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NHRA: Winning weekend in New England for Hagan, Torrence

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At the rate things are going, New England Dragway may want to think about changing its name to something like Matt Hagan Dragway.

For the third time in as many years, the Don Schumacher Racing driver won the NHRA Funny Car division in Sunday’s finals of the New England Nationals at the Epping, New Hampshire dragstrip.

Hagan (4.014 seconds at 322.81 mph) defeated Shawn Langdon (4.046 seconds at 317.49 mph) in the final round to take home the “Wally” winner’s trophy.

It’s Hagan’s second win of the 2019 season and 31st of his Funny Car career. In his semi-final matchup Sunday, Hagan stopped Bob Tasca III’s two-race winning streak (Tasca won at both Bristol, Tennessee, and Norwalk, Ohio in the last two NHRA national events).

We went down the track in qualifying and that created a lot of confidence in our team,” said Hagan, who also picked up his 350th career round win during eliminations. “Rolling into race day, I knew we had a great car and I was confident in it.

We kept lane choice every pass and that was big. I’m really excited we were able to get another win and we needed this to be our turning point this season. We needed to gather up some momentum and I feel like we’re making the right steps to move forward coming out of this race.”

As for Top Fuel, Torrence remains virtually unstoppable. The Texas native earned his seventh win of the season, as well as his second straight triumph at New England.

Torrence (3.861 seconds at 321.58 mph) defeated Scott Palmer (4.014 seconds, 251.25 mph) in the final round to keep his class-dominating performance rolling. Torrence is now just four wins away from tying his 11-win season in 2018, which included becoming the first driver in NHRA history to win all six Countdown to the Championship playoff races.

Sunday’s win was Torrence’s 13th in the last 19 races dating back to last season’s playoffs and 26th win since 2017.

I really, really want Scott Palmer to win a race, but we want to win them all, too,” said Torrence, who qualified ninth and won from the seventh different qualifying position in 2019. “That was a great final round. That’s a really good group of guys and to see the progression we’ve both made, it’s pretty neat and really special for us.

Without being cocky and just being confident, you carry the mindset of you want to go everywhere and win. With doing that, you don’t treat anywhere any differently. This is a fun place to come to and it’s a pretty neat part of the country.”

NOTES: Torrence is nominated for the Best Driver Award at Wednesday’s 2019 ESPY Awards. … Surprisingly, Mike Salinas, who has been one of the biggest stories in Top Fuel this season after Torrence, did not make the trip from his San Jose, California home base for this weekend’s race in New England. … John Force still continues to chase the 150th win of his illustrious career. … There are now 11 races left on the 24-race NHRA national event schedule. … The NHRA enjoys next weekend off before the start of the annual “West Coast Swing,” which begins July 19-21 with the 40th Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, followed by Sonoma, California and Seattle, Washington.

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Here’s the final statistics from Sunday’s eliminations in New Hampshire:

FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Scott Palmer; 3. Richie Crampton; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Dom Lagana; 6. Terry McMillen; 7. Antron Brown; 8. Austin Prock; 9. Audrey Worm; 10. Brittany Force; 11. Cameron Ferre; 12. Doug Kalitta; 13. Dan Mercier.

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

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SUNDAY’S FINAL ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.861 seconds, 321.58 mph def. Scott Palmer, 4.014 seconds, 251.25 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.014, 322.81 def. Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 4.046, 317.49.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Dom Lagana, 3.862, 305.98 def. Brittany Force, Foul – Red Light; Steve Torrence, 3.756, 328.62 def. Austin Prock, 3.843, 323.19; Clay Millican, 3.914, 247.84 was unopposed; Terry McMillen, 3.867, 322.50 def. Doug Kalitta, 7.563, 104.88; Antron Brown, 4.018, 281.42 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.406, 187.26; Scott Palmer, 3.894, 320.13 def. Dan Mercier, Broke; Richie Crampton, 3.827, 320.20 def. Audrey Worm, 4.020, 296.11; QUARTERFINALS — Palmer, 4.252, 214.31 def. Brown, 6.843, 101.10; Millican, 3.813, 324.20 def. Lagana, 3.886, 321.81; Crampton, 4.176, 219.01 was unopposed; Torrence, 3.883, 323.81 def. McMillen, 4.328, 217.25; SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.832, 323.35 def. Crampton, 4.062, 292.20; Palmer, 3.905, 299.13 def. Millican, 9.020, 79.49; FINAL — Torrence, 3.861, 321.58 def. Palmer, 4.014, 251.25.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.540, 188.10 was unopposed; Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.006, 320.20 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.568, 206.01; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.037, 281.36 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.239, 268.76; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.980, 315.19 def. Mike Smith, Dodge Stratus, 7.299, 84.21; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.036, 316.75 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.062, 305.98; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.958, 326.24 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.016, 322.04; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.511, 257.28 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.540, 244.56; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.259, 233.72 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.559, 186.38; QUARTERFINALS — Tasca III, 4.023, 319.22 def. Pedregon, 4.045, 319.45; Hagan, 3.991, 325.22 def. Capps, 4.101, 262.64; Langdon, 3.999, 320.51 def. Hight, 4.103, 271.24; Wilkerson, 4.242, 233.88 def. Todd, 4.274, 229.12; SEMIFINALS — Langdon, 4.006, 320.36 def. Wilkerson, 4.053, 315.56; Hagan, 4.000, 324.05 def. Tasca III, 4.478, 219.12; FINAL — Hagan, 4.014, 322.81 def. Langdon, 4.046, 317.49.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,278; 2. Doug Kalitta, 799; 3. Antron Brown, 781; 4. Brittany Force, 777; 5. Mike Salinas, 732; 6. Clay Millican, 730; 7. Leah Pritchett, 651; 8. Richie Crampton, 612; 9. Terry McMillen, 576; 10. Scott Palmer, 563.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 1,079; 2. John Force, 903; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 891; 4. Ron Capps, 870; 5. Jack Beckman, 851; 6. J.R. Todd, 825; 7. (tie) Matt Hagan, 770; Bob Tasca III, 770; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 691; 10. Shawn Langdon, 675.

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Graham Rahal’s ‘Weighty Issue’

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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses lasers to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around. There was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“It takes a long time, I think,” Rahal said. “It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is.”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

“It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy.

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (crap), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches, and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”