NHRA

NHRA: Kalitta, Beckman, Coughlin victorious at Winternationals

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The NHRA’s top level of drag racing kicked off its 65th season Sunday, with the 60th running of the Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Ponoma.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin, Jr. (Pro Stock) all emerged victorious at the end of the first weekend of the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Here are Sunday’s highlights:

In Top Fuel: Doug Kalitta made Winternationals history by collecting defeating Austin Prock to collect his third consecutive victory in his class.

Additionally, Kalitta is the first driver in Top Fuel history to win three consecutive events at Ponoma, having previously won both the season-ending NHRA finals and Winternationals at the track in 2019.

“It was definitely an interesting day. There was a lot of close racing today,” Kalitta said. “You’ve got people up their trying to tear the tree down on you, so it makes you a little bit nervous. It worked out really well for us. I’m just so proud of my Mac Tools Toyota guys. They busted their tails today. We tore up a few parts, but it was all good.

“To win the 60th Winternationals is pretty special.  Connie (Kalitta) was here at the first one, and he’s here with us and I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s created an amazing legacy out here and I’m just glad this is one of our better tracks.”

Noticeably absent from the season-opening weekend was two-time defending TF champ Steve Torrence, who did not compete due to “untimely circumstances”.

In Funny Car: For the first time in his career, Jack Beckman was victorious in a Funny Car at the Winternationals, defeating the sport’s most successful driver to do so.

Beckman beat John Force with a 3.837 at 333.33 mph to Force’s 3.897 at 332.34 mph to collect the 31st Funny Car victory of his career. He is tied with Del Worsham for eighth on the all-time FC wins list.

“It was just the perfect storm,” Beckman said. “I had never won a Nitro title here at Pomona until November of last year and now I’ve got two in a row. It’s beyond magical.

“I’ve said it before; you don’t know if your last win is your last win. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this ain’t our last win. The Infinite Hero team is just on it. Our car has been amazing.”

In Pro Stock: One day after announcing that 2020 would be his last full-time season, Jeg Coughlin Jr. defeated Jason Line to collect a Pro Stock Wally for the 64th time in his career.

Though Line had the quicker reaction time, Coughlin passed him to cross the finish line in first, running 6.522 at 210.80 mph compared to Line’s 6.565 at 209.56 mph.

“The best memory is racing under that famed Winternationals banner,” Coughlin said. “I was looking at the 60 years logo today and I was thinking about how cool that would be to have that banner over us today. What a win.”

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta; 2. Austin Prock; 3. Brittany Force; 4. Leah Pruett; 5. Clay Millican; 6. Justin Ashley; 7. Shawn Reed; 8. Jim Maroney; 9. Terry McMillen; 10. Cameron Ferre; 11. Antron Brown; 12. Shawn Langdon; 13. Brandon Welch. 

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman; 2. John Force; 3. Matt Hagan; 4. Alexis DeJoria; 5. Ron Capps; 6. Tim Wilkerson; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 8. Robert Hight; 9. Paul Lee; 10. Cruz Pedregon; 11. Alex Miladinovich; 12. J.R. Todd; 13. Steven Densham; 14. Bob Tasca III; 15. Bob Bode; 16. Terry Haddock. 

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

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FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL — Doug Kalitta, 3.698 seconds, 330.23 mph def. Austin Prock, 10.939 seconds, 80.31 mph. 

FUNNY CAR— Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.837, 333.33 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.897, 332.34. 

PRO STOCK — Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 210.80 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.565, 209.56.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL:

ROUND ONE — Clay Millican, 3.731, 323.58 def. Terry McMillen, 4.640, 183.05; Shawn Reed, 3.924, 238.26 def. Antron Brown, 5.233, 143.76; Brittany Force, 8.648, 77.72 was unopposed; Doug Kalitta, 3.885, 326.87 def. Brandon Welch, 7.325, 105.68; Leah Pruett, 3.659, 328.14 def. Jim Maroney, 4.503, 179.71; Austin Prock, 4.004, 316.15 def. Cameron Ferre, 5.164, 143.60; Justin Ashley, 3.726, 323.58 def. Shawn Langdon, 6.312, 102.28; 

