Thursday, Sep 29
Adam Sinclair

Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

Adam spent several years covering motorsports for Examiner.com., where he had the opportunity to see the racing world from behind the scenes as well as the grandstands. He invites everyone to follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus, and looks forward to sharing his enthusiasm for all things racing with the readers of SpeedwayDigest.com.

Be sure to tune in for his sports talk program, Thursday Night Thunder, where he discusses the latest in motorsports news with drivers, crew members, and fans. The show takes place (almost) every Thursday at 8:00 pm EST on the Speedway Digest Radio Network. 

Contact Adam: Email  

  

 

Following the kickoff of its inaugural global series at the UK’s legendary Lydden Hill, Nitro Rallycross has announced on sale details for its Minnesota stop, the first U.S. round on its 2022/23 calendar. The disruptive new force in motorsports created by Travis Pastrana (USA) will return to ERX Motor Park outside Minneapolis on October 1-2 alongside the popular Powersports XPO and Minnesota 4Fest, offering fans a full weekend of four-wheel excitement. Combining the intense racing of rallycross with the big air thrills of Nitro Circus, Nitro RX: Minnesota featuring PowerSports XPO & 4Fest is truly where cars will fly and tracks will thrill.  

 

Pastrana will aim to take the checkered flag behind the wheel of the most powerful vehicle in rallycross: the revolutionary all-electric FC1-X, Capable of producing the electric equivalent of 1,070 peak horsepower (800 kW), the FC1-X can accelerate from 0-60 in just 1.4 seconds, launching faster off the line than an F1 car.

 

To top the podium, Pastrana will have to face off against a lineup packed with the world’s best drivers, including Robin Larsson (SWE) and Andreas Bakkerud (NOR) of RX Cartel, who finished #1 and #2 respectively in Nitro RX’s first round. Legendary F1 world champion Jenson Button (GBR) in his first race on U.S. soil, will also vie for the trophy as well as his XITE Energy Racing teammate Oliver Bennett (GBR), plus Oliver Eriksson (SWE) of OMSE, Fraser McConnell (JAM) of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and moreThey will all battle on Nitro RX’s tough tracks, which push competitors’ limits with huge gap jumps, banked turns and steep berms.

 

 

After his first day of racing in the FC1-X Pastrana said, “Yeah, I got in the car and our team said, ‘Okay, do this,’ and you have all these buttons, it’s like a space shuttle launch! Then I hit the gas and was immediately pinned to the back of the seat. It was awesome! These cars just have so much acceleration - everyone has more power than they know what to do with. It’s been a lot of fun and we all believe that we can win. It’s absolutely anyone’s ballgame.”

 

Tickets go on sale tomorrow - Friday, July 22nd – and will be available at nitrorallycross.com. Both general admission tickets ($40 two-day weekend) as well as VIP all-inclusive access through the Club Nitro RX passes ($200 two-day weekend) will be available. Single-day tickets may be made available at a later date. More information on Club Nitro RX’s premium amenities is detailed below.

 

Nitro RX: Minnesota will come after a swing of European races, which began with the June series launch at the U.K.’s legendary Lydden Hill Race Circuit. This will be followed by a Sweden round next weekend. Additional stops include races in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Saudi Arabia, Quebec and Alberta, all building to the first global Nitro RX series title.

 

Nitro RX Minnesota will also see the first race of the side-by-side (SxS) class, with a number of big names to feature in the high energy UTV racing that saw the likes of Robbie MaddisonBrian DeeganHailie DeeganCleetus McFarland and Nitro Circus’ own Blake ‘Bilko’ Williams and Hubert Rowland compete last season. More details regarding Nitro RX’s wide range of support classes will also be revealed soon.

 

The next generation of stars will also be on display with the NRX NEXT class set to light up the ERX track, with the best up-and-coming talent from the United States and Europe set to do battle for the first time on American soil this season.

