From left: Andrew Hines, Billy Torrence, Greg Anderson, Robert Hight. Photo: NHRA.

NHRA Sonoma winners: Hight, B. Torrence, Anderson and Hines

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Even though his boss continues to chase a milestone 150th career win, Robert Hight earned his own milestone in Sunday’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, capturing the 50th win of his Funny Car career.

Hight (3.973 seconds at 325.45 mph) defeated Matt Hagan (4.030 seconds at 316.60 mph) to earn his fifth win of the season. In doing so, he continues to maintain a stranglehold on the Funny Car point standings, which he’s led since the season-opening race at Pomona, California in February.

Hight is now one of only three drivers to win at least 50 races in Funny Car history, joining Force and Ron Capps.

Hight, who is married to Force’s oldest daughter, Adria, was No. 1 qualifier for Sunday’s eliminations and also earned a first-round bye. He then defeated Blake Alexander and last week’s winner at Denver, Tommy Johnson Jr., in the quarter-finals and semifinals, respectively.

The first national event I ever attended was right here (at Sonoma), and I never honestly dreamed I would get to drive a Funny Car,” said Hight, who now has three career wins in Sonoma. “I still have to pinch myself. It’s hard to believe I’m at 50 (wins).”

Hagan, meanwhile, defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman and 2018 Funny Car world champion J.R. Todd in the first two rounds, then beat Force in the semifinals before his matchup with Hight.

Matt Hagan had the best car out there in the second and third round, and we had to step up in the final,” Hight said. “We didn’t want to get outrun, and we really pushed in the final and got the win.”

In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence was stopped from earning his fourth win in a row and his 10th win in the season’s first 15 races by someone he knows quite well: his father, Billy, who earned his third career Top Fuel win – all of which have come in the last year.

To add icing to his victorious cake, Billy Torrence is now just 31 points from becoming one of 10 drivers to qualify for the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs. What makes that potential achievement unique is that Billy Torrence is only a part-time driver on the Top Fuel circuit.

Billy Torrence defeated his son Steve in the first round, and Austin Prock and Steve Faria in the next two rounds. Billy Torrence (3.804 seconds at 320.20 mph) then defeated No. 1 qualifier Clay Millican (3.842 seconds at 321.65 seconds) in the final round to earn the event win.

Millican, meanwhile, had a bye in the first round and then defeated three-time champion Antron Brown and 2017 champion Brittany Force before meeting up with Billy Torrence in the final round.

We had a good car going into raceday and we were just steady,” Billy Torrence said. “We had a really tough race against Steve, and we knew Clay had a good car. It took it all (to beat him).

We have a good car and we’re capable of winning everywhere we go. I couldn’t do this without Steve’s team and it takes all of those guys. They make certain I have a very well-prepared car every time I show up, and they make me look good.”

Still, Billy Torrence is going to really enjoy this weekend, joking to NationalDragster.com, “There will be a little bragging going on at home tomorrow.”

In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson won his second race in a row and the second in the Western Swing. Anderson, who had gone a year before his win at Denver last week, covered the quarter-mile in 6.602 seconds at 208.71 mph to defeat Alex Laughlin in the final round at Sonoma. Anderson now goes for the sweep at Seattle.

Anderson previously swept the Western Swing in 2004, the only driver in Pro Stock history to sweep the Swing. Sunday’s win is the 93rd of his Pro Stock career.

Anderson defeated, in order, Kenny Delco, Jeg Coughlin Jr. (car would not start) and K.B. Racing teammate Jason Line in the semifinals before meeting Laughlin in the final.

It’s been a long time since I won two races in a row and it’s more of a mind game than anything, and you’ve got a find a way to get that right,” said Anderson, who has a class-best six victories at Sonoma. “This is going to do a lot for me.

Sonoma has always been one of my very favorite tracks on the circuit. I love the tracks where the cars run fast. As two races have shaken out, I’m the only guy standing with a chance to (sweep the Swing), and I’ll go into Seattle with a smile on my face, eager to race and see if the cards can fall the right way again.”

