NHRA photo from left: Karen Stoffer, Erica Enders, Shawn Langdon, Billy Torrence

NHRA: Upsets abound in final rounds at Gateway

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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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Latest INDYCAR Aeroscreen test continues to provide feedback; data to series

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After completing its third Aeroscreen test since October 2, INDYCAR continues to collect valuable data and feedback from the drivers and engineers involved in testing.

The latest test of the Aeroscreen came Tuesday, October 15 at Richmond Raceway, a .750-mile short oval. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been involved in testing dating all the way back to 2017 at Phoenix with the original “Windscreen.” Tuesday’s test was the first-time two-time NTT IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was able to test the device that partially encloses the cockpit proving greatly enhanced driver safety.

It was also the first time the current “Aeroscreen” designed and created by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and Dallara has been tested at a short oval – a track that measures under 1.5-miles in length.

The previous tests were at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and the Barber Motorsports Park road course on October 7.

“It wasn’t a problem getting in the car today and relearning a new viewpoint,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com at the conclusion of Tuesday’s test. “It felt like a new viewpoint. It’s still an Indy car. It still feels like an Indy car. The car does a lot of the things it did before. It required some slight tuning differences to accommodate a different center of gravity and different total weight.

“Overall, it still felt like the same Indy car I drove three weeks ago. You get used to that new viewpoint within 30 or 40 laps. It was alien at first but halfway through the day it feels like home again.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske test team along with INDYCAR officials worked on changes to getting air into the cockpit and directing the air to the right place where the driver can utilize it.

“We’ve come up with some solutions that we like,” Newgarden said. “INDYCAR and the teams will continue to fine-tune this. That is why we are doing these tests. The main goal was to figure this out and fine-tune this stuff. We have come up with a lot of good solutions to all of the little things we have talked about that we have needed so when Sebastien Bourdais goes to Sebring (on November 5), it will just be another version.

“We are already close. Because they are such small details, it feels like normal racing stuff and we will come up with solutions for that.”

Some drivers who have participated in the Aeroscreen test has said, they almost feel naked without having the halo-like structure with a clear windshield protecting them on the race car.

“Once we got through a whole IndyCar season, if you took it off, it would feel really strange,” Newgarden said. “People adapt so quickly to a change, what the car looks like. Once you give us a couple of races and a full year, it will feel like home and something we are very used to as drivers.

“It is already starting to get that way. People are feeling more comfortable with it. The field of view is almost identical to the way it was before. Your peripheral vision is identical, the way you look out the front of the cars is identical, the way you see the tires is identical.”

Individual driver preference will allow for shading of the sun and that can be accomplished with the visor strips on the helmet and the tear-offs on Aeroscreen.

Drivers will also have a bit of a quieter atmosphere inside the cockpit. The partial enclosure makes it easier to hear his radio communication and the sounds of the engine in the driver’s car. It partially blocks out the sounds of the engines in the other cars and the rush of wind traveling at high speeds that used to buffet in and around the helmet.

“It has changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit,” Newgarden said. “For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.

“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine.”

Dixon was in the car at Indianapolis on October 2 and returned on Tuesday. The Barber test on October 7 included this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, in a Team Penske Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

“The only differences are the openings on the front wing that creates some more airflow around the legs and body and a different inlet in the screen that was in place today,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There were helmet cooling options since the Barber test because on the road course, some of the drivers were getting a little hotter.

“This project has been very in-depth. It hit the ground running very smoothly. There are some alternate options they are trying to create, especially on the street courses where we will experience hot condition. On street conditions, your depth perception changes because of how close you are to the walls, but we should get used to that.”

Two weeks ago, Team Penske driver Will Power said it takes a different style to get out of the race car because of the added height of the Aeroscreen.

That hasn’t been a problem for Dixon.

“That’s easy, man,” he said. “Just go through the hole in the top.”