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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Robert Wickens shares more positive strides toward recovery in new video

Joe Skibinski/IndyCar
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Robert Wickens has made massive steps since sustaining a spinal cord injury in an Aug. 19, 2018 crash at Pocono Raceway.

Since the accident, Wickens publicly has shared his recovery, often uploading videos of his physical rehabilitation on Twitter.

In his most recent update on Wednesday, Wickens shared a video of him walking on a treadmill. Fellow NTT IndyCar Series competitor Tony Kannan, who competes in triathlons during his spare time, also was visible running on the treadmill behind Wickens.

“When I am @TonyKannan [sic] age, I hope to run as fast as him…” Wickens tweeted. “Today was a good day!”

Wickens, who will turn 31 on March 13, first made his return to the IndyCar paddock in last year’s season opener in St. Petersburg. Since then, he’s made a return to the driver’s seat, piloting a specialized Acura NSX prior to the start of last year’s IndyCar race in his hometown of Toronto.

In September, Wickens fulfilled a vow to his wife Karli, by standing with her during their wedding. The new husband and wife also danced together during their reception.

Should Wickens fully recover to resume racing, Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt has stated that the team’s No. 6 entry will be available for him to drive. Wickens continues to remain as a “driver coach and consultant” for the team.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter