808, 324.51; 7. Antron Brown, 3.817, 321.27; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.854, 321.65; 9. Doug Kalitta, 3.862, 316.38; 10. Tony Schumacher, 3.873, 311.99; 11. Shawn Reed, 3.882, 283.01; 12. Kebin Kinsley, 3.883, 317.19; 13. Billy Torrence, 3.921, 283.13; 14. Richie Crampton, 3.942, 303.71; 15. Bill Litton, 4.076, 235.47; 16. Terry Brian, 4.121, 237.75. Not Qualified: 17. Cory McClenathan, 4.186, 268.22; 18. Mike Salinas, 4.220, 205.66; 19. Terry Totten, 4.683, 170.30.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.958, 323.66; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.958, 315.64; 3. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.962, 320.05; 4. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.981, 319.82; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.986, 312.57; 6. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.012, 317.05; 7. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.013, 318.99; 8. John Force, Camaro, 4.045, 319.67; 9. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.047, 317.05; 10. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.051, 310.63; 11. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.080, 266.58; 12. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.140, 257.38; 13. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.557, 181.57; 14. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.867, 160.73; 15. Todd Simpson, Charger, 6.011, 121.84; 16. John Hale, Chevy Impala, 8.161, 75.13.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.599, 207.53; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.600, 208.42; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.601, 207.75; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.609, 208.10; 5. Alex Laughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.613, 206.48; 6. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.615, 208.55; 7. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.615, 208.04; 8. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.615, 207.75; 9. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.621, 208.36; 10. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.623, 208.49; 11. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.626, 208.52; 12. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.627, 206.86; 13. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.647, 207.66; 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.661, 207.59; 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.666, 205.41; 16. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.753, 205.98. Not Qualified: 17. Shane Tucker, 6.824, 202.61; 18. Robert River, 6.927, 198.79.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.876, 197.65; 2. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.882, 195.45; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.892, 195.25; 4. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.906, 194.86; 5. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.915, 194.83; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.922, 194.41; 7. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.930, 195.22; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.938, 193.02; 9. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.938, 189.84; 10. Joey Gladstone, Buell, 6.943, 193.65; 11. Hector Arana, EBR, 6.946, 195.45; 12. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.950, 194.97; 13. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.950, 193.93; 14. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.982, 191.95; 15. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.066, 188.07; 16. Anthony Vanetti, Buell, 7.855, 182.85.

IMSA Prototype Season in Review

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IMSA Wire Service

It was a year of change for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda. The longtime sprint series evolved in 2018 to six one-hour, 45-minute endurance races that allowed teams to run single or two-driver combinations with a required minimum-time pit stop. The result: record-high car counts in the LMP3 class with Kris Wright ultimately winning the series championship for Extreme Speed Motorsports, while Cameron Cassels took home the LMP3 Masters title. In the MPC class, meanwhile, series veteran Jon Brownson won his first championship in the final season for the class with a breakthrough win one week ago in the season finale at Road Atlanta.

This season-in-review takes a look back at the path each of the three champions took on their way to history.

1. Daytona International Speedway, January 6

Winners
LMP3: Roman De Angelis, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Gary Gibson, No. 44 Ave Motorsports Ave-Riley AR2
MPC: Robert Masson, No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Not only was the season-opener during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 weekend the first endurance race for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda, it also was the first race for the series at the iconic Daytona International Speedway. Wright, driving the No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3 scored his first podium of the season alongside co-driver Daniel Morad with a third-place finish behind Porsche GT3 Challenge driver and winner Roman De Angelis and co-drivers Austin McCusker and David Droux, finishing second for the upstart Forty7 Motorsports team. Masson scored the MPC win, lapping all but one car, while Brownson came home fifth.

2. Sebring International Raceway, March 16

Winners
LMP3: Leo Lamelas / Pato O’Ward, No. 7 Charles Wicht Racing Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: James McGuire Jr., No. 26 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Dave House, No. 86 ONE Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The round at Sebring featured a late-race restart that saw eventual 2018 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge champion O’Ward drive from fourth to first in the closing laps to secure the win for full-time driver Lamelas. Wright, meanwhile, finished third for the second consecutive time to start the season with a new co-driver, Michael Whelden. The No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry again finished second with McCusker now joined by TJ Fischer, who would go on to run the full season with the team. Coming out of Sebring, McCusker would lead Wright by four points, 64-60. Between Sebring and the next round at Barber Motorsports Park, Wright would decide to contest the full season for Extreme Speed Motorsports.

