NHRA crowns Torrence, Hagan, Enders and Smith as champions at Las Vegas

NHRA Las Vegas championships
Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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LAS VEGAS — Steve Torrence, Matt Hagan, Erica Enders and Matt Smith held onto their points leads to win season championships Sunday at the Dodge NHRA Finals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Torrence raced to his third straight Top Fuel championship, Hagan claimed his third Funny Car title, Enders won her fourth Pro Stock crown, and Smith captured his fourth Pro Stock Motorcycle title.

Hagan and Enders raced to event victories as well, with Hagan giving Don Schumacher Racing its 14th straight victory in the class dating to 2019. He beat Ron Capps with a 3.914-second run at 326.40 mph in a Dodge Charger SRT for his third win of the season and 36th overall.

“It’s been a dogfight the whole time,” Hagan said. “We had to battle it out and I can’t say enough about how proud I am of (crew chief) Dickie Venables and all my guys. They bust their butts each day and I try to drive the wheels off this thing. I love my team, I love my guys and I love everybody who allows us to do this.”

Enders raced to her fourth victory of the season and 29th overall. She beat Kyle Koretsky with a 6.643 at 206.39 in a Chevrolet Camaro.

Antron Brown won the Top Fuel event, and Angie Smith — Mike Smith’s wife — topped the Pro Stock Motorcycle field.

Brown beat Torrence in the final with a 3.759 at 315.34 for his first victory in more than two years and 51st overall.

Angie Smith won for the second time in her career, topping Steve Johnson with a 6.917 at 194.83 on an EBR.

Because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the NHRA ended its season in Las Vegas instead of its annual season finale at Pomona, California, which was one of several events that were canceled.

How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).