Laughlin, meanwhile, began Sunday as the No. 1 qualifier for the second time in his career. He then defeated, in order, Val Smeland, Erica Enders and Bo Butner before facing Anderson in the final round.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Andrew Hines won for a record seventh time this season (6.790 seconds at 198.00 mph), defeating defending PSM champion Matt Smith (6.822 seconds at 197.36 mph). It was the culmination of a great weekend for Hines, who also won Saturday’s Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle – a race within a race – for the seventh time in his career and the $25,000 first place prize that goes with it, defeating Vance & Hines teammate Eddie Krawiec.

Hines defeated Jerry Savoie, Scotty Pollacheck and Kelly Clontz to reach Sunday’s final round match-up vs. Smith.

“This might be the best motorcycle I’ve ever had underneath me,” Hines said of the 55th PSM win of his career and third career win at Sonoma. “It’s absolutely mind-boggling what we’ve been able to achieve this year.

The confidence with my motorcycle and my team, and the level of performance and professionalism the guys bring to the starting line every single time, it’s unsurpassed right now. I can sit on that starting line with confidence and it’s just unreal. I feel I’m probably riding the best in my career and I just want it that much more.”

The Pro Stock Motorcycle category returns to action at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend in suburban Indianapolis.

The final event of the three-race Western Swing for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock continues next weekend (August 2-4) in the NHRA Northwest Nationals in Seattle.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

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

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

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

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

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SUNDAY’S FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Billy Torrence, 3.804 seconds, 320.20 mph def. Clay Millican, 3.842 seconds, 321.65 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.973, 325.45 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.030, 316.60.

