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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.

Indianapolis 500 weather forecast: Rain chances decreasing for start

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the green flag keeps approaching for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the chances of clear skies Sunday keep increasing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The chance of rain at the start of the race was down to about 30%, according to the wunderground.com site as of late Saturday night, and the forecast seemed good until late afternoon when the odds of precipitation rose to about 80%.

If the race starts on time at12:45 p.m. ET, that should be a long enough window to run the full 500 miles and certainly an official race (102 of 200 laps).

With Indiana on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone and a 9:02 p.m. sunset on race day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles said the green flag probably could be held as late as 6 p.m. if a worst-case scenario of bad weather hits.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch

“We ran the NASCAR race (in 2017) almost right up to sunset,” Boles said. “The challenge of getting closer to sunset is just getting people out when it’s still light. The race itself is more than 2 hours and 40 minutes so you have to back-time yourself.

“We’ll sit down with IndyCar over the next 24 hours and at least have that in the back of our mind. If there’s a window to get it done, our intent would be get it in Sunday, so we would want to go as late as we could.”

Boles said National Weather Service representatives are on site this weekend to help with forecasting. Regardless of if there still is a threat of rain, the track will start the race on time as long as the surface is dry.

“I can’t imagine we’d postpone the start because we think it might rain,” Boles said. “If it’s not raining, we’re running the race.

Boles said track officials are monitoring Sunday’s weather daily but won’t discuss any potential contingency plans until Saturday night. Regardless of whether it’s raining Sunday morning, some pre-race ceremonies likely will remain in place.

“It’s hard to speculate on what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s likely Sunday morning will be the first time that we have any definitive statement on what we think is going to happen. Instead of giving you information that we don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’d rather wait until that Sunday when we see the conditions, and we’ll let you know.

“Obviously, if it’s raining, then we’ll have to decide what the next steps are.”

Boles said Indiana weather traditionally is unpredictable, noting that qualifying was completed last Sunday despite predictions of a complete washout.

“Last year the prediction was it was going to rain on race day, we got up next morning, and it was perfect,” Boles said. “It just changes so rapidly around here.”

Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on time,. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.

During the previous 102 runnings of the Indy 500, there have been 12 impacted by rain: three complete postponements; two partial postponements and seven shortened races.

So what happens if it does rain? Some options:

Rain-shortened race

The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain.

The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over with Dario Franchitti in the lead when rain again hit at the 415-mile mark.

Partial postponement

If fewer than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans on holiday Monday because of Memorial Day, a partial postponement still might allow for a healthy audience at the track and watching on NBC.

The race has been partially postponed only twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.

Complete postponement

Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day with the start time dependent on the forecast.

The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday before rain again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and ’86 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.