 

 

 

With an open paddock area, racing fans can get an up-close look at Nitro RX and check out their favorite cars and drivers. Fans can stop by the all-new Nitro RX Fan Experience, which will feature a new entertainment stage, gaming area, concession area featuring local food trucks plus - for young racing enthusiasts - a kids’ electric rallycross experience. 

 

 

Fans can enjoy special VIP amenities with the all-new Club Nitro RX. Highlighted by a private trackside viewing location and exclusive Club Nitro RX area, passholders will enjoy all-inclusive food and beverage, a private lounge, on-site entertainment and a chance to meet Nitro RX drivers. This new premium experience puts fans in the center of the action all weekend long.

 

Nitro RX: Minnesota will also be part of annual enthusiast events Minnesota 4Fest and Powersports XPO, for even more four-wheel fun. Fans will be able to participate in offroad skill seminars, check out equipment demos, enjoy an expanded vendor village and more. For more details go to 4festevents.com and PowerXPO.com.

 

For fans outside of Minnesota, NBCU’s Peacock will stream live coverage in the United States, while MCS Extreme will provide exclusive live coverage in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Outside of these territories, YouTube will stream live Nitro RX coverage worldwide.

As the auto industry faces challenging disruptions, NAPA – the pioneer of the automotive aftermarket – is transforming to meet the needs of the drivers of the future with an entirely new brand campaign. It comes at a time when NAPA proudly claims America’s largest network of parts and care with nearly 6,000 NAPA Auto Parts stores and over 17,000 AutoCare Centers. 

 

Premiering this week during its 2022 NAPA EXPO in Las Vegas, the new Get Up & Go campaign embraces the nostalgia of car culture while showcasing drivers’ unique passions on and off the road. This strategic shift signals how NAPA is placing priority on the future of its business and to best serve evolving consumer demand.

 

 

 

The Variable developed the new brand strategy, fully integrated platform and brand campaign, which seeks to unite passionate car lovers and show that the destination is truly just the start. The campaign focuses on two key targets: DIYers who are passionate about every aspect of car ownership, including the fixes, the parts and the tinkering, and those who love their cars and car culture, but prefer to leave the “fixing” to professionals.  

 

“Get Up & Go” launches a series of spots directed by famed commercial and film talent Alessandro Pacciani, known for his award winning work on Acura, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and more. The campaign was produced by LA-based production company JOJX. Original music for the spots were written and produced by up-and-coming Nashville artist/composer Blake Mohler

 

Ads will be running on broadcast, connected TV, digital video, paid social, radio and in print.  

 

As F1 heads to Circuit Paul Ricard this weekend, motorsport legend Emerson Fittipaldi gave his views to VegasInsider. Here's what he had to say:

 

  • Checo Perez is getting more self-confident - he will give Max a hard time and this can cause some friction at Red Bull

"I'm sure both Max Verstappen and Checo Perez will be strong contenders and I go even further. In my opinion, Checo Perez, he is growing, he's getting more self-confidence. he's getting stronger and stronger on every Grand Prix. If his mindset this weekend is fixed to win, he has the talent, he has the speed to win."

"I think he's going to give a hard time to Max from now on. I have this feeling because he's extremely self-confident now. He knows he has the talent, the speed and he's not anymore a shadow to Max. He's reality. He's there. He's a contender, he's strong."

"This is my belief and this is my opinion that Checo Perez will be running strong. Very strong and I think this is going to create some friction because of his performance. Not that Max is slowing down. Max is an extremely talented driver. He's the world champion. He's leading the championship. But Checo is there. He's there and he's strong."

  • Red Bull have become a better team because of Checo Perez becoming stronger

"What makes Red Bull so good is because they never expected Checo Perez to come to this level."

"Now that Checo is there and it is a very strong team because two drivers are running very strong. Before, they have Max and a second driver. Now Checo is there and I think he makes it a very strong team."