It was a special victory in the MPC class with House becoming IMSA’s oldest race winner at the age of 75. Foreshadowing a points race that what would ultimately come down to the season finale at Road Atlanta, the top five in the MPC standings are separated by two points leaving Sebring, with Brownson seventh, 12 points out, after a ninth-place finish.

3. Barber Motorsports Park, April 21

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Yann Clairay, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Rob Hodes, No. 51 K2R Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Michal Chlumecky, No. 31 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The only standalone event for the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda would prove to be the turning point in the LMP3 class. Leading all but one practice session on the weekend and starting the race from the pole, Wright and co-driver Clairay dominated the event, only losing the lead briefly on a cycle of green flag pit stops. Wright’s biggest competition for the championship, meanwhile, the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports team, seemed poised to score its third consecutive runner-up finish of the season to hold onto the LMP3 points lead, but contact between Fischer and an MPC car with five minutes remaining relegated the team to a 16th-place finish. Entering the weekend down four points in the standings, Wright left Barber up six points, 95-89, over Lamelas.

Chlumecky scored his first MPC class win since 2012, while teammate Brownson, the Sebring pole winner, capped off a Eurosport Racing 1-2 finish placing second in the team’s No. 34 entry. Masson rounded out the podium with a third-place finish in the No. 11 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02 to regain the class lead. Brownson left Barber eight points behind Masson, fifth in the standings.

4. Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 8

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The long overdue first victory for Forty7 Motorsports finally came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for McCusker and Fischer, but a second-place finish for Wright meant McCusker could only gain three points on the series leader, with Wright keeping the deficit at 13 points. Dean Baker would score the LMP3 Masters win, the fourth winner in four races following Gibson at Daytona, McGuire Jr. at Sebring and Hodes at Barber. Cassels finished on the LMP3 Masters podium for the first time in 2018 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, finishing the race seventh overall and third in LMP3 Masters.

Leading the MPC standings coming into Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Robert Masson enlisted son and defending series champion Kyle Masson as a co-driver for the remainder of the season. The plan appeared to work with the duo crossing the line first, but upon post-race analysis of drive-time requirements, it was concluded that Kyle Masson did not record the minimum 40 minutes of drive time and the car was moved to the back of the MPC results. That penalty elevated Jacobs and French to the race win in Performance Tech’s No. 77 entry and moved Brownson, who finished second for the consecutive race, to the class championship lead. Coming out of Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the top six in points were separated by just two points with two races remaining.

5. VIRginia International Raceway, August 18

Winners
LMP3: Kris Wright / Stephen Simpson, No. 30 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P3
LMP3 Masters: Dean Baker, No. 4 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Howard Jacobs / James French, No. 77 Performance Tech Motorsports Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
Wright enlisted IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship regular Stephen Simpson as co-driver at VIR and delivered a knockout punch in the LMP3 title fight, scoring the win and opening a 23-point lead over McCusker, who finished sixth. Baker would win his second consecutive race in LMP3 Masters with a second-place finish overall alongside Zacharie Robichon. Hodes would lead the LMP3 Masters points by two points over Jim Garrett, eight points over Cassels and nine points over Joel Janco.

Robert Masson seemed poised to take the points lead and win alongside Kyle Masson as the duo drove brilliantly in the rain, building a nearly one-lap lead. A mechanical issue with 17 minutes remaining, however, set up a late-race sprint to the finish with French winning on the last lap for Jacobs.

With only one race remaining, House moved into the class lead by three points, 143-140, over Jacobs. The top seven teams were mathematically eligible for the championship and separated by a mere eight points.

6. Road Atlanta, October 12

Winners
LMP3: Austin McCusker / TJ Fischer, No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma M30
LMP3 Masters: Cameron Cassels, No. 75 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P3
MPC: Jon Brownson, No. 34 Eurosport Racing Elan DP02

How the Champions Fared
The second win of the season for the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports entry and co-driver McCusker and Fischer was not enough to take the championship away from Wright, who finished second at Road Atlanta to sweep podiums in all six races on the series schedule.

Cassels scored his first LMP3 Masters win of the season, and despite entering the weekend eight points behind in the standings, would also win the LMP3 Masters championship after each of the title contenders ran into various issues on-track.

Brownson called it an “honor” to win the final race for the MPC class. Brownson, who started in the first race for the series in 2006, scored his first win of the season in the No. 34 Eurosport Racing entry to win the final championship for the class.