NHRA: Upsets abound in final rounds at Gateway

NHRA photo from left: Karen Stoffer, Erica Enders, Shawn Langdon, Billy Torrence
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The name of the game in Sunday’s eliminations of the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway near St. Louis was upsets.

Shawn Langdon (Funny Car), Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all emerged victorious at the end of the second race of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

In Top Fuel: Billy Torrence earned his third win of the season and fourth of his career, showing his son and defending Top Fuel champ Steve that father sometimes does know best.

Billy Torrence covered the track at 3.835 seconds at 319.67 mph to his son’s effort of 4.374 seconds at 195.93 mph. It marks the second time the father-son duo have met in a final round, and that record is now even at one win apiece for each driver. It also is just the third father-son final round matchup in NHRA history.

Even with the loss, Steve Torrence still closed in on points leader Doug Kalitta, who now holds just a two-point lead over the defending series champ.

To get to race Steve in the final was the goal,” Billy Torrence said. “We watched how we qualified and we did a good job of staying on opposite sides of the ladder. It came out a little better for me in the end this time.

It’s tough to come out here. You’re at the pinnacle of drag racing on this level, but I’ve got to have fun. It’s just a blessing to get to be out here with my family. We’ve raced everything and it’s just really fun. It’s a family sport and we’re right in the middle of it.”

In Funny Car: It was an all-Kalitta Motorsports final round as Langdon defeated teammate and defending Funny Car champion J.R. Todd.

A former NHRA Top Fuel world champ, Langdon became only the second driver in NHRA history to win in both Top Fuel and Funny Car at the suburban St. Louis track. He clocked a time and speed of 4.068 seconds at 310.41 mph over Todd’s effort of 4.276 seconds at 223.32 mph.

It was the second career Funny Car win for Langdon, who switched to Funny Cars from Top Fuel prior to the start of the 2018 season. Including his Top Fuel record, he now has won 16 national event finals.

What an incredible day,” Langdon said. “Going through qualifying, we had a consistent car. We’ve got such a great group of guys and it was a pretty good day. Anytime you can get a win in this class, it builds momentum.

We had to make some big changes coming into St. Louis and the car was flawless for me to drive. I love racing for (team owner) Connie (Kalitta). He just has so much passion. He’s a great motivator and a great leader, and we just follow his vision. We all just work together.”

Even though he didn’t win, Robert Hight took over the Funny Car points lead.

In Pro Stock: Two-time champion Erica Enders moved a step closer to a potential third Pro Stock championship, earning her first win since early in 2018 with an effort of 6.598 seconds at 208.36 mph, defeating Matt Hartford (6.621 seconds at 207.30 mph) in the final round.

Enders came into Sunday’s eliminations as the event’s No. 1 qualifier and left with her 24th career win, her first since Charlotte in spring 2018. She also moved into the No. 2 spot in the standings.

We just had to pick ourselves up and we redeemed ourselves after our poor performance in Reading (the playoff opener two weeks ago at Reading, Pennsylvania),” Enders said. “I’m ready for the remaining four races. I put my money on us.

It’s all come together at the right time. It feels like it’s been eternity since we last won in 2018. We just continue to keep our heads down and working hard, and this definitely means a lot to our entire program. I knew every time we fired that bad boy up, we were going to go out and make a really great pass.”

In Pro Stock Motorcycle: Also winning after a lengthy winless drought was Stoffer, who earned her first win in four seasons (since 2015). Stoffer (6.869 seconds at 197.74 mph) upset points leader Andrew Hines (6.871 seconds at 196.59 mph) in the final round for the ninth win of her career.

The big win also vaulted Stoffer into the second spot in the standings behind series leader Hines. It was the first time the two have faced each other in the final round of a national event in nine years.

I really don’t feel the pressure out there because every team is phenomenal,” Stoffer said. “I listened to the team and did what I had been doing. We had Matt (defending PSM champ Matt Smith and this weekend’s No. 1 qualifier), and then Eddie (Krawiec) and then we had Andrew (Hines).

Out of all the heavy hitters, those are it. We just went out and did our job. The Suzuki platform definitely went through some challenges and we’re not one of those high-budget teams, but we have fun. It’s been a long time (since her last win), and I wasn’t even scheduled to race this year, and here we are in the top 10 and winning a race in the Countdown.”

NOTES: With this weekend being the 20th race on the 24-race NHRA national event schedule, there are now four races remaining in the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs. … The wins by Stoffer and Enders marked the first time in NHRA history that females won in both Pro Stock classes at the same race. It also marked the 148th and 149th win for females in NHRA history. … The next race and the midway point of the playoffs occurs in two weeks – from October 11-13 – with the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Billy Torrence; 2. Steve Torrence; 3. Mike Salinas; 4. Leah Pritchett; 5. Doug Kalitta; 6. Austin Prock; 7. Pat Dakin; 8. Terry McMillen; 9. T.J. Zizzo; 10. Clay Millican; 11. Brittany Force; 12. Kyle Wurtzel; 13. Cameron Ferre; 14. Richie Crampton; 15. Antron Brown; 16. Scott Palmer.

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

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

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Karen Stoffer; 2. Andrew Hines; 3. Steve Johnson; 4. Eddie Krawiec; 5. Matt Smith; 6. Angie Smith; 7. Angelle Sampey; 8. Hector Arana Jr; 9. Hector Arana; 10. Kelly Clontz; 11. Jerry Savoie; 12. Michael Ray; 13. Ryan Oehler; 14. Andie Rawlings; 15. Scotty Pollacheck; 16. Jianna Salinas.

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Billy Torrence, 3.835 seconds, 319.67 mph def. Steve Torrence, 4.374 seconds, 195.93 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 4.068, 310.41 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.276, 223.32.

