Photos/videos courtesy of NHRA (Atlanta winners (from left) Ron Capps, Andrew Hines, Steve Torrence

NHRA Atlanta winners: Steve Torrence, Ron Capps, Andrew Hines

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Defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence earned his second straight win in Sunday’s finals of the Arby’s Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia.

Also capturing wins were Ron Capps in Funny Car and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle. The Pro Stock class did not compete in this event.

Here’s how things played out in the seventh race of the 24-race NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series:

IN TOP FUEL: Torrence, who earned his first career Top Fuel at Atlanta Dragway in 2012, felt right at home again on Sunday, covering the drag strip with a pass of 3.863 seconds at 320.20 mph, defeating Brittany Force (3.989 seconds at 274.00 mph).

The final round matchup featured the top two qualifiers of the weekend and the two most recent Top Fuel world champs (Force in 2017, Torrence in 2018).

It also was the 29th career win for the Top Fuel points leader and third at the track.

When you have a group of guys that sticks together and that continuity is there, that’s the reason for success,” Torrence said in an NHRA media release. “As a driver, I need to do my job and give them the best driving ability I possible can because they’re giving me the best race car they possibly can.

My guys are second to none and I would put them up against anybody out here. We went down the track every time we needed to and we’ve had a really good car. It’s really cool to have Arby’s out here and be the first guy to ever win the Arby’s Southern Nationals.”

IN FUNNY CAR: Capps, the 2017 Funny Car champion, earned his first win of the 2019 season with a run of 4.068 seconds at 315.34.

Capps earned the win by getting a great jump on final round opponent Tim Wilkerson, who ran a close race but couldn’t top Capps.

Wilkerson’s run was 4.052 seconds at 310.05 mph.

It was Capps’ third career win at Atlanta and his 62nd overall career win in a Funny car, extending a streak to 11 straight seasons with at least one win.

An average race car driver could have probably won in that car today,” Capps said. “This was a car you dream about driving. (Crew chief) Rahn Tobler pulled out the vintage Rahn Tobler, and that just gave me more and more confidence. It was just amazing and to get a (Dodge) Hellcat win was huge.”

IN PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Just like Torrence, Andrew Hines earned his second straight win of the season, his third victory overall (in four races) in 2019 and his 51st career triumph on his Harley-Davidson two-wheeler.

Hines (6.865 seconds at 195.05 mph) defeated Jerry Savoie in the final round.

It also was the 100th career win for Harley-Davidson in the class, a streak that began back in 2004 when Hines earned his first career PSM event in 2004.

It was a good day and my motorcycle is nothing like I’ve ever had in my career,” said Hines, who now has three wins at Atlanta Dragway. “It’s working really well and doesn’t do much wrong. All in all, it was a fantastic day.

To get 100 wins for Harley-Davidson, it’s monumental. It was a very big struggle at first, and there’s been trials and tribulations, but it’s really nice to get the 100th.”

The series takes next weekend off before returning to action May 17-19 at the Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park in Richmond, Va.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Brittany Force; 3. Shawn Reed; 4. Jordan Vandergriff; 5. Antron Brown; 6. Leah Pritchett; 7. Dom Lagana; 8. Scott Palmer; 9. Clay Millican; 10. Austin Prock; 11. Luigi Novelli; 12. Audrey Worm; 13. Doug Kalitta; 14. Richie Crampton; 15. Pat Dakin; 16. Cameron Ferre.

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

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines; 2. Jerry Savoie; 3. Hector Arana Jr; 4. Eddie Krawiec; 5. Steve Johnson; 6. Ryan Oehler; 7. Karen Stoffer; 8. Angelle Sampey; 9. Joey Gladstone; 10. Matt Smith; 11. Angie Smith; 12. Melissa Surber; 13. Cory Reed; 14. Scotty Pollacheck; 15. Hector Arana; 16. Kelly Clontz.

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FINAL ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.863 seconds, 320.20 mph def. Brittany Force, 3.989 seconds, 274.00 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.068, 315.34 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.052, 310.05.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.865, 195.05 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.919, 193.65.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Jordan Vandergriff, 3.817, 286.80 def. Pat Dakin, Foul – Red Light; Antron Brown, 3.771, 323.89 def. Clay Millican, 3.779, 320.89; Brittany Force, 3.887, 316.08 def. Cameron Ferre, 12.284, 61.95; Shawn Reed, 3.856, 320.13 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.208, 254.18; Dom Lagana, 3.819, 319.98 def. Austin Prock, 3.849, 321.42; Steve Torrence, 3.782, 319.60 def. Luigi Novelli, 3.940, 274.66; Leah Pritchett, 3.812, 317.79 def. Audrey Worm, 4.008, 289.88; Scott Palmer, 3.971, 265.85 def. Richie Crampton, 4.431, 180.60; QUARTERFINALS — Reed, 4.232, 265.74 def. Lagana, 7.933, 83.31; Vandergriff, 3.871, 313.15 def. Pritchett, 3.898, 306.95; Torrence, 4.043, 263.41 def. Palmer, 8.919, 86.97; Force, 3.843, 314.83 def. Brown, 3.888, 299.33; SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.876, 318.17 def. Reed, 3.864, 315.78; Force, 3.893, 309.20 def. Vandergriff, 4.630, 165.05; FINAL — Torrence, 3.863, 320.20 def. Force, 3.989, 274.00.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.963, 321.12 def. Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 5.753, 121.59; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.942, 310.91 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 5.681, 122.10; J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.696, 172.94 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, Foul – Red Light; John Force, Camaro, 3.994, 327.74 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.040, 312.78; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.020, 314.97 def. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.406, 231.44; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.076, 315.78 def. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.414, 202.09; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.037, 309.84 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.113, 287.35; Paul Lee, Camry, 6.348, 102.03 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, Broke; QUARTERFINALS — Wilkerson, 5.595, 231.79 def. Tasca III, 6.885, 128.97; Hight, 4.376, 279.90 def. Lee, 4.967, 169.61; Capps, 4.022, 317.57 def. Force, 4.312, 220.80; Johnson Jr., 4.334, 218.62 def. Todd, 10.638, 76.09; SEMIFINALS — Wilkerson, 4.084, 313.66 def. Hight, 4.182, 258.02; Capps, 4.071, 317.19 def. Johnson Jr., 4.091, 310.27; FINAL — Capps, 4.068, 315.34 def. Wilkerson, 4.052, 310.05.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 9.709, 87.09 def. Matt Smith, Foul – Red Light; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.916, 192.38 def. Cory Reed, 7.018, 191.00; Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.927, 195.59 def. Joey Gladstone, 6.953, 192.08; Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 7.129, 157.45 def. Hector Arana, Foul – Red Light; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.958, 190.00 def. Angie Smith, 6.987, 192.28; Hector Arana Jr, 6.974, 192.88 def. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.028, 189.76; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.917, 195.53 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.068, 190.11; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.872, 194.80 def. Melissa Surber, Buell, 7.011, 189.82; QUARTERFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.919, 194.49 def. Sampey, 7.264, 145.42; Savoie, 6.938, 187.96 def. Johnson, 6.918, 192.25; Krawiec, 6.901, 195.22 def. Stoffer, Foul – Red Light; Hines, 6.881, 194.41 def. Oehler, 6.957, 194.80; SEMIFINALS — Savoie, 6.951, 192.77 def. Krawiec, 6.930, 194.07; Hines, 6.897, 193.99 def. Arana Jr, 6.913, 192.77; FINAL — Hines, 6.865, 195.05 def. Savoie, 6.919, 193.65.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 579; 2. Brittany Force, 483; 3. Doug Kalitta, 464; 4. Leah Pritchett, 433; 5. Clay Millican, 427; 6. Mike Salinas, 384; 7. Antron Brown, 373; 8. Richie Crampton, 329; 9. Terry McMillen, 319; 10. Austin Prock, 288.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 663; 2. Matt Hagan, 472; 3. John Force, 470; 4. J.R. Todd, 456; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 445; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 436; 7. Ron Capps, 430; 8. Jack Beckman, 425; 9. Shawn Langdon, 365; 10. Bob Tasca III, 338.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 444; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 366; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 356; 4. Matt Smith, 237; 5. Jerry Savoie, 233; 6. Ryan Oehler, 211; 7. Karen Stoffer, 204; 8. Joey Gladstone, 170; 9. Hector Arana, 169; 10. Angie Smith, 168.

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Rossi remains ‘The Story’ in IndyCar in 2019

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – 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, 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 kept Rossi’s race from being deemed complete perfection.

“It we had stayed out two laps longer on the last pit 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 a 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 second three 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 front straight 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 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 seconds behind the current NTT IndyCar Series points leader.

Rossi left no doubt on his Sunday drive through the Wisconsin woods as he never was 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 NBCSports.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 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 lie with Honda. Both he 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 NBCSports.com on Friday that he was “optimistically confident” that he will re-sign Rossi once a sponsorship agreement with NAPA is completed.

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones

Andretti remains confident after Rossi’s win on Sunday.

“We’re getting there,” Andretti said. “I think we’re getting there. 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 in a decade, 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, which 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.”