 In my opinion, Helmut Marko never expected Sergio to come to this high level of driving and performance. I think it could be very interesting, from now to the end of the year, the competition inside the Red Bull team."

"And for sure, Adrian Newey's genius ability of designing a car, to use the maximum performance of the new rules this year. Honda has tremendous power now. It is a combination of circumstances that make Red Bull very, very strong."

 

  • At Paul Ricard, I expect Ferrari to be quicker than Red Bull

"Paul Ricard circuit is a very special surface. Very special type of asphalt and you have some off-canvas corners. Difficult to get the right apex. It looks a simple track but it's not so simple."

"But in my opinion if you look at this year's average, Ferrari has been the fastest car, on average, on every different circuit. Paul Ricard is quite a different circuit. My opinion, Ferrari is going to be faster than Red Bull."

"For Ferrari to be stronger, they have to be reliable. They need to finish the race. But when they finish, they're strong."

 

Thanks again to VegasInsider for their insight. You can find the entire interview here.

 

The battle for the driver’s championship has been fierce in the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda (F4 U.S.). The series has seen five different winners in the first nine events and will enter the second half of the season when they arrive at New Jersey Motorsport Park next weekend. 

With a scholarship on the line to compete in the Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda 2023 season, only 25 points separate the top four drivers, and less than one weekend’s point value separates the top seven drivers. The key to success in the F4 U.S. championship will be consistency, as each driver has failed to score points in at least one race this season. Who takes home the trophy—and a scholarship—will be determined by who best minimizes the effect of misfortune. 

Winning the season-opener at NOLA Motorsport Park, Lochie Hughes instantly took the championship point lead, and the Gold Coast, Australia native has not looked back. Hughes drove the No. 6 Jay Howard Driver Development / CSU One Cure / Lucas Oil / Pelican Ligier JS F4 to his second win of the season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last month, after also recording runner-up finishes at NOLA and Road America earlier this year. 

Left to Right: Bryson Morris, Noah Ping and Ryan Shehan on the podium at Mid-Ohio.

Just seven points behind Hughes sits Bryson Morris. The 17-year-old has accumulated five total podium finishes—including wins at NOLA and Mid-Ohio—while driving the No. 39 Ligier JS F4 for Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport. 

Noah Ping sits third in the point standings, followed by his Velocity Racing Development teammate, Matt Christensen, in fourth. Each with two wins and two second-place finishes, Ping leads his teammate in podium finishes with a third-place result from NOLA. Only six points separate Ping from second-place Morris, and Christensen sits only 13 points behind Ping. All-in-all, both drivers are within 25 points—or one race—of the points lead. 

Doran-Kroll Competition’s Alex Berg currently sits fifth in the point standings, just 55 points out of the lead. The 15-year-old has a best finish of third this season, recording it in three consecutive races across the NOLA and Road America weekends. Berg also secured his first F4 U.S. pole while racing the No. 08 Doran-Kroll Competition Ligier JS F4 in Mid-Ohio last month. 

Left to Right: Lochie Hughes, Matt Christensen and Alex Berg.

Just three points behind Berg is Ryan Shehan. Shehan is still looking for his first win this season, but has used his Hankook Tires to record a runner-up finish and two third-place results in his No. 66 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F4. 

After securing a win at NOLA and a third-place result at Road America, Nicholas Rivers is still ranked seventh in the standings, despite missing Mid-Ohio due to lack of sponsorship.  

Drivers and crew from Velocity Racing Development celebrate after a team sweep at Road America.

With three teams represented by the top three drivers, the battle for the team points championship is also fierce. With five wins and 11 podiums, Velocity Racing Development (VRD) currently leads the charge. The organization has entered three different drivers in F4 U.S. competition this season, and all three have made it to victory lane. Additionally, the team achieved a podium sweep with their three drivers at Road America. 

With six drivers in their stable, Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport is putting up a good fight. The team currently sits just 51 points behind VRD with two wins and seven podiums. 

