NHRA Virginia: Butner, S. Torrence, Hines, Capps continue winning ways

NHRA Virginia winners from left: Torrence, Capps, Hines, Butner.
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Bo Butner had decided to retire from Pro Stock racing at the end of last season, with plans of going back to his sportsman rank roots. There’d be less pressure, less travel and more enjoyment.

But after a couple of weeks of thinking about it – and being coerced by friends and family – the 2017 Pro Stock champ decided to reconsider and returned to the Pro Stock ranks for 2019.

It’s a decision he likely will forever be grateful for making.

Butner continued his dominance in Pro Stock in 2019, earning his fourth win of the season in Sunday’s finals of the Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, Va.

Joining Butner in the winner’s circle was Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Butner covered the quarter-mile in 6.599 seconds at 209.01 mph, defeating teammate and four-time Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson (6.607 seconds, 210.18 mph) to capture his 11th career national event victory.

Butner becomes the first driver since Anderson in 2004 that won four of the first five Pro Stock races to start a season.

It’s been an amazing season and a good call to come back,” Butner said in a NHRA media release. “We made a very good run in the final.

Greg and I both made mediocre runs up until that point. The track was great. It’s very smooth and the Franklins did a great job with this place and it would be nice if we came back here a couple of times. It was fun running two cars multiple rounds today. It was a good day and I can’t complain.”

Butner defeated Wally Stroupe, Chris McGaha and Jeg Coughlin Jr. on his way to his 24th career final round.

IN TOP FUEL: Torrence earned his fourth win of the season and 30th of his career with a winning run of 3.881 seconds at 319.82 mph, defeating best friend Antron Brown (3.899 seconds at 309.49 mph).

It was the 10th time the pair have met in a final round. Brown won the first five meetings, while Torrence has won the last five times they’ve met.

Torrence reached the final round after earlier round wins over Todd Paton, Scott Palmer, and father Billy Torrence en route to his 45th career final round.

Hands down and hats off to the whole Capco team,” Steve Torrence said. “Those guys gave me the best race car of the day. We were the guys that went down the track four times in a row.

All I had to do was not run over anything or anybody and they gave me the best car ever. Richard Hogan (co-crew chief) and Bobby Lagana (co-crew chief), they make the right calls when the pressure is on and when the heat is out there. In cowboy terms, I rode the two best horses out there.”

Brown, meanwhile, defeated teammate Leah Pritchett, Brittany Force and Mike Salinas before falling to Torrence in the final round.

IN FUNNY CAR: Capps won his second consecutive race, defeating defending Funny Car world champ J.R. Todd in the final round.

The win is Capps’ 62nd career Funny Car victory (and 63rd overall of his career), along with being the 30th win of his tenure with crew chief Rahn Tobler since 2012.

Capps defeated Jim Campbell, Robert Hight and teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. to reach the final round, earning his first career win at VMP.

Just go up there and not make a mistake was my mindset today,” Capps said. “Tobler told me in the trailer prior to the final round, ‘I don’t know why it smoked the tires all day. Everybody has had problems and we’re just going to put it like we did first round when it went 3.99.’

I rolled it in there and obviously it went a bit slower but that’s what he went up there to do. Vintage Rahn Tobler.”

Todd beat Bob Tasca III, teammate Shawn Langdon and Jonnie Lindberg to reach the finals.

IN PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Hines won from the No. 1 qualifier position, earning his third straight win of the season, fourth overall of 2019 and 52nd of his career.

He covered the quarter-mile in 6.845 seconds at 195.68 mph, defeating teammate Eddie Krawiec in the final round.

Andrew Hines becomes the first PSM rider to win four of the first five events to start a season since brother Matt did so to kick off the 1998 season.

We have developed a very good hot weather tune up for our Street Rods and that’s saying a lot,” Hines said. “We typically tend to not look forward to the middle of the season because that’s where our performance tends to fall off and people make up ground on us.

Today we were able to take what we’ve learned the last couple of weeks between Charlotte, when it got hot, and Atlanta when it was really hot. We don’t ever go up there (the starting line) with the same tune up, ever. It was a little bit of picking on it here and there which has led to us finding the window where we need to be.”

Hines remains atop the PSM point standings, defeating Jiana Salinas, Ryan Oehler and defending world champion Matt Smith to reach the final round. Krawiec took down Kelly Clontz, Karen Stoffer and Hector Arana Jr. en route to his 25th final round against Hines.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will have the Memorial Day weekend off before returning to action in Joliet, Illinois, May 30th to June 2nd in the Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway. It will be the ninth race of the 24-race season for both Top Fuel and Funny Car, and the sixth race of the season for PSM and Pro Stock.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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

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

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

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

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.881 seconds, 319.82 mph def. Antron Brown, 3.899 seconds, 309.49 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.097, 310.98 def. J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, Broke.

PRO STOCK: Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.599, 209.01 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.607, 210.18.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.845, 195.68 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.858, 196.44.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Antron Brown, 3.872, 312.42 def. Leah Pritchett, 5.388, 139.06; Scott Palmer, 3.869, 322.58 def. Doug Kalitta, 5.568, 119.26; Clay Millican, 3.814, 320.97 def. Dan Mercier, 4.525, 183.49; Mike Salinas, 3.813, 319.60 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.466, 215.20; Brittany Force, 4.321, 241.89 def. Audrey Worm, 4.561, 181.54; Steve Torrence, 3.845, 321.73 def. Todd Paton, 3.969, 306.33; Austin Prock, 3.866, 304.94 def. Richie Crampton, 3.901, 313.51; Billy Torrence, 3.983, 282.48 def. Terry McMillen, 4.778, 164.11; QUARTERFINALS — Brown, 4.446, 231.00 def. Force, 4.659, 234.53; B. Torrence, 3.912, 305.49 def. Millican, 4.205, 227.11; Salinas, 3.831, 321.50 def. Prock, 4.294, 228.61; S. Torrence, 3.870, 319.14 def. Palmer, 3.910, 318.69; SEMIFINALS — S. Torrence, 3.853, 316.23 def. B. Torrence, 4.114, 238.26; Brown, 4.846, 160.44 def. Salinas, 11.990, 33.39; FINAL — S. Torrence, 3.881, 319.82 def. Brown, 3.899, 309.49.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.013, 316.97 def. Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 4.057, 304.74; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.997, 313.58 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 6.497, 99.14; John Force, Camaro, 4.004, 317.64 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 11.009, 80.03; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.027, 316.52 def. Terry Haddock, Ford Mustang, 4.132, 296.24; J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.074, 306.95 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.086, 313.80; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.039, 310.27 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.054, 307.02; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.649, 251.44 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 5.115, 225.41; Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.088, 314.39 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, Foul – Centerline; QUARTERFINALS — Lindberg, 4.157, 269.94 def. Force, 10.790, 77.43; Capps, 6.173, 251.11 def. Hight, 6.204, 270.75; Johnson Jr., 5.356, 212.03 def. Beckman, 8.238, 102.56; Todd, 4.044, 310.41 def. Langdon, 4.081, 312.35; SEMIFINALS — Capps, 4.212, 301.94 def. Johnson Jr., 10.184, 90.53; Todd, 4.040, 313.88 def. Lindberg, 5.543, 133.55; FINAL — Capps, 4.097, 310.98 def. Todd, Broke.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.626, 207.11 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.619, 207.94; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.612, 205.72 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.607, 208.65; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.607, 208.75 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.642, 207.94; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.610, 209.43 def. Shane Tucker, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Fernando Cuadra Jr., Camaro, 6.838, 197.88 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 15.360, 55.41; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.622, 209.72 def. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 6.781, 203.43; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.615, 209.43 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.733, 205.94; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.630, 207.24 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 9.338, 99.16; QUARTERFINALS — Laughlin, 6.641, 207.59 def. Line, 6.685, 208.20; Coughlin, 6.628, 207.34 def. Cuadra Jr., 6.858, 200.80; Anderson, 6.629, 209.49 def. Enders, 6.668, 206.95; Butner, 6.625, 208.59 def. McGaha, 6.618, 208.84; SEMIFINALS — Anderson, 6.609, 209.52 def. Laughlin, 6.670, 207.40; Butner, 6.602, 208.78 def. Coughlin, 6.629, 207.66; FINAL — Butner, 6.599, 209.01 def. Anderson, 6.607, 210.18.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.927, 195.36 def. Angie Smith, 6.944, 195.68; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.954, 194.27 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.962, 192.03; Joey Gladstone, 7.006, 191.51 def. Hector Arana, 6.979, 194.30; Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 6.855, 195.56 def. John Hall, Suzuki, 6.956, 193.88; Matt Smith, 6.813, 198.64 def. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.024, 191.65; Hector Arana Jr, 6.909, 197.05 def. Cory Reed, 7.108, 187.78; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.855, 196.82 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.021, 191.95; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.853, 196.87 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 7.065, 188.23; QUARTERFINALS — Arana Jr, 6.884, 194.83 def. Gladstone, Broke; Krawiec, 6.853, 196.44 def. Stoffer, 6.963, 193.46; Hines, 6.871, 195.90 def. Oehler, 6.971, 194.66; M. Smith, 6.836, 198.50 def. Sampey, 6.889, 193.46; SEMIFINALS — Krawiec, 6.863, 196.56 def. Arana Jr, 6.902, 195.39; Hines, 6.837, 196.62 def. M. Smith, 6.856, 196.67; FINAL — Hines, 6.845, 195.68 def. Krawiec, 6.858, 196.44.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 701; 2. Brittany Force, 541; 3. Doug Kalitta, 498; 4. Clay Millican, 489; 5. Leah Pritchett, 469; 6. Antron Brown, 467; 7. Mike Salinas, 466; 8. Richie Crampton, 363; 9. Terry McMillen, 352; 10. Austin Prock, 341.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 717; 2. J.R. Todd, 556; 3. Ron Capps, 548; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 527; 5. John Force, 524; 6. Matt Hagan, 506; 7. Jack Beckman, 477; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 463; 9. Shawn Langdon, 404; 10. Bob Tasca III, 369.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner, 545; 2. Alex Laughlin, 358; 3. Jason Line, 328; 4. Matt Hartford, 318; 5. Greg Anderson, 305; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 298; 7. Erica Enders, 297; 8. Rodger Brogdon, 254; 9. Chris McGaha, 241; 10. Deric Kramer, 239.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 569; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 468; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 435; 4. Matt Smith, 318; 5. Ryan Oehler, 263; 6. Karen Stoffer, 257; 7. Jerry Savoie, 233; 8. Joey Gladstone, 222; 9. Angelle Sampey, 210; 10. Hector Arana, 203.

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IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area. The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean, who finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full season, said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps another his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”