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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.