Another powerhouse team, Jay Howard Driver Development, sits third in the team championship standings, amassing two wins and four podiums with their seven drivers.

A full rundown of the Driver Championship Point Standings is available here, while a full list of the Team Championship Points Standings is available here.

F4 U.S. returns to the track for rounds 10, 11 and 12 at New Jersey Motorsports Park, July 29-31. The series will join the Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda and Sportscar Vintage Racing Association for an action-packed weekend at the New Jersey SpeedTour. Spectator gates will be open Friday through Sunday, with tickets available at the gate or online at NJMP.com/SpeedTour

As the summer temperatures heat up, so too does the competition within the Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered by Honda (FR Americas) points battle. When the series arrives at New Jersey Motorsport Park next weekend, it will officially enter the second half of the 2022 season with both bragging rights and important scholarship opportunities on the line. While teams find stock in staking their claim as the championship-winning organization, the championship-winning driver will get much more than just bragging rights. In fact, the 2022 FR Americas Champion will earn a 2023 Super Formula Scholarship from Honda Performance Development and Honda Motor Co. Motorsports Division.

So far, Raoul Hyman (No. 27 Bethesda Holdings Limited / Solomon Capital Enterprises / Oaklands / Kinross Ligier JS F3) has emerged as the early front-runner in the FR Americas championship battle. The Englishman has amassed 201 points with six wins and nine podium finishes in the nine races to date. 

However, Dylan Tavella is proof that consistency is key while battling for a championship. Currently ranked second and just 58 points behind Hyman, the driver of the No. 14 Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport Ligier JS F3 has not finished worse than fifth in 2022. His first win of the season came in round 3 at NOLA, and he has earned points in each of the nine rounds to date. With 25 points available to the winner of every race, Tavella could be back in the championship battle in a big way if the dominoes fall in his favor.

Just behind Tavella is Jason Alder, driver of the No. 77 Drive for Diabetes Awareness / HAKUN Ligier JS F3 for TJ Speed Motorsports. Alder became one of only four drivers securing wins this season when he raced his Hankook Tires across the finish line to capture the checkered flag at Road America in May. Currently sitting third in the point standings, Alder is just 25 points behind second-place Tavella.

Mac Clark has been another example of consistency in his No. 25 Future Star Racing Ligier JS F3. After winning the season opener at NOLA Motorsports Park, Clark has earned points in every subsequent race, and is currently ranked fourth in the standings. 

Rounding out the top five in the point standings is another TJ Speed Motorsports driver, Nick Persing (No. 29 OPI Commercial Builders Ligier JS F3). Persing has three podium finishes to date, including two during the series’ most recent showing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last month.

With three teams representing the top-five drivers in the championship point standings, TJ Speed Motorsports currently holds the lead in the Team Points Championship battle. The organization has amassed seven wins and 16 podiums in the first nine rounds of the 2022 season, and achieved podium sweeps with their three drivers at both Road America and Mid-Ohio. 

With four drivers representing the Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport team, their organization is currently ranked second in the team standings with Tavella’s win at NOLA and eight podium finishes.

Playing the role of “David” in David vs. Goliath is Future Star Racing. With just one driver in their stable, the team currently ranks third in the Team Point Championship standings with one win and three podiums.

A full rundown of the Driver Championship Point Standings is available here, while a full list of the Team Championship Points Standings is available here.

FR Americas returns to the track for rounds 10, 11 and 12 at New Jersey Motorsports Park, July 29-31. The series will join the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda and Sportscar Vintage Racing Association for an action-packed weekend at the New Jersey SpeedTour. Spectator gates will be open Friday through Sunday, with tickets available at the gate or online at NJMP.com/SpeedTour

Devlin DeFrancesco is ready to switch back into oval racing mode this weekend with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES set for a double-header weekend at Iowa Speedway.

