Photos and videos courtesy NHRA

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

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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.

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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.

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.