From left, Matt Hagan, Billy Torrence, Jeg Coughlin Jr. All photos/videos: NHRA

NHRA: Billy Torrence, Matt Hagan, Jeg Coughlin Jr. earn wins at Phoenix

3 Comments

Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) were the winners in Sunday’s final eliminations of the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona (suburban Phoenix).

It was the second career Top Fuel win for Torrence, father of defending Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence. The elder Torrence defeated Leah Pritchett (lost traction) in the final round.

“It’s just a blessing to be out here,” Billy Torrence said in an NHRA media release. “I’m trying not to choke up. The car ran great and they all worked so hard to keep a good car under me. Even Steve’s (Torrence) team came over to help them out and it was just outstanding.”

It was Billy Torrence’s weekend from start to finish, qualifying No. 1 and finishing No. 1, just like he did when he qualified No. 1 and finished No. 1 in his first career Top Fuel win, last year at Brainerd, Minnesota.

After his son Steve lost in the first round, Billy Torrence went on to defeat, in order, Terry Totten, Mike Salinas, Jordan Vandergriff and Pritchett, who appeared in her 14th career final, also at the location of her first career Top Fuel win in 2016.

In Funny Car: There’s something about Wild Horse Pass for Hagan, who won there for the third time in five years and earning his 30th career Funny Car victory, defeating defending 2018 Funny Car champion J.R. Todd in the final round.

Hagan also snapped a 0-2 lifetime mark in final rounds vs. Todd.

“For us, this win is huge with the new (Dodge) Hellcat body,” Hagan said. “Hats off to Dickie Venerables (crew chief). He won the race. He had a race car underneath me that was just going down the track every lap. We were able to put on a great show for our fans.”

Todd’s Toyota backfired as it left the starting line, triggering the mandatory safety system, allowing Hagan to cruise easily to the win.

It marked the seventh final round for Todd in the last nine NHRA national events, dating back to the last seven races of 2018 and the first two races of 2019. He came up short of giving team owner Connie Kalitta a win for a great 81st birthday present.

In Pro Stock:

Jeg Coughlin Jr. has had a lot of high points in his career, including five NHRA Pro Stock championships.

But Coughlin won’t soon forget Sunday’s race victory, as it came in his 1,000th round of Pro Stock competition. In addition, it was his 62nd career Pro Stock win and 81st overall victory in his lengthy drag racing career.

Coughlin caught a huge break in his final round match with Matt Hartford, as the latter fouled at the starting line, jumping the red light by .024 seconds.

“I felt really good behind the wheel,” Coughlin said. “We came out on top today and it feels great today to get our 1000th Pro Stock round win. Huge win today and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season.”

It was Coughlin’s fourth career win at the suburban Phoenix track, having two previous wins in Pro Stock in 2000 and 2009, and once in Super Stock in 1995.

The next NHRA national event will be in three weeks, the 50th Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, March 14-17.

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

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Billy Torrence; 2. Leah Pritchett; 3. Antron Brown; 4. Jordan Vandergriff; 5. Doug Kalitta; 6. Mike Salinas; 7. Austin Prock; 8. Terry McMillen; 9. Brittany Force; 10. Clay Millican; 11. Steve Torrence; 12. Richie Crampton; 13. Cameron Ferre; 14. Jim Maroney; 15. Terry Totten; 16. Scott Palmer.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan; 2. J.R. Todd; 3. Robert Hight; 4. Bob Tasca III; 5. Shawn Langdon; 6. Jack Beckman; 7. John Force; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 9. Ron Capps; 10. Terry Haddock; 11. Tim Wilkerson; 12. Cruz Pedregon; 13. Blake Alexander; 14. Phil Burkart; 15. Jim Campbell; 16. Jeff Diehl.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jeg Coughlin; 2. Matt Hartford; 3. Deric Kramer; 4. Erica Enders; 5. Rodger Brogdon; 6. Bo Butner; 7. Jason Line; 8. Alex Laughlin; 9. Kenny Delco; 10. Fernando Cuadra; 11. Steve Graham; 12. Alan Prusiensky; 13. Joey Grose; 14. Chris McGaha; 15. Val Smeland; 16. Greg Anderson.

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

FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Billy Torrence, 3.965 seconds, 326.40 mph. def. Leah Pritchett, 9.568 seconds, 75.68 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.890, 325.06 mph. def. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, Broke.