This weekend will be the first time DeFrancesco has raced on the 7/8th of a mile oval – however, he did get his first taste of the venue recently in a test for Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport.

A self-professed lover of oval racing, the 22-year-old series rookie, will have plenty of opportunities to gain more oval experience this weekend, with a 250-lap race scheduled for Saturday and a longer 300-lap race set for Sunday.

The Miami-based Italian-Canadian racer enters this weekend after recording his best ever INDYCAR qualifying result last weekend on home soil at the Honda Indy Toronto.

DeFrancesco progressed from his qualifying group for the first time and started the race from 12th. The Toronto event was a special one for the DeFrancesco family – the race anchoring a fundraising event for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center. The “Racing for the Tiniest Babies” campaign is raising funds for the center’s neo-natal NICU center – the one that cared for DeFrancesco when he was born 15 weeks early more than 22 years ago.

Click image to download high res

The Iowa Speedway event forms part of a hectic schedule for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, which stages four back-to-back races and seven race weekends over nine weeks to complete the 2022 schedule.

DeFrancesco is confident of having a strong package for his Honda-powered Dallara at Iowa Speedway. Out of the 15 INDYCAR races staged at the venue, cars from the Andretti organization have won seven times.

Track action kicks begins on Friday with a 90-minute practice session followed by qualifying at 9:30 AM on Saturday morning. The HyVeeDeals.com 250 presented by DoorDash 250 lap event goes green on Saturday at 3:06 PM, followed by the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google on Sunday from 2:30 PM.

DEVLIN DEFRANCESCO

“Back to oval racing in Iowa for a doubleheader. I think finally advancing in qualifying at Toronto really motivated the crew. We’ll be looking to build consistency and the back-to-back races will give us that opportunity. I hope to make some progress in the No. 29 Andretti Steinbrenner PowerTap Honda.”

Click image to download high res

SCHEUDLE
FRIDAY, JULY 22

3:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Practice
SATURDAY, JULY 23
9:30 AM – Qualifying
3:06 PM –  HyVeeDeals.com 250 presented by DoorDash (250 laps/223.5miles), NBC (Live)
SUNDAY, JULY 24
10:55-11:00 AM – Systems Check
2:30 PM – Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google (300 laps/268.2 miles), NBC (Live)

 

HOW TO WATCH
USA: NBC and Peacock TV
Peacock also will stream all races airing on NBC’s networks and will be the exclusive home of INDYCAR practice and qualifying sessions, as well as a new post-race show.
Canada: SportsNet World
International TV: https://www.indycar.com/ways-to-watch/international

 

HOW TO LISTEN
INDYCAR Radio and Sirius XM – https://www.indycar.com/radio/broadcast-schedule

 

HOW TO FOLLOW

Website: devlindefrancesco.com
Website: andrettiautosport.com
Website: steinbrennerracing.com
Twitter: twitter.com/devlindefran
Instagram: instagram.com/devlindefran

 

TRACK
Iowa Speedway, a 7/8-mile (0.894-mile) oval in Newton, Iowa


TIRES
Firestone tire allotment: Fourteen sets for use through the doubleheader weekend

By Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service
 
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Drivers and crew at Winward Racing must be scratching their heads, wondering what they need to do to nail down a win in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. It’s not for lack of trying.
 
In last weekend’s FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park, the No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT3 grabbed the GT Daytona (GTD) lead on a restart with less than 10 minutes remaining and appeared the certain class winner on the last lap, until the car sputtered heading into the final turn – victim of a fuel pump failure.
 
The No. 57 coasted agonizingly slower and slower as driver Philip Ellis feverishly tried to change over to a backup fuel pump installed in the car for just this situation, but to no avail. Ellis fell to fifth place by the time he rolled across the finish line.
 
Among those helplessly watching from pit lane was co-driver Russell Ward.
 
