Photos and videos courtesy NHRA

NHRA Texas: Millican, Johnson Jr., Coughlin Jr., Krawiec all No. 1 heading into Sunday’s eliminations

Leave a comment

NHRA media release

ENNIS, Texas – Clay Millican piloted his Top Fuel dragster to the No. 1 spot to clinch his ninth No. 1 qualifier of the season at the 33rd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also 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.

Millican’s second qualifying run on Friday night of 3.726-seconds at 328.54 mph in his Great Clips/Parts Plus dragster remained the top position. Seeking his third victory of the season and fourth of his career, Millican will race Richie Crampton to open eliminations.

“It will definitely be a different day tomorrow,” Millican stated. “This race track is phenomenal, and both lanes are incredible. This is going to be fun. I mean, this is the ultimate playoffs for the fans with the cars running like that in this kind of heat and humidity. It’s awesome.”

Points leader, Steve Torrence, finished second in qualifying, courtesy of his 3.743 at 327.82 run in his Capco Contractors/Torrence Racing dragster. Torrence will meet Bill Litton in the first round of eliminations.

Johnson Jr. claimed his first Funny Car No. 1 qualifier of the 2018 season and 16th of his career after his pass of 3.918 at 321.73 from the final qualifying session on Saturday in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. Seeking his first win of the season and 18th of his career, Johnson Jr. will face Terry Haddock in the first round.

“I didn’t think we could run that quick,” Johnson Jr. said. “John (Collins, crew chief) seemed confident on the starting line and now I know why. Being No. 1 Friday night allowed us to experiment a little during Q3 and it was okay. We put it back though to get the No. 1 spot back.”

Bob Tasca III jumped up to the No. 2 spot in his Ford Performance Shelby Mustang with his run of 3.950 at 322.27. He’ll race Matt Hagan to start eliminations, while points leader Robert Hight qualified sixth with a 3.979 at 314.83 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, setting up a first-round match up with Jim Campbell.

In Pro Stock, Coughlin Jr. secured his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying positions during the Countdown to the Championship after his run of 6.599 at 207.53 from Friday in his JEGS.com/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro held strong. Coughlin Jr. who has three wins this season, will look for his second career win at Texas Motorplex and matches up with Val Smeland in the first round of eliminations.

“It feels great first-off to be wearing the green hat,” Coughlin Jr. stated. “To qualify No. 1 is really saying something. You look at the top 11 and they’re separated by less than two-hundredths of a second in Pro Stock. Competition is extremely tight right now. Crew chiefs have got all of the cars pretty darn good and drivers are doing their thing to see us all packed up that tight.”

Veteran Greg Anderson qualified second in his Summing Racing Chevrolet Camaro with his run of 6.600 at 208.42 and meets Alan Prusiensky in the opening round of eliminations. Points leader, Tanner Gray, is in the No. 7 position after his pass of 6.614 at 208.14.

Krawiec, defending Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, powered to the top of the class with his pass of 6.873 at 196.07 on his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson during the third qualifying session. This is his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and will face off with Anthony Vanetti in the first round of eliminations.

“Was fortunate during Q3 to go to the pole,” Krawiec said. “I made a good, clean run that pass and had a great tune-up in the motorcycle. We’ve been getting better each session with my bike by running better E.T.’s and picking away at it a little at a time. We’re struggling on Sundays when it just continues to get hotter and I think we’ve nipped that in the bud to move in the right direction.”

Current points leader Matt Smith is second on his Elite Motorsports DENSO Auto Parts EBR after his run of 6.876 at 197.65 and will race Karen Stoffer in the opening round of eliminations. Hector Arana Jr. is third with his pass of 6.882 at 195.45.

Eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals begin at 11:00 a.m. CT on Sunday.

*********************

Sunday’s first-round pairings for eliminations:

