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Capps Snakes His Way To Funny Car Win At Bristol

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 20 2022

NHRA driver Ron Capps collected a historic Funny Car win at Bristol on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

On the day his mentor officially joined the Legends of Thunder Valley, two-time/reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion Ron Capps marked his own moment of Bristol Dragway history.

Capps tied eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher for the most NHRA wins at the famed Tennessee facility Sunday afternoon with his sixth Funny Car victory during a Father’s Day edition of the 21st annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

Capps recorded the quickest 1,000-foot run during every round of eliminations, including a pass of 3.984-seconds at 324.36 mph in the final to defeat Tim Wilkerson. Capps also scored the first Funny Car win for the new Toyota GR Supra body.

Capps advanced to the final with victories against Paul Lee, No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight and defending event winner Alexis DeJoria. In the final, Capps laid down the only three-second run in eliminations to earn his second win of the 2022 season and landmark 70th of his career.

Fittingly, Sunday also saw drag racing icon Don “The Snake” Prudhomme _ Capps’ former boss and a fellow-Californian _ officially recognized as one of the Legends of Thunder Valley.

“Getting the win today, and being in this position, it’s an amazing thing and I’m living the dream,” said Capps, who is in his first season as owner/driver of the Toyota GR Supra fielded by Ron Capps Motorsports. “Today felt different because we worked really hard at this one, and we knew that win for Toyota was out there. Everyone wanted to get that first one in the Supra and I’m blessed we got to do it.

“To run 3.98 in the final was unbelievable. This is a very demanding track every time we come here, and you can’t take your mind off it for a second. These wins, where you have to earn it, it really means quite a bit more, it seems like.”

Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won at the ninth of 22 events during the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Capps started race day from the ninth seed _ uncharacteristic for a team used to qualifying in the top half of the field. Facing No. 8 qualifier Lee in Round 1, Capps launched hard and the car started dropping cylinders before giving way to a nasty explosion through the finish line beams. While he scored the round-win, the explosion damaged the Supra body. That prompted Capps’ crew to switch bodies during the quick turnaround time between the first and second rounds.

“I went up there and tried to drive the wheels off it (in Round 1) and Guido (crew chief Dean Antonelli), man, what a run he put together,” Capps said. “But right as I stepped off the gas it went ‘kaboom!’ and all I could think of is, ‘Man, there goes my new GR Supra body.’ We’ve got another one in the trailer, but it just goes to show you, all the safety measures they worked on in the offseason really paid off because there was minimal damage, and a big boomer like that, it could’ve been a lot worse.”

Capps’ crew overcame that setback to throw down low E.T. of the session and defeat No. 2 qualifier and three-time world champ Hight of John Force Racing in Round 2. That victory set up a battle between Capps and DeJoria, with each vying to represent Toyota in the final. Capps again ran low E.T. of the session to advance.

NAPA crew chiefs Antonelli and John Medlen knew the stakes were high and did not take Wilkerson lightly. They tuned the Supra to a stout 3.984-second E.T. _ only sub-four-second Funny Car pass of the day _ to defeat Wilkerson and his Ford Mustang. Wilkerson reached the final for the first time this season by trailering Jack Wyatt, Chad Green and 16-time world champ John “Brute” Force.

Capps, who won his first championship in 2016 in a Dodge fielded by team-owner Don Schumacher, exited Bristol Dragway ranked third in the point standings led by three-time world champion Matt Hagan of Tony Stewart Racing.

NHRA’s Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action June 23-26 with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

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In Top Fuel, Justin Ashley rolled to his second straight final round and finished the job by covering the 1,000-foot distance in 3.813-seconds at 325.30 mph to defeat Shawn Langdon. Ashley posted his second win this season, fourth of his career and first at Bristol with his father, Mike, in attendance. Ashley, who qualified 14th, responded on race day by powering past Josh Hart, Doug Foley and four-time/reigning world champ Steve Torrence to reach the final.

“Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, who make dreams like this possible,” said Ashley, driver of the Toyota powered dragster. “(Crew chiefs) Tommy DeLago and Mike Green did such a good job with this Phillips Connect Top Fuel dragster all day. We’re very blessed, very privileged to be here and we’re enjoying it.

“This Bristol track has so much history. When you look up and see all the famous names (in the Legends of Thunder Valley) it’s impressive and we’re very fortunate to get the win.”

The final round wrapped up an amazing afternoon for Ashley and his team. His father stood on the starting line as Justin left first and raced to a win that moved him up in the point standings. The win gave the 2020 Rookie of the Year a sizable buffer on the drivers chasing him in points.

“This win is very emotional for me and for our entire team,” Ashley said in the Bristol Dragway media center. “Every win is special in their own way. There is something about Bristol. It’s so prestigious and it’s Father’s Day weekend. My father won in 2005 and now you fast-forward to me in the Winner’s Circle in Top Fuel. This is a collective team effort with Phillips Connect and Vita C Energy.

“It was a lot of fun to win on Father’s Day with my dad here. I was teasing him about how he is impossible to shop for on holidays like Father’s Day. I was like, ‘You’re welcome! Here is something I can give you.’ I’m really happy to win this race on Father’s Day for my dad and for all our teams’ fathers.”

Langdon reached his first final in 2022 after knocking off Spencer Massey, No. 1 qualifier Mike Salinas and three-time world champion Antron Brown. Brittany Force, the 2016 world champ, maintained the point lead, as Ashley climbed to third.

###

In one of the wildest Pro Stock final rounds in recent memory, Greg Stanfield trailered Elite Motorsports teammate Erica Enders by covering the quarter-mile in 8.801-seconds at 103.98 mph. Stanfield got loose early in the run and appeared vulnerable. But Enders also ran into trouble via an  engine explosion, allowing Stanfield to chase her down for the win.

It was Stanfield’s first victory from the No. 1 position and the first time winning in the final against Enders, a four-time world champion who was seeking her fourth consecutive win.

Stanfield reached the final with victories against Wally Stroupe, Fernando Cuadra Jr. and Kyle Koretsky and then drove to his sixth career victory _ and first at Bristol _ to cap an impressive weekend.

“I cut it loose, and it shook at the top of low gear, so I stopped,” said Stanfield, driver of the Janac Brothers Chevrolet Camaro. “Then, I could see smoke out of her car and Big Al (Lindsey, crewman) was on the radio telling me to go-go-go. I stuck it back in gear and tried to get there. It for sure did not go according to plan. Sometimes it goes like that. As a team we did a good job today. This is the best gift I can give my dad (Greg) on Father’s Day. My dad and I love being here in Bristol.”

Enders, who maintained the point lead by advancing to her fourth straight final, fifth this year and 66th in her career, knocked off Cristian Cuadra, Matt Hartford, and Dallas Glenn to set up the final round match against her teammate.

###

After a mad dash to the starting line following an engine swap before the Pro Stock Motorcycle final, Jerry Savoie won for the first time in 2022 aboard his White Alligator Racing Suzuki when Angelle Sampey went red. Savoie also left too soon by 0.010-seconds but Sampey’s 0.052-second red light handed the victory to Savoie. He reached the final by taking out four-time world champion Eddie Krawiec, Joey Gladstone and Angie Smith, capping an emotional day with his 14th career win and first at Thunder Valley.

“We blew up the engine in the third round and thanks to NHRA and Vance & Hines for waiting on us,” said Savoie, the 2016 world champion who picked up his first win since 2020. “I usually don’t let things get to me and I put my faith in my crew, who did a motor swap in 32 minutes. I’m 63 (years-old) and to be out here running with all these youngsters is amazing. I just wanted to win one race and now I’ve got 14 and a championship. I’ve been blessed. This was an awesome weekend, and I don’t think I could ask for anything more.”