QUARTERFINALS — Prock, 3.678, 330.96 was unopposed; Force, 3.682, 336.23 def. Millican, 3.867, 311.13; Kalitta, 3.705, 325.53 def. Ashley, 3.965, 231.83; Pruett, 3.685, 326.40 def. Reed, 4.466, 169.23; 

SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 3.675, 329.26 def. Force, 3.689, 332.84; Prock, 3.678, 330.63 def. Pruett, 4.927, 140.69; 

FINAL — Kalitta, 3.698, 330.23 def. Prock, 10.939, 80.31. 

FUNNY CAR:

ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 5.241, 166.52 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 9.056, 82.90; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.873, 324.83 def. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.383, 221.42; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 8.365, 85.58 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, Broke; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.291, 294.18 def. Steven Densham, Mustang, 7.622, 92.71; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.914, 330.39 def. Alex Miladinovich, Toyota Camry, 5.859, 124.03; John Force, Camaro, 3.875, 329.02 def. Bob Bode, Mustang, 10.726, 85.45; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.922, 326.71 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 4.091, 240.85;Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.879, 326.79 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 5.983, 116.29; 

QUARTERFINALS — Beckman, 3.871, 329.34 def. Capps, 4.625, 156.01; Force, 4.011, 275.06 def. Johnson Jr., 8.431, 80.69; DeJoria, 5.388, 136.12 def. Hight, 10.238, 86.54; Hagan, 4.042, 284.03 def. Wilkerson, 6.083, 113.18; 

SEMIFINALS — Force, 3.923, 331.28 def. Hagan, 8.859, 78.06; Beckman, 3.843, 332.92 def. DeJoria, 9.729, 78.34; 

FINAL — Beckman, 3.837, 333.33 def. Force, 3.897, 332.34. 

PRO STOCK: 

ROUND ONE — Chris McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.590, 209.52 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 7.233, 148.18; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.569, 209.39 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.561, 210.14; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.628, 209.75 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.572, 209.46; Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.619, 208.78 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 7.439, 207.05; Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.559, 210.05 def. Val Smeland, Camaro, 6.640, 208.97; Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.692, 206.70 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 37.710, 21.14; Erica Enders, Camaro, 7.429, 130.13 def. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, No Time Recorded; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.542, 210.18 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, 6.700, 206.29; 

QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.586, 210.50 def. Hartford, Foul – Red Light; Line, 6.574, 208.65 def. Cuadra Jr., Foul – Red Light; Delco, 6.597, 209.69 def. Graham, 7.329, 146.48; Coughlin, 6.546, 210.28 def. McGaha, 6.574, 209.72; 

SEMIFINALS — Line, 6.582, 208.94 def. Enders, 6.621, 209.95; Coughlin, 6.535, 210.44 def. Delco, 6.716, 180.28; 

FINAL — Coughlin, 6.522, 210.80 def. Line, 6.565, 209.56.

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POINT STANDINGS

TOP FUEL: 1. Doug Kalitta, 117; 2. Austin Prock, 99; 3. Brittany Force, 87; 4. Leah Pruett, 80; 5. Clay Millican, 53; 6. Justin Ashley, 52; 7. Shawn Reed, 51; 8. Shawn Langdon, 38; 9. Terry McMillen, 34; 10. Antron Brown, 32.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman, 126; 2. John Force, 94; 3. Matt Hagan, 86; 4. Alexis DeJoria, 67; 5. Robert Hight, 61; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 56; 7. Ron Capps, 54; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 52; 9. Paul Lee, 34; 10. J.R. Todd, 33.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jeg Coughlin, 130; 2. Jason Line, 94; 3. Erica Enders, 80; 4. Kenny Delco, 77; 5. (tie) Steve Graham, 52; Matt Hartford, 52; Chris McGaha, 52; 8. Fernando Cuadra Jr., 51; 9. Deric Kramer, 40; 10. Bo Butner, 36.

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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.