PRO STOCK: Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.557, 210.67 mph def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

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

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Mike Salinas, 5.690, 96.87 def. Scott Palmer, Foul – Centerline; Jordan Vandergriff, 3.692, 333.41 def. Brittany Force, 3.768, 314.02; Doug Kalitta, 3.741, 322.42 def. Jim Maroney, 6.447, 97.24; Antron Brown, 3.728, 330.63 def. Steve Torrence, 3.930, 256.50; Terry McMillen, 3.726, 329.02 def. Richie Crampton, 4.061, 215.79; Billy Torrence, 3.736, 329.42 def. Terry Totten, Foul – Centerline; Austin Prock, 3.748, 328.22 def. Clay Millican, 3.862, 306.74; Leah Pritchett, 3.722, 329.67 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.263, 207.82; QUARTERFINALS — B. Torrence, 3.687, 329.58 def. Salinas, 3.848, 275.17; Vandergriff, 3.734, 323.89 def. Kalitta, 3.735, 327.51; Pritchett, 3.731, 308.64 def. McMillen, 5.011, 146.69; Brown, 4.198, 261.12 def. Prock, 4.389, 179.40; SEMIFINALS — Pritchett, 3.721, 332.10 def. Brown, 3.763, 325.85; B. Torrence, 3.709, 328.70 def. Vandergriff, 9.920, 84.65; FINAL — B. Torrence, 3.965, 326.40 def. Pritchett, 9.568, 75.68.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.901, 327.03 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.736, 168.41; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.933, 317.19 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.968, 319.98; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.655, 215.03 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.667, 182.62; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.863, 329.67 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, Broke; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.919, 324.12 def. Phil Burkart, Charger, 5.662, 126.26; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, No Time, No Speed def. Jim Campbell, Charger, Foul – Centerline; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.264, 293.22 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 5.394, 133.08; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.911, 326.24 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 5.244, 144.18; QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 3.967, 323.27 def. Johnson Jr., 5.048, 134.74; Hight, 3.879, 327.82 def. Force, 3.988, 325.92; Tasca III, 3.950, 321.96 def. Beckman, 3.963, 321.73; Hagan, 3.894, 327.19 def. Langdon, 3.951, 326.48; SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 3.921, 321.96 def. Tasca III, 3.983, 320.13; Todd, 3.919, 327.19 def. Hight, 3.922, 326.24; FINAL — Hagan, 3.890, 325.06 def. Todd, broke.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Deric Kramer, Chevy Camaro, 6.573, 210.18 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 7.305, 144.74; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.568, 210.90 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 20.633, 48.17; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.577, 210.64 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.565, 210.44; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.544, 211.53 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.590, 210.01; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.556, 209.39 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 12.750, 67.81; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.548, 211.10 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.637, 206.13; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.551, 211.06 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.541, 211.73 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.603, 208.97; QUARTERFINALS — Kramer, 6.567, 209.69 def. Butner, 6.582, 210.80; Enders, 6.552, 210.28 def. Line, 6.605, 190.67; Hartford, 6.569, 210.08 def. Brogdon, 6.538, 211.73; Coughlin, 6.562, 210.41 def. Laughlin, Foul – Red Light; SEMIFINALS — Hartford, 6.568, 209.79 def. Kramer, 6.555, 210.57; Coughlin, 6.541, 210.28 def. Enders, 6.575, 210.18; FINAL — Coughlin, 6.557, 210.67 def. Hartford, Foul – Red Light.

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

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Billy Torrence, 178; 2. Doug Kalitta, 172; 3. Leah Pritchett, 145; 4. Steve Torrence, 137; 5. Terry McMillen, 132; 6. Mike Salinas, 122; 7. Antron Brown, 115; 8. Austin Prock, 106; 9. Jordan Vandergriff, 77; 10. Richie Crampton, 66.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 205; 2. Matt Hagan, 160; 3. Jack Beckman, 151; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 132; 5. Bob Tasca III, 129; 6.(tie) John Force, 126; J.R. Todd, 126; 8. Shawn Langdon, 111; 9. Ron Capps, 89; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 86.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner, 181; 2. Jason Line, 157; 3. Erica Enders, 152; 4. Matt Hartford, 147; 5. Jeg Coughlin, 145; 6. Alex Laughlin, 136; 7. Deric Kramer, 110; 8. Rodger Brogdon, 100; 9. Chris McGaha, 84; 10.(tie) Steve Graham, 82; Val Smeland, 82.

We’ll have final round videos shortly. Please check back soon.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Rossi remains “The Story” in INDYCAR in 2019

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones
Leave a comment

ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Alexander Rossi’s greatness was on full display Monday at Road America.

He started on the outside of the front row, drafted behind pole sitter Colton Herta at the drop of the green flag, pulled out a perfectly-timed move to race side-by-side with Herta going into Turn 1. By Turn 2 of the first lap of the race, Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Honda was out front and drove away from the field, easily winning the REV Group Grand Prix of Road America by nearly 30 seconds over Team Penske’s Will Power.

Rossi was so good, it appeared he was running on a different race course than the other 23 competitors. There was some outstanding racing throughout the field with 191 total passes including 175 for position, but none of those passes were at the front.

According to Rossi’s engineer, Jeremy Milles, there was just one thing missing from deeming Rossi’s race complete perfection.