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.726 seconds, 328.54 mph vs. 16. Richie Crampton, 3.942, 303.71; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.743, 327.82 vs. 15. Bill Litton, 3.903, 318.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.745, 329.58 vs. 14. Shawn Reed, 3.882, 283.01; 4. Terry McMillen, 3.777, 324.05 vs. 13. Mike Salinas, 3.859, 313.15; 5. Brittany Force, 3.781, 326.71 vs. 12. Scott Palmer, 3.820, 326.08; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.789, 319.98 vs. 11. Antron Brown, 3.810, 306.60; 7. Blake Alexander, 3.797, 325.69 vs. 10. Billy Torrence, 3.809, 321.04; 8. Kebin Kinsley, 3.803, 317.34 vs. 9. Leah Pritchett, 3.808, 324.51. Did Not Qualify: 17. Cory McClenathan, 3.978, 286.68; 18. Terry Brian, 4.121, 237.75; 19. Terry Totten, 4.683, 170.30.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.918, 321.73 vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Ford Mustang, 5.142, 148.20; 2. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.950, 322.27 vs. 15. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.169, 255.92; 3. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.958, 315.64 vs. 14. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.140, 257.38; 4. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.962, 320.05 vs. 13. John Hale, Chevy Impala, 4.103, 293.03; 5. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.968, 316.52 vs. 12. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.079, 272.28; 6. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.979, 314.83 vs. 11. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.051, 310.63; 7. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.986, 317.12 vs. 10. John Force, Camaro, 4.045, 319.67; 8. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.999, 315.19 vs. 9. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.003, 310.91. Did Not Qualify: 17. Todd Simpson, 6.011, 121.84; 18. Jack Wyatt, broke.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.599, 207.53 vs. 16. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.747, 206.35; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.600, 208.42 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.666, 205.41; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.601, 207.75 vs. 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.655, 207.69; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.609, 208.10 vs. 13. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.641, 208.10; 5. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.612, 208.33 vs. 12. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.626, 208.52; 6. Alex Laughlin, Dart, 6.612, 206.86 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.624, 207.08; 7. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.614, 208.14 vs. 10. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.623, 208.49; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.615, 208.55 vs. 9. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.615, 208.04. Did Not Qualify: 17. Shane Tucker, 6.824, 202.61; 18. Robert River, 6.927, 198.79.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.873, 196.07 vs. 16. Anthony Vanetti, Buell, 7.162, 187.83; 2. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.876, 197.65 vs. 15. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.015, 190.38; 3. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.882, 195.45 vs. 14. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.982, 191.95; 4. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.906, 194.86 vs. 13. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.950, 193.93; 5. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.915, 194.83 vs. 12. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.950, 194.97; 6. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.922, 194.41 vs. 11. Hector Arana, EBR, 6.946, 195.45; 7. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.930, 195.22 vs. 10. Joey Gladstone, Buell, 6.943, 193.65; 8. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.933, 192.60 vs. 9. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.938, 189.84.

INDYCAR’S contract at Laguna Seca not affected by new track management

INDYCAR Photo
Leave a comment

INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles told NBC Sports.com that INDYCAR’s season-ending race at WeatherTech Raceway in Monterey, California is not in any type of jeopardy after Monterey County officials sought a new management company for the Laguna Seca facility.

After 62 years of continuous management of the Laguna Seca Raceway, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) was advised via email by County of Monterey Assistant County Administrative Officer (ACAO) Dewayne Woods last month. The email said, “…the County is now in negotiations with another proposer for management services at Laguna Seca Recreational Area.”

At a November 19 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, a proposal centered on Monterey County’s direct management of the Raceway and Recreation Area.  The Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to have a management group led by Monterey businessman John Narigi take over for SCRAMP.

The NTT IndyCar Series returned to Laguna Seca in September for the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. It was the first time IndyCar had competed at Laguna Seca since September 12, 2004 after it had been a regular on the CART schedule from 1983 to 2004.

NBC Sports.com asked Miles if the new management group would impact the multi-year contract at the picturesque road course near Monterey, California.

“I’m happy to answer that,” Miles told NBC Sports.com. “We have following the situation closely for several months. At this point, we don’t have any concerns. Our sanctioning agreement is with the county and not was not with SCRAMP. The county is excited about the event and looking forward to the next edition in 2020.

“The county has appointed a new management team for the operation of the facility. There is plenty of work to do on their part and on our part to make sure they understand the requirements for the event and to make sure they execute well.

“The event is certainly going on. The financial underpinnings and the contractual obligations are between us and the county. They think they have selected the best possible management team and we look forward to working with them.”

Miles said INDYCAR vice president of promoter and media partner relations Stephen Starks has been working directly with the new management group at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca.

“The agreement is between us and the county and the county is absolutely comitted and excited about the future, they have appointed a new management team at Laguna Seca, and we look forward to working with them,” Miles said.

INDYCAR officials believe the series return to Laguna Seca was very successful in terms of promotion and spectator turnout.

“We were really pleased,” Miles said. “I think we under-estimated how outstanding it is both for the race and for the venue and the region. I thought it was better than we expected but it bodes well for the future.

“We’re going to be looking at how to take better advantage of it in the promotion of the series.

“There is plenty of room for growth and they will find ways to manage that from a traffic perspective,” Miles said. “We thought it was a great success. We think it can be even bigger. We have the commitment of the county and look forward to working with the new management team.”

Miles and INDYCAR are optimistic of continued success at WeatherTech Raceway with new management. However, the decision to end a 62-year relationship with SCRAMP was a surprise.

“This news comes as a surprise to the SCRAMP organization,” said Tim McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and SCRAMP, who took over the position in June 2018. “We were starting to make real progress on getting the facility and the raceway operations turned around and poised for the future, but it appears at this time we may not have the opportunity to see these plans through.”

SCRAMP believed the Monterey County Board of Supervisors denied the chance for it to continue with its plan.

“As the existing facility operator, we were stunned by the fact that we were not provided the opportunity to discuss our proposal with the ACAO,” McGrane said. “The entire process has been unconventional, ranging from the bypassing of the County’s usual Request For Proposal (RFP) process, the announcement in mid-October requesting proposals from any interested parties with only two weeks’ notice, and complaints that SCRAMP had not met deadlines to submit a proposal when in fact a submission date had been agreed upon in May, and subsequently met, has been challenging.

“We have been in this position before with the County administration, but we, our fans, racing series and teams, do have to look at the possibility of the era of SCRAMP operating Laguna Seca Raceway coming to an end.”

In 2015, Monterey County began private talks with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) who, after a careful review of the operational parameters of the facility, determined not to submit a formal proposal for management of the track. In 2016, the Monterey County Administrators Office entered into negotiations with another group to replace SCRAMP for 2017 but were unable to agree to terms that were mutually acceptable. The County then reverted back to a three-year agreement with SCRAMP to continue running Laguna Seca.

According to a statement from SCRAMP, in 2018, the SCRAMP-run Laguna Seca Raceway attracted 263,888 attendees and generated $84.4 million in direct spending generated by event attendees over 26 days of the seven major events. 2019 saw SCRAMP orchestrate the long-awaited and highly successful return of IndyCars to Laguna Seca, with a larger than anticipated spectator count for the weekend.

2019 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

“We’ve delivered an extensive, forward-looking proposal to the County for a new, long-term 20-year management and operating agreement that incorporates solid plans for revenue generation and expense reduction, expansion of the use of existing facilities, and development of Laguna Seca into a world-class destination,” said CEO McGrane. “We are building the right team, both paid staff and volunteers, with extensive motorsports experience, institutional knowledge, and the dedication to lead this important Monterey County asset into a successful future. We hope we still have the opportunity to present our plans directly to the County Board of Supervisors and we would be proud to continue SCRAMP’s 62-year stewardship of Laguna Seca on behalf of Monterey County.”

The Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, a 501(c)4 not-for-profit, was formed in 1957 by local business owners and civic leaders. SCRAMP’s goal was to raise the funds needed to construct a permanent motor racing circuit to maintain the tradition of sports car racing on the Monterey Peninsula which had begun in 1950 in the Del Monte Forest at Pebble Beach. SCRAMP is comprised of a Board of Governors, Race and Events Committees, and hundreds of loyal volunteers who donate thousands of hours each year to ensure the successful operation of events here.

The SCRAMP organization acquired leased land from the US Army at Fort Ord on August 7, 1957, and the now-legendary track, built with funds raised by SCRAMP, held its first race, the 8th Annual Pebble Beach at Laguna Seca SCCA National Championship Sports Car Road Races, on November 9 & 10, 1957. In 1974 the site was transferred from the Army to Monterey County, who together with SCRAMP, have managed the facility through this year.

SCRAMP’s current three-year management and operating agreement with Monterey County ends on December 31, 2019. SCRAMP currently employs a full-time professional staff of just over 40 team members.

INDYCAR, itself, is about to have an ownership change as racing and business icon Roger Penske and the Penske Corporation completes its acquisition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500, INDYCAR and IMS Productions sometime after January 1. Miles and the INDYCAR staff as well as the staffs at IMS and IMS Productions will be retained.

Miles will become CEO of Penske Entertainment and will continue his duties that he currently has. Since the sale was announced on November 4, Miles and key officials have met with Penske and his top officials on a weekly basis.

“It’s been great,” Miles said. “We are covering tons of ground. Roger and his team are all about adding value.

“It’s a very focused effort that is making great progress.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500