PRO STOCK: Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.598, 208.36 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.621, 207.30.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.869, 197.74 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.876, 196.59.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Terry McMillen, 3.781, 323.81 def. Clay Millican, 3.801, 326.08; Pat Dakin, 3.793, 327.27 def. Brittany Force, 3.802, 294.31; Austin Prock, 3.744, 326.00 def. T.J. Zizzo, 3.769, 329.75; Billy Torrence, 3.793, 326.08 def. Kyle Wurtzel, 3.908, 274.22; Mike Salinas, 3.733, 328.70 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.011, 300.66; Steve Torrence, 3.746, 325.77 def. Scott Palmer, Broke; Leah Pritchett, 3.764, 326.87 def. Antron Brown, 6.001, 116.41; Doug Kalitta, 4.285, 248.48 def. Richie Crampton, 5.086, 136.25; QUARTERFINALS — B. Torrence, 3.801, 321.12 def. Kalitta, 3.827, 323.04; S. Torrence, 3.784, 323.58 def. Dakin, 4.656, 164.31; Pritchett, 3.835, 321.88 def. Prock, 3.925, 309.06; Salinas, 3.773, 325.22 def. McMillen, 5.250, 137.39; SEMIFINALS — B. Torrence, 3.769, 322.96 def. Pritchett, 5.290, 132.79; S. Torrence, 3.805, 324.59 def. Salinas, 3.937, 312.13; FINAL — B. Torrence, 3.835, 319.67 def. S. Torrence, 4.374, 195.93.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.921, 331.85 def. Bob Bode, Ford Mustang, 4.013, 320.36; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.920, 328.22 def. Cruz Pedregon, Dodge Charger, 5.588, 129.10; John Force, Camaro, 3.939, 326.08 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 9.152, 77.06; Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.197, 249.39 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.204, 265.06; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.966, 328.86 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.997, 319.29; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.915, 325.14 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 5.162, 158.52; Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 3.907, 330.47 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.898, 324.44; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.954, 327.27 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.944, 326.56; QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 3.986, 326.56 def. Force, 4.870, 169.55; Langdon, 5.875, 253.52 def. Campbell, 6.940, 93.59; Tasca III, 3.947, 321.19 def. Wilkerson, 4.012, 315.56; Hight, 3.988, 323.27 def. Capps, 4.272, 225.52; SEMIFINALS — Todd, 3.979, 325.37 def. Hight, 12.733, 62.18; Langdon, 3.953, 323.50 def. Tasca III, 3.976, 323.04; FINAL — Langdon, 4.068, 310.41 def. Todd, 4.276, 223.32.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Aaron Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 6.623, 207.30 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.618, 207.53; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.601, 208.23 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.637, 207.88; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.617, 207.62 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.615, 208.33; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.633, 208.33 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.584, 208.91; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.601, 207.78 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Camaro, 6.637, 208.30; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.592, 209.14 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, Foul – Red Light; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.590, 207.78 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.640, 207.66; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.603, 207.69 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.646, 207.40; QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.658, 207.59 def. Anderson, 6.672, 209.56; Butner, 6.638, 207.78 def. Coughlin, 6.630, 207.21; Hartford, 6.644, 207.37 def. Line, 9.100, 103.58; Enders, 6.614, 208.14 def. Stanfield, 6.628, 207.34; SEMIFINALS — Hartford, 6.643, 207.50 def. Butner, 6.647, 208.39; Enders, 6.628, 207.82 def. McGaha, 6.621, 208.68; FINAL — Enders, 6.598, 208.36 def. Hartford, 6.621, 207.30.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.911, 195.85 def. Ryan Oehler, 7.037, 193.52; Hector Arana Jr, 6.935, 194.77 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.971, 195.31; Angie Smith, 6.934, 195.03 def. Hector Arana, 6.951, 194.02; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.872, 195.39 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.967, 191.84; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.872, 195.22 def. Michael Ray, 7.018, 190.54; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.854, 195.73 def. Andie Rawlings, Suzuki, 7.121, 185.87; Matt Smith, 6.902, 197.77 def. Jianna Salinas, Suzuki, 11.986, 67.85; Angelle Sampey, Harley-Davidson, 6.907, 194.83 def. Scotty Pollacheck, 9.873, 86.58; QUARTERFINALS — Stoffer, 6.916, 196.30 def. M. Smith, Foul – Red Light; Hines, 6.895, 195.17 def. A. Smith, 6.926, 193.88; Johnson, 6.914, 194.07 def. Sampey, Foul – Red Light; Krawiec, 6.892, 195.59 def. Arana Jr, 7.011, 193.63; SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.916, 195.42 def. Johnson, 6.892, 193.90; Stoffer, 6.921, 195.59 def. Krawiec, 6.927, 194.38; FINAL — Stoffer, 6.869, 197.74 def. Hines, 6.876, 196.59.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta, 2,232; 2. Steve Torrence, 2,230; 3. Mike Salinas, 2,191; 4. Brittany Force, 2,184; 5. Leah Pritchett, 2,170; 6. (tie) Antron Brown, 2,159; Richie Crampton, 2,159; 8. Austin Prock, 2,153; 9. Billy Torrence, 2,152; 10. Clay Millican, 2,125.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 2,235; 2. John Force, 2,222; 3. Jack Beckman, 2,211; 4. Ron Capps, 2,191; 5. J.R. Todd, 2,182; 6. Bob Tasca III, 2,156; 7. Shawn Langdon, 2,155; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,138; 9. Matt Hagan, 2,132; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 2,109.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jason Line, 2,254; 2. Erica Enders, 2,243; 3. Bo Butner, 2,232; 4. Matt Hartford, 2,197; 5. Alex Laughlin, 2,171; 6. Jeg Coughlin, 2,160; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,147; 8. Deric Kramer, 2,132; 9. Chris McGaha, 2,113; 10. Val Smeland, 2,062.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Andrew Hines, 2,266; 2. Karen Stoffer, 2,232; 3. Eddie Krawiec, 2,215; 4. Matt Smith, 2,205; 5. Jerry Savoie, 2,200; 6. Hector Arana Jr, 2,169; 7. Angelle Sampey, 2,136; 8. Angie Smith, 2,116; 9. Ryan Oehler, 2,075; 10. Hector Arana, 2,064.

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Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.