NHRA Virginia winners from left: Torrence, Capps, Hines, Butner.

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

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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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‘His Mona Lisa’: Roger Penske adds his golden touch to iconic Indy

AP Photo/Jenna Fryer
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INDIANAPOLIS — The purists can relax: Roger Penske did not remove troughs from the men’s bathrooms at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He replaced them, of course, with the shiniest, sleekest basins on the urinal market, thus preserving one of the speedway’s treasured if unusual features while still insisting every inch of the facility be brought up to Penske code. It’s been six months since Penske completed his purchase of the 111-year-old national landmark, a fixer-upper that he already has lavished with some $15 million worth of improvements.

“It’s like you just bought a Ferrari,” said Penske, “but it was rained on.”

Penske gave The Associated Press a two-hour tour of the speedway this week, showing off with dizzying detail the new landscaping, paved lots, planted trees, picnic tables, widened pedestrian paths, hand dryers in every bathroom, improved sight lines, pressure-washed buildings, freshly painted signs and LED monitors everywhere.

There is not a lone pièce de résistance; Penske is equally proud of every change, including a 104-by-20-foot video board on the Pagoda, a lift in the winner’s circle to raise the winning car and, of course. those old-school troughs.

Two days before the speedway opened for a historic NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader race weekend, the 83-year-old Penske was pushing a car onto the lift as he quadruple-checked its functionality. He went through another dry run of the lift, ensuring it lined up perfectly for postrace celebrations and alerting an employee to some manufacturer stickers he wanted removed lest the public seem anything short of Penske perfect.

“This is his life’s work,” said Chip Ganassi, a longtime rival car owner. “The way he talks about the place, the energy in his voice over every element. This is his Mona Lisa.”

A car drives past the 16th Street entrance to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which has been refurbished by Roger Penske over the past six months (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).

Penske, for the record, is a billionaire transportation titan with a record 18 Indianapolis 500 victories.

He has powerhouse teams in both NASCAR and IndyCar, but the latter is now even more of a beloved project. When Tony George approached him last September to inform him the Hulman family was looking to sell the famous speedway, Penske pounced on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The deal was finalized in six weeks and he got the keys – he literally has a set of keys that opens doors inside the speedway – the first week of January. He quickly was climbing through the grandstands in a freezing Indiana rain as he personally inspected his sprawling new property, one of the most famous sports venues in history.

Penske is meticulous and every element of his operations reflects an immaculate and organized culture. When “The Captain” talks about sprucing up the speedway, he often references Augusta National, home of the Masters and a gold standard among golf tournaments in terms of resources, presentation and hospitality.

It is Penske’s expectation that fans will view Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the same level of admiration, awe and respect that Augusta receives.

“It’s my job. I’m not looking for a gold star or a blue ribbon, I just want to be sure the guests, the fans that come, ultimately when they can come, will have the experience that I hope they will,” Penske said. “I want to take Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the next level.”

He envisions three IndyCar races a season, a return of Formula One, a crown jewel sports car race and an improved NASCAR weekend that potentially could see the Cup Series shift to the road course and away from the 2.5-mile oval.


The updated rear facade of the Pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).

The platform above the new Pagoda video board is wide enough to fit 18 Indy cars – or a musical act for a concert in the plaza. The monitor itself could be used for a movie night, and Penske said eventually IndyCar races in other cities will be aired on the screen for watch parties.

He knows off the top of his head that 25,000 linear square feet of fencing – almost two laps around the oval – has been erected on the grounds. Penske said 4,000 cans of paint and counting have been used and can point out areas that have been updated. He marvels at the 400,000 square feet of asphalt that has been paved, particularly in lots once notorious for being muddy messes.

He can spot the new trees on the property and notes that 3 acres of sod were put down. Penske marveled at the immaculate grounds of the Brickyard Crossing golf course on the property, so he put the groundskeeper in charge of the entire place.

They temporarily closed the Crossing so energy could be focused on the rest of the grounds in time for this weekend’s race. Ganassi said as he flew into Indy, the green grass was what most struck him from his aerial view.

The place looks brand new and yet the work won’t stop any time soon.

Penske hopes to host 175,000 fans – half of capacity – for the rescheduled Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23, and he wants them to be wowed. There will be no fans this weekend, and even race teams are highly restricted on where they can go.

Mark Miles, the day-to-day head of the speedway, recalled that Penske executive Tim Cindric said “the place looks 25 years younger,” which Miles said is an understatement.

“It’s not just fresher and younger. There are areas that are just better,” Miles said. “The scale of the improvements, the comprehensiveness of the improvements, is remarkable. But the one thing that is really going to blow people away is the new big board on the back of the Pagoda. The mayor’s office downtown can hear the audio system on that. We’re looking forward to being able to show these things off.”

A new sign at Indianapolis Motor Speedway greets visitors as they enter the north entrance (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).