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NHRA Las Vegas No. 1 qualifiers: Millican, Johnson Jr., Coughlin Jr., Arana Jr.

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NHRA media release

Clay Millican remained a contender for the Top Fuel world championship securing his 10th No. 1 qualifying position on the season Saturday afternoon at the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of six playoff events during the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.

Millican was able to carry his 3.699-second pass at 327.82 mph on Friday night in his Parts Plus/ Great Clips dragster for the second No. 1 position at this event. He will face Greg Carrillo when eliminations begin on Sunday.

“This team is incredible,” said Millican “This is something I would have never dreamed of. So proud of what this team has done all season long. It is amazing.”

Millican trails points leader Steve Torrence who is qualified second. Torrence will face Shawn Reed and can secure his first world championship if he goes one round further than Millican during eliminations.

Johnson earned his third consecutive No. 1 with his pass of 3.879 at 327.82 during the final pass of the fourth qualifying session in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. Johnson has 18 career No. 1 positions and races Jeff Arend.

“Our car has been running so well as of late,” said Johnson. “You want to come into the Countdown and you have to bring everything you got for all the races. You have to perform your best you have all season. We have done that except for Sunday. I’m excited about tomorrow, I don’t know if I will be able to sleep tonight. I’m ready to go.”

Robert Hight, who leads the Funny Car points is qualified seventh and will race Shawn Langdon on Sunday. J.R. Todd trails Hight in the standings, he qualified second and races Richard Townsend.

In Pro Stock, Coughlin powered to his fifth No. 1 position of the season during the first session on Saturday with his pass of 6.628 at 206.95 in his Jegs.com/Elite/Chevrolet Camaro. This is the first time in his career the veteran racer has posted five top positions in a single season. Coughlin is second in the category points and line up against Steve Graham in eliminations.

“It is certainly coming at a great time,” said Coughlin. “As the Countdown narrows tomorrow and two seeks in Pomona, every point counts and every round counts. Right now we are second in the points and have a long way to go to climb up to that top spot and need a lot of help from some of our competitors but to sit on pole here in Las Vegas feels great.”

Points leader Tanner Gray qualified fifth and will face Alan Prusiensky on Sunday.

Arana Jr. moved to the No. 1 position in Pro Stock Motorcycle during the first qualifying position of the day on Saturday with his run of 6.845 at 196.44 on his Lucas Oil Buell. This is the third No. 1 qualifying position for the season, first since the event in Richmond, Va., and the 22nd of his career. He will race Make Paquette when eliminations begin on Sunday.

“We made a really good pass the first session,” said Arana. “Right there that gave us the confidence boost and the momentum to be able to go as fast as we are going. We didn’t have to play catch up or figure out a tune-up. The tune-up we nailed it right away, then we were able to tickle it a little bit. We really feel confident going into race day tomorrow.”

Points leader Matt Smith qualified eighth and will face LE Tonglet who is second in points and qualified ninth. Eddie Krawiec who is third in points qualified second and races Ron Tornow when eliminations begin.

Eliminations for the NHRA Toyota Nationals begin at 11 a.m. PT/2 pm ET on Sunday.

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SUNDAY’s FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Clay Millican, 3.699 seconds, 327.82 mph vs. 16. Greg Carrillo, 3.939, 305.98; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.702, 333.33 vs. 15. Shawn Reed, 3.876, 295.34; 3. Brittany Force, 3.723, 330.88 vs. 14. Mike Salinas, 3.824, 280.72; 4. Leah Pritchett, 3.731, 322.65 vs. 13. Troy Buff, 3.804, 308.57; 5. Antron Brown, 3.741, 322.88 vs. 12. Blake Alexander, 3.800, 321.12; 6. Doug Kalitta, 3.742, 326.00 vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.799, 318.39; 7. Billy Torrence, 3.760, 327.90 vs. 10. Terry McMillen, 3.784, 326.32; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.768, 326.48 vs. 9. Tony Schumacher, 3.772, 330.15. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Haddock, 4.018, 295.21; 18. Terry Totten, 4.788, 155.31.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.879, 327.82 vs. 16. Jeff Arend, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.119, 302.35; 2. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.911, 327.19 vs. 15. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.060, 308.50; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.922, 327.19 vs. 14. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.054, 312.06; 4. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.924, 321.65 vs. 13. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.050, 314.24; 5. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.926, 330.55 vs. 12. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.971, 315.71; 6. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.926, 328.46 vs. 11. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.968, 323.04; 7. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.927, 328.38 vs. 10. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.965, 319.67; 8. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.932, 319.90 vs. 9. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.949, 322.65. Did Not Qualify: 17. Gary Densham, 4.192, 273.33; 18. Bob Bode, 4.253, 265.74; 19. Jeff Diehl, 4.911, 165.11.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.628, 206.73 vs. 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.715, 205.13; 2. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.628, 206.61 vs. 15. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.693, 205.51; 3. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.629, 206.26 vs. 14. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.686, 206.26; 4. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.631, 206.86 vs. 13. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.653, 203.89; 5. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.631, 205.79 vs. 12. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.650, 205.79; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.633, 207.91 vs. 11. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.650, 206.70; 7. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.636, 207.56 vs. 10. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.643, 205.63; 8. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.636, 206.70 vs. 9. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.638, 205.57. Did Not Qualify: 17. Val Smeland, 6.762, 203.12; 18. Joey Grose, 6.803, 202.27; 19. Tom Huggins, 6.816, 202.64.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.845, 196.44 vs. 16. Mark Paquette, Buell, 6.990, 189.52; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.859, 195.65 vs. 15. Ron Tornow, Buell, 6.987, 189.98; 3. Hector Arana, EBR, 6.863, 194.88 vs. 14. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.980, 193.49; 4. Chip Ellis, Harley-Davidson, 6.899, 194.60 vs. 13. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.972, 190.97; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.911, 193.43 vs. 12. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 6.963, 190.89; 6. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.921, 191.19 vs. 11. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.953, 191.73; 7. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.926, 189.39 vs. 10. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.953, 191.87; 8. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.931, 195.17 vs. 9. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.931, 194.32. Did Not Qualify: 17. Karen Stoffer, 6.991, 190.51; 18. Katie Sullivan, 7.000, 192.74; 19. Cory Reed, 7.020, 190.59; 20. Freddie Camarena, 7.040, 191.57; 21. Anthony Vanetti, 7.153, 184.09; 22. Maurice Allen, 7.195, 184.39. 

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.