See ‘ya later, alligator: Tonglet ready to chomp down on 2nd NHRA championship

Photos courtesy NHRA
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When your boss is a former world champion – and also owner of one of the largest alligator “farms” in the world – it gives you a lot of motivation to do well.

Such is the case with NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle rider LE Tonglet. A former NHRA PSM champ himself (2010) when he was only 20 years old, the now 28-year-old Metairie, Louisiana native is looking for his second championship this season.

Tonglet jumped to the top of the PSM point standings after winning this past Sunday’s AAA FallNationals in Ennis, Texas. It was Tonglet’s fourth win of the season on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki, his 10th triumph in the last two seasons and 20th win of his two-wheeled career.

LE Tonglet

Three races remain in the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs, beginning with this weekend’s NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina (a suburb of Charlotte).

Tonglet races for 2016 PSM champ Jerry Savoie, who rides herd over nearly 60,000 ‘gators in the Louisiana bayou. It’s not surprising, given Savoie’s day job, that his own team is known as White Alligator Racing.

It’s lucky Savoie is a good sport. He didn’t feed Tonglet to the ‘gators after he lost to Tonglet in the final round at Texas.

“It was a lot of fun in the pits (as he and Savoie prepared for their final round matchup), but once we came up (to the starting line), I didn’t look at him and he didn’t look at me,” Tonglet said. “It was all business.

“We’re leading the points and we’re not looking back now. Jerry made a big move (upward in the standings; he’s currently fifth, 109 points behind Tonglet) and we’re going to have two bikes competing for this championship down to the wire.”

Together, Tonglet and Savoie appear to be peaking at the right time and are proving to be as formidable a 1-2 punch in the PSM ranks as multi-champions and teammates Andrew Hines and 2017 champ Eddie Krawiec.

And once the 2018 PSM championship is said and done, the winner will likely come from those four names or series veteran Matt Smith.

With his Texas win, Tonglet comes into Charlotte this weekend with a 47-point lead in the standings over Krawiec and holds a 48-point edge over Smith.

“We just have to stay calm and take it one round at a time,” Tonglet said in an NHRA media release. “The key is to go rounds and when we show up to a race, I just want to get the semifinals.

“Whatever happens after that is just a bonus, kind of. If you keep going to the semis, you’re going to have a good shot come (the season finale, Nov. 8-11, at Pomona, California). We just have to stay calm and focused, and not make any mistakes.”

NOTES: Qualifying begins Friday with rounds at 2:45 pm ET and 5:15 pm ET, with two additional rounds of qualifying on Saturday at 12:45 pm ET and 3:15 pm ET. Final eliminations are Sunday, starting at 12 Noon ET.

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As expected, FIA denies granting Colton Herta a Super License to race in F1

Colton Herta Super License
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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The governing body for Formula One on Friday said IndyCar star Colton Herta will not be granted the Super License that the American needs to join the F1 grid next season.

“The FIA confirms that an enquiry was made via the appropriate channels that led to the FIA confirming that the driver Colton Herta does not have the required number of points to be granted an FIA Super Licence,” the FIA said in a statement.

The FIA decision was not a surprise.

Red Bull was interested in the 22-year-old Californian and considering giving Herta a seat at AlphaTauri, its junior team. AlphaTauri has already said that Pierre Gasly will return next season and Yuki Tsunoda received a contract extension earlier this week.

However, AlphaTauri has acknowledged it would release Gasly, who is apparently wanted at Alpine, but only if it had a compelling driver such as Herta to put in the car. F1 has not had an American on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015, but Herta did not particularly want the FIA to make an exception to the licensing system to get him a seat.

At issue is how the FIA rates IndyCar, a series it does not govern. The points it awards to IndyCar drivers rank somewhere between F2 and F3, the two junior feeder series into F1.

IndyCar drivers have criticized the system in defense of Herta and the intense, close racing of their own highly competitive series. Herta has won seven IndyCar races, is the youngest winner in series history and has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He qualified on the front row in 2021 and finished a career-best eighth in 2020.

Rossi, who has spent the last four seasons as Herta’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, lashed out this week because “I’m so sick and tired of this back and forth” regarding the licensing.

“The whole premise of it was to keep people from buying their way into F1 and allowing talent to be the motivating factor,” Rossi wrote on social media. “That’s great. We all agree Colton has the talent and capability to be in F1. That’s also great and he should get that opportunity if it’s offered to him. Period.

“Motorsport still remains as the most high profile sport in the world where money can outweigh talent. What is disappointing and in my opinion, the fundamental problem, is that the sporting element so often took a backseat to the business side that here had to be a method put in place in order for certain teams to stop taking drivers solely based on their financial backing.”

Rossi added those decisions “whether out of greed or necessity, is what cost Colton the opportunity to make the decision for himself as to if he wanted to alter career paths and race in F1. Not points on a license.”

The system favors drivers who compete in FIA-sanctioned series. For example, Linus Lundqvist earned his Super License by winning the Indy Lights championship.

Lundqvist’s required points come via the 15 he earned for the Lights title, 10 points for finishing third in Lights last year and his 2020 victory in the FIA-governed Formula Regional Americas Championship, which earned him 18 points.

That gave the 23-year-old Swede a total of 43 points, three more than needed for the license.

Herta, meanwhile, ended the IndyCar season with 32 points. He can still earn a Super License by picking up one point for any free practice sessions he runs this year; McLaren holds his F1 rights and could put him in a car. Herta could also potentially run in an FIA-sanctioned winter series to pick up some points.

Michael Andretti, who has petitioned the FIA to expand its grid to add two cars for him to launch a team, said he never bothered to explore potential replacements for Herta on the IndyCar team because he was confident the Super License request would be rejected.

Andretti has been met by severe resistance from existing F1 teams and even F1 itself in his hope to add an 11th team. Andretti could still get on the grid by purchasing an existing team and he’d like to build his program around Herta, who is under contract in IndyCar to Andretti through 2023.