“It we had stayed out two laps longer on the last pits stop, we would have led every single lap instead of Graham Rahal leading one lap,” Milless told NBC Sports.com. “It’s good to see when we give him a proper car, he puts it to work.

“He’s not like a lot of drivers.”

Rossi led 54 of the 55 laps in the race and defeated Power by 28.4391 seconds – a huge margin of victory by today’s standards. Back in 1982, Hector Rebaque defeated Al Unser by one-full lap at the 4.014-mile, 14 Road America road course, but those were far different times than today’s very deep field in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Although it was Rossi’s second victory of the season and the seventh of his career, the 27-year-old from Nevada City, California has been the driver everyone talks about in 2019. The win snapped a four-race streak where he finished third three of the four times and fifth in the other.

Simon Pagenaud won the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26, but the fans and media were talking about Rossi’s bold, daring moves, including some wildly aggressive passes down the frontstraight and to the outside in Turn 1.

Rossi had a fantastic car the next week in the first race of the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle, but was burned by the timing of a caution period for a crash just as his main challenger, Josef Newgarden, dove into the pit area to make a stop just before pit lane closed because of the caution. Rossi had to wait until the pits were reopened to make his stop, and that put him behind Newgarden and ultimately decided the race.

After a fifth-place finish the following day in Race No. 2, Rossi was once again standing up in his seat and on top of the steering wheel in a tremendous battle with Newgarden at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. Rossi tried his best to make his car stick on the outside lane going into Turn 1, but when he discovered the risk was much higher than the reward, he had to begrudgingly settle for second, finishing 0.816-of-a-second behind the current NTT IndyCar Series points leader.

Rossi left no doubt on his Sunday drive through the Wisconsin woods as he was never challenged.

In just three short seasons, Rossi has developed into one of the greatest drivers in a generation in IndyCar. He doesn’t even have 10 victories yet, and he already had the makings of a legend.

“It’s almost like Juan Pablo Montoya, when he arrived as a rookie, he was great immediately,” Rossi’s team owner Michael Andretti told NBC Sports.com after the race. “Juan is one of the greats and I think as time moves on, Alex will prove to be one of the greats.

“He is very aggressive, very calm, very confident, everything you want in a driver. He wasn’t racing anybody all day; he was just racing himself not to make any mistakes.”

For Andretti, this is a very important time in his relationship with Rossi. The driver’s contract concludes at the end of this season and he is the focal point of speculation on where he will race in 2020.

Before Pagenaud revived his career with a sweep of the major events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Month of May, Rossi looked like “Penske Material” as the driver that would take over the No. 22 Chevrolet. After Pagenaud won the Indy 500, team owner Roger Penske assured him he would be back on the team in 2020.

Rossi’s loyalties like with Honda. Both him and his father, Pieter, share a close relationship with the engine manufacturer that helped the former Formula One test driver at Manor find a full-time home in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Andretti told NBC Sports.com on Friday that he was “optimistically confident” that he will re-sign Rossi once a sponsorship agreement with NAPA is completed.

Andretti remains confident after Rossi’s win on Sunday.

“We’re getting there, I think we’re getting there,” Andretti said. “We are feeling pretty good about it.”

There are others, however, that aren’t as optimistic.

If Roger Penske wants a driver, who turns down an opportunity like that. After all, Team Penske is far and away the winningest team in IndyCar history including a record 18 Indy 500 wins.

Think of these scenarios.

What if McLaren makes a substantial offer to align with Andretti Autosport for a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team in the future after McLaren’s debacle in this year’s Indy 500? In order for that to happen, though, Andretti would have to switch to Chevrolet, because Honda ‘s parent company in Japan will no longer do business with McLaren.

The last time Andretti considered leaving Honda for Chevy, Rossi was set to leave Andretti to join another Honda team, Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports in 2017.

If Andretti Autosports and McLaren joined together, that would also mean the Andretti-aligned Harding Steinbrenner Racing would become a Chevy operation.

Honda could keep Rossi as one of its drivers by leading him to Chip Ganassi Racing. Five-time Cup Series champion Scott Dixon remains on top of his game, but it’s unlikely he will be racing Indy cars 10 years from now.

Barring unforeseen circumstance, Rossi will still be in the cockpit and winning races 10 years from now and that would position Ganassi’s team for the future. The team’s second driver is rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who is currently racing with a one-year contract.

Even Rossi knows his situation for next year is complicated, that is why he chooses not to talk about it. He has developed a strong bond with Milless as his engineer and Rob Edwards (white shirt on left) as his race strategist. Do both of those key members end up on a different team with Rossi? Edwards is a key member of management at Andretti Autosport as the Chief Operating Officer.

Rossi is as cerebral as he is aggressive. After his victory, when pressed upon his next contract, he concluded the conversation perfectly.

“I have no considerations,” Rossi said regarding his contract status. “It’s in God’s hands.”