“I’ve got to say it was a new experience for me,” Ward admitted. “It could have failed one corner later and we would’ve won the race, or it could have failed in practice. It was just kind of a freak accident; sometimes that happens. It was really disappointing.”
 
Ward said the fuel pump was new, installed following the previous race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park two weeks before. The racing gods just weren’t looking out for Winward that day.
 
“We had plenty of fuel to finish the race,” Ward said. “The car has a spare fuel pump for this case; you swap it over and then refire the car. By the time Philip was able to do that, the damage was already done.
 
“It adds another race on the list of races that got away from us – and this year there have been plenty of them.”
 
Indeed. Lime Rock marked the third straight race where the No. 57 Winward Mercedes challenged for the win but came up short. In the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on June 26, the car took the checkered flag first in GTD but was among nine entrants moved to the rear of their respective classes for failing to meet adjusted minimum drive times in the weather-shortened race.
 
The following week, Ward and Ellis – whose lone win came in their series debut with Winward at the 2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona – were within an eyelash of winning at CTMP, finishing second just 0.493 seconds behind the No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin GT3. Despite the disappointments, Ward said spirits remain high.
 
“Since Detroit (in early June), we’ve been able to execute everything quite well and just haven’t had the luck to put it all together,” he said, adding that optimism runs high because of the Mercedes’ prowess on the three remaining tracks this season – Road America, VIRginia International Raceway and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
 
“I think the next couple of tracks are really good for us. I was a little worried about the pace at Lime Rock because the Mercedes typically doesn’t do super well there. Road America suits the car a lot better, Virginia suits the car a lot better and so does Atlanta. The next three races coming up are some of my favorites on the calendar.”
 
First up is the IMSA Fastlane SportsCar Weekend at Road America from Aug. 4-7. All five WeatherTech Championship classes will be in action at the Wisconsin circuit. Race coverage starts at 11:40 a.m. ET Sunday, Aug. 7 on Peacock and IMSA Radio. USA Network joins the live telecast at noon.

Will Power led three Team Penske drivers in the top seven of practice Friday for the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend at Iowa Speedway, the only session before qualifying and two races.

Power led overall with a top lap of 18.5729 seconds, 173.285 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on the .894-mile oval. He seized the top spot from early leader and 2020 Iowa NTT P1 Award winner Conor Daly, who ended up second at 173.239 in the No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet.

SEE: Practice Results | Qualifying Order

“The car feels really good,” Power said. “It felt good on a long run. We did make some changes, and at least we know what they do now. Whatever you run in quali, you’ve got to race. That’s a bit of a compromise there. I feel like we’ve got a good car and hope we can have a good weekend.”

Power alluded to the unique nature of the only doubleheader weekend on the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule. The Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 presented by DoorDash will be held at 4 p.m. ET Saturday with the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 presented by Google to follow at 3 p.m. ET Sunday. Both races will air live on NBC, with flag-to-flag coverage also on the INDYCAR Radio Network.

NTT P1 Award qualifying starts at 10:30 a.m. ET Saturday, with each driver’s first lap setting the grid for Saturday’s race and their second lap setting the lineup for Sunday’s race. Cars will be placed in impound after qualifying, with front wing and front-wing endplate angles and tire pressure changes among the limited adjustments allowed before the race Saturday.

Scott McLaughlin was third at 173.083 in the No. 3 Freightliner Team Penske Chevrolet, giving the winningest team in INDYCAR SERIES history two of the top three spots on the time sheet.

Reigning series champion Alex Palou was fourth at 172.764 in the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda, with Pato O’Ward rounding out the top five at 172.687 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

Series points leader Marcus Ericsson was sixth at 171.819 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, while two-time series champion Josef Newgarden was the third Team Penske driver in the top seven at 171.557 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson returned to his comfort zone on ovals, ending up ninth at 170.795 mph in the No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

All 26 drivers in the field were forced to try to keep cool in scorching air temperatures in the mid-90s at the “Fastest Short Track on the Planet.”

“It’s fine,” Power said. “Tire deg (degradation) is more (in the heat), and it’s better for racing. It’s a really cool track. I really, really enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun.”

The 90-minute session was incident-free, with just two short caution periods for track inspection. The 26 drivers combined to turn 2,410 laps, with Palou leading the way with 119.

A week after winning in Denver, Top Fuel star Leah Pruett kept rolling on Friday in Sonoma, powering to the provisional No. 1 spot for Tony Stewart Racing at the 34th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.
 
Robert Hight (Funny Car), Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 12th of 22 races during the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. It is also the second event in the three-race NHRA Western Swing.
 
Pruett went 3.689-seconds at 327.59 mph in her 11,000-horsepower Rayce Rudeen Foundation Top Fuel dragster during the lone qualifying session, putting her on track to qualify No. 1 for the first time this season and the 12th time in her career. It also puts the team on a great path following their Denver win, which only further bolstered the overall desire to add another victory.
 
“What was most important to this team was starting off in Q1 in a different fashion than we have in the last handful of races,” said Pruett, who was the runner-up in Sonoma last season. “We considered it a little bit conservative, but it gives us a really solid look into our tuning window. The win in Denver was so big for us because it showed us where we needed to improve to do it again and that’s what we’ve prepared for this week.”
 
Doug Kalitta was the only other driver in the 3.60s on Friday, going 3.694 at 331.45, while Steve Torrence, the defending event winner, took the third spot after his 3.710 at 326.08.
 
Robert Hight continued his dominant run in Sonoma in Funny Car, making his quickest pass in five years with a stellar pass of 3.825 at 332.75 in his 11,000-horsepower Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS. Hight, who is the points leader on the strength of five wins in 2022, has won three straight years at Sonoma and will now try to become the first driver in NHRA history to win four consecutive times. After Friday’s incredible run, he couldn’t have asked for a better start.
 
“You have to have a gameplan when you come into one of these races. You can’t think of the end result,” Hight said. “You have to go one round at a time and it’s a job well done for this team tonight. We saw what was out there and (crew chief) Jimmy (Prock) and Chris (Cunningham) have a really good handle on this tune-up. I was impressed. When it left the starting line, it really wanted to go right on me. This thing was trucking, and I had to get it back in the groove. At the middle of the race track it was pulling, and I knew it was on a great run.”
 
Defending world champ Ron Capps took the second spot in Funny Car after one session with his 3.846 at 334.48, while Alexis DeJoria’s 3.867 at 330.63 slots her third heading into Saturday.
 
Troy Coughlin Jr. made a strong impression on Friday in Pro Stock, vaulting to the top with a run of 6.549 at 210.87 in his JEGS/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. That run would give the young standout his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and the second in his career. Coughlin rebounded from a mid-season slump by going to the semifinals in Denver and he appears to have continued that momentum at Sonoma Raceway.
 
“We’re very pleased and everyone works so hard on this team,” Coughlin said. “We have one goal and that’s to turn (win lights) on and make good laps. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of. This team is putting a lot of hours in and it shows. They’re so much passion in the pit area and the shop, and there’s not a stone unturned with these guys. I think we’ve got some left in it. We’ll keep a clear mindset, and we just want to stay consistent.”
 
Mason McGaha’s 6.551 at 210.57 has him second and Kyle Koretsky is currently third after his run of 6.553 at 209.36. Points leader Erica Enders is eighth after the first qualifying session.
 
After struggling at the past two races, Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Steve Johnson returned to form on Friday, jumping to the top on his Butter Transportation Suzuki with a standout pass of 6.743 at 198.73. If it holds, it would be the first No. 1 qualifier of the season for Johnson and the eighth in his career. The run was also a welcome sign for the veteran after suffering back-to-back first-round losses. His points lead shrunk to just 10 points heading into Sonoma, but Johnson with pleased with how his weekend opened on Friday.
 