PRO STOCK: Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.602, 208.71 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 7.203, 175.68.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.790, 198.00 def. Matt Smith, EBR, 6.822, 197.36.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Austin Prock, 3.744, 327.66 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.774, 324.44; Doug Kalitta, 3.795, 324.83 def. Scott Palmer, 6.455, 93.38; Clay Millican, 3.725, 328.94 was unopposed; Billy Torrence, 3.758, 325.53 def. Steve Faria, 6.618, 89.58; Steve Torrence, 3.802, 324.36 def. Steven Chrisman, 9.016, 65.91; Antron Brown, 3.863, 312.35 def. Cameron Ferre, 3.992, 254.47; Richie Crampton, 3.798, 319.52 def. Terry McMillen, 3.855, 308.99; Brittany Force, 3.718, 335.15 def. Mike Salinas, 3.740, 327.74; QUARTERFINALS — S. Torrence, 3.825, 321.19 def. Crampton, 5.115, 138.41; B. Torrence, 3.838, 307.09 def. Prock, 4.667, 177.67; Brown, 4.064, 304.74 def. Kalitta, 4.637, 191.29; Millican, 3.838, 315.05 def. Force, 4.072, 270.10; SEMIFINALS — Millican, 3.858, 320.74 def. Brown, 3.931, 306.95; B. Torrence, 3.779, 324.75 def. S. Torrence, 3.822, 311.92; FINAL — B. Torrence, 3.804, 320.20 def. Millican, 3.842, 321.65.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.944, 325.85 def. Jim Campbell, Dodge Charger, 4.559, 187.29; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.925, 327.35 was unopposed; Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 3.952, 315.71 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 6.548, 102.27; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.996, 320.74 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.529, 195.45; John Force, Camaro, 3.917, 327.11 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.216, 228.89; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.084, 273.72 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, Foul – Red Light; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.958, 324.59 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.441, 197.97; Blake Alexander, Mustang, 4.010, 314.75 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.466, 197.22; QUARTERFINALS — Johnson Jr., 4.031, 318.47 def. Tasca III, 5.622, 129.85; Hight, 4.007, 323.35 def. Alexander, 4.055, 303.98; Force, 4.111, 312.13 def. Langdon, 5.664, 128.65; Hagan, 3.924, 325.37 def. Beckman, 3.995, 321.81; SEMIFINALS — Hight, 4.011, 323.19 def. Johnson Jr., 4.046, 318.54; Hagan, 3.962, 322.42 def. Force, Broke; FINAL — Hight, 3.973, 325.45 def. Hagan, 4.030, 316.60.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.579, 210.54 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.611, 209.46; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.570, 210.08 def. Richard Freeman, Camaro, 6.585, 210.01; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.570, 209.52 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.594, 209.69; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.577, 209.75 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, Foul – Centerline; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.552, 210.57 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.594, 208.17; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.561, 210.47 def. Steve Matusek, Ford Mustang, 6.611, 209.49; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.553, 209.92 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.610, 209.43; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.559, 209.98 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Camaro, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — Butner, 6.593, 210.05 def. McGaha, 6.745, 180.28; Anderson, 6.568, 211.10 def. Coughlin, Broke; Line, 6.574, 209.85 def. Kramer, 6.578, 210.41; Laughlin, 6.578, 209.10 def. Enders, 6.651, 208.14; SEMIFINALS — Laughlin, 6.614, 209.95 def. Butner, Foul – Red Light; Anderson, 6.625, 209.52 def. Line, 6.593, 208.71; FINAL — Anderson, 6.602, 208.71 def. Laughlin, 7.203, 175.68.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Katie Sullivan, Suzuki, 6.927, 194.21 def. Hector Arana Jr, Foul – Red Light; Ryan Oehler, 6.892, 196.22 def. Cory Reed, Foul – Red Light; Hector Arana, 6.868, 197.02 def. Angie Smith, 6.914, 194.04; Scotty Pollacheck, 11.395, 72.34 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light; Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 6.886, 194.44 def. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.874, 197.02; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.807, 197.62 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.060, 191.38; Matt Smith, 6.878, 196.47 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 7.096, 191.48; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.827, 197.39 def. Joey Gladstone, 6.898, 192.74; QUARTERFINALS — M. Smith, 9.900, 88.18 def. Oehler, Broke; Arana, 6.882, 198.12 def. Sampey, Foul – Red Light; Savoie, 6.794, 198.96 def. Sullivan, 6.938, 194.72; Hines, 6.801, 198.67 def. Pollacheck, 6.896, 196.36; SEMIFINALS — M. Smith, 6.880, 198.06 def. Arana, 6.976, 196.93; Hines, 6.805, 198.23 def. Savoie, 6.807, 197.88; FINAL — Hines, 6.790, 198.00 def. M. Smith, 6.822, 197.36.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,486*; 2. (tie) Antron Brown, 914; Clay Millican, 914; 4. Brittany Force, 894; 5. Doug Kalitta, 887; 6. Mike Salinas, 802; 7. Leah Pritchett, 749; 8. Richie Crampton, 719; 9. (tie) Terry McMillen, 641; Austin Prock, 641.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 1,283*; 2. Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,084*; 3. John Force, 1,035; 4. Jack Beckman, 964; 5. Ron Capps, 962; 6. Bob Tasca III, 924; 7. J.R. Todd, 889; 8. Matt Hagan, 888; 9. Shawn Langdon, 786; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 757.

PRO STOCK: 1. Bo Butner, 781*; 2. Greg Anderson, 675; 3. Alex Laughlin, 658; 4. Jason Line, 582; 5. Matt Hartford, 567; 6. Deric Kramer, 558; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 544; 8. Erica Enders, 535; 9. Chris McGaha, 477; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 320.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 967*; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 770*; 3. Matt Smith, 712*; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 658*; 5. Karen Stoffer, 452; 6. Angie Smith, 419; 7. Ryan Oehler, 408; 8. Hector Arana, 400; 9. Angelle Sampey, 397; 10. Jerry Savoie, 379.

* Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship

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NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

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The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

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Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

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When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

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Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

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