Sampey, a three-time world champion who qualified No. 1, reached her first final this year and 79th in her standout career with wins against 2010 world champion LE Tonglet, Ryan Oehler and Marc Ingwersen.

###

Drag racing icon Don “The Snake” Prudhomme was inducted Sunday into the prestigious Legends of Thunder Valley by Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway President Jerry Caldwell.

Prudhomme, who drove the famed U.S. Army Funny Car during the height of his popularity, joined a club including Speedway Motorsports Executive Chairman O. Bruton Smith, NHRA Founder Wally Parks, Top Fuel legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Funny Car champ John “Brute” Force and NHRA team-owner Don Schumacher, among others, in the exclusive Hall of Fame at the historic Tennessee facility.

“Don accomplished so much at Bristol Dragway over the years and has been such an icon in the world of drag racing,” Caldwell said. “We are so honored to have him here at Thunder Valley as our special guest this weekend. His records and achievements are incredible, and if ‘cool factor’ was an official stat he would be the undisputed world-wide leader in that category and that’s why we are all in awe of him. We are thrilled and very proud to induct him today into the Legends of Thunder Valley.”

Prudhomme, 81, from San Fernando Valley, Calif., won four NHRA Funny Car world championships as a driver and earned 49 victories during his days in the cockpit of nitro-fueled Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters. His extremely popular Mattel Hot Wheels-sponsored Funny Cars in the 1970s and storybook rivalry with Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, took drag racing into the mainstream of corporate America.

As an NHRA team-owner in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he earned two more world championships and 55 victories. As a team-owner at Bristol Dragway, Prudhomme’s drivers captured two NHRA victories, including one by Miller Lite Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon (2002) and one by Skoal Racing Funny Car driver Ron Capps (2001).

Prudhomme also was successful at Bristol Dragway in the 1960s and ‘70s, recording one victory in six final-round appearances. He also broke one of the speed barriers in Funny Car when he posted a quarter-mile lap of 266.27 mph in 1985. That performance was faster than the Top Fuel speed record at the time.

“This is such an honor. I have always loved Bristol Dragway and I came here to race for the first time as a kid basically,” Prudhomme said. “I want to thank everyone here at the track for this and I look forward to having my name up there among all those legends for many years to come, long after I’m gone.”

Prudhomme’s 1967 Spring Nationals Top Fuel victory against “Sneaky” Pete Robinson at Bristol was his third career NHRA win, and one he said proved pivotal. “That win in 1967 really stands out to me because that’s the one that really launched my career and put me on the map,” Prudhomme said. “Bristol has always been a place that when you win it’s a big deal and after that win I started getting noticed and recognized all across the country.”

Prudhomme is one of an exclusive list of drivers who have competed at Bristol Dragway in all three of the top drag racing sanctioning bodies, including NHRA, IHRA and AHRA.

LEGENDS OF THUNDER VALLEY

2022 _ Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Funny Car/Top Fuel
2021 _ Scotty Cannon, Pro Mod/Funny Car
2019 _ Ted Jones, promoter/drag racing visionary
2018 _ Mark Oswald, Funny Car/Top Fuel
2017 _ Doug Herbert, Top Fuel
2016 _ John “Brute” Force, Funny Car
2015 _ Carl Moore, Bristol Dragway founder and Conrad “Connie” Kalitta, NHRA pioneer
2014 _ Don Schumacher, NHRA team owner/Funny Car pioneer
2013 – Warren “The Professor” Johnson, Pro Stock
2012 _ Gene Fulton, Engine Builder
2011 – Jeff Byrd, Bristol President and GM/RJ Reynolds Tobacco marketing
2010 _ Shirl Greer, Funny Car
2009 _ Dale Pulde, Funny Car
2008 _ Ronnie Sox & Buddy Martin, Pro Stock pioneers
2007 _ O. Bruton Smith, Speedway Motorsports founder/Bristol Dragway owner; Wally Parks, NHRA founder; “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Top Fuel pioneer; Larry Carrier, Bristol Dragway founder; Rickie Smith