“Our philosophy was just to get it down the track so we can get data and test some things,” Johnson said. “We really wanted to go ‘A to B.’ We made some good decisions, and we had a good run. That 60-foot was really good and very important to what we do, and that was huge. It’s so important to run well because it’s so hard to ride a Pro Stock Motorcycle and you need the confidence as a rider.”
 
Denver winner and reigning world champ Matt Smith took second with a 6.758 at 200.74, while Eddie Krawiec is currently third after going 6.785 at 198.23.
 
Qualifying continues at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday at the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.

 

(Courtesy of NHRA Communications)

Hunter McElrea earned his second consecutive Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory Saturday, elevated to first place at Iowa Speedway after a post-race penalty was levied on Linus Lundqvist.

Series points leader Lundqvist took the checkered flag first in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing car, 3.4258 seconds ahead of McElrea in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport car on the .894-mile oval. But INDYCAR officials determined Lundqvist made avoidable contact with Matthew Brabham in a duel for the lead with five laps to go, damaging Brabham’s front wing.

Lundqvist was penalized three spots, dropping to fourth in the final results. That penalty gave Andretti Autosport a sweep of the top three spots. with pole sitter McElrea the winner, fellow rookie Christian Rasmussen second in the No. 28 Road to Indy/Stellrecht car and Brabham third in the No. 83 Andretti Autosport entry.

SEE: Race Results

“Not the way I want to get it, obviously,” McElrea said. “I think, to be honest, Matt deserved that. But I’ll take it. Back to back. You’ll take what you can get in this game.”

McElrea’s victory in the first oval race of the Indy Lights season was the 250th across all series for Andretti Autosport.

The flashpoint of the 75-lap race took place on Lap 71. Leader Lundqvist lost momentum in Turn 1, and Brabham pounced by steering to the outside lane, looking to pass as they drove nearly side by side entering Turn 2. Lundqvist moved up to the high line before he was clear of Brabham, making contact with and damaging Brabham’s front wing. Brabham also made right-side contact with the SAFER Barrier exiting Turn 2 while trying to avoid contact with Lundqvist.

“It was a close fight,” Lundqvist said. “I got a little bit loose through (Turn) 1, and I saw that he was behind me. But I got a ‘clear’ from my spotter, so I switched my lane, and unfortunately I think my rear just touched his front nose. It’s inch-perfect on ovals, and I put my trust in the spotter. Sorry to Matt for the incident.”

Said Brabham: “My perspective is that I got drove into the wall. It looked like he was struggling coming off that corner, and I took the high line and he took the low line. It looked like he just committed to going low and trying to block for the next corner. I said, ‘If you’re going to give me the top, I’ll take the top.’ There was overlap, and we’re still side by side, and I felt like he figured out, ‘Oh, maybe he doesn’t want to give me the top,’ and came over.

“He said his spotter cleared him. But we still have mirrors, at the end of the day. He knew I was there because he was giving me the lane at first.”

Brabham hung on to second place on track in his damaged car until the final lap, when teammates McElrea and Rasmussen passed him.

McElrea led the first 50 laps from pole, resisting a move by Lundqvist for the lead on Lap 35. But Lundqvist passed McElrea for the lead on the only restart of the race, on Lap 50. McElrea’s car drifted toward the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4 as the field headed for the green flag on the restart, giving Lundqvist a huge opening to exploit.

“That restart, I don’t know what I did,” McElrea said. “I’ll have to look back, look at the footage and stuff. Really not good enough to get up in the marbles like that.”

Despite losing what would have been his fifth victory of 2022 to the penalty, Lundqvist still maintains a sizable lead in the series standings with five races remaining this season. He is 77 points ahead of McElrea, who leapfrogged teammates Sting Ray Robb and Brabham to jump from fourth to second in the championship.

Indy Lights drivers and teams return to action Sunday, Aug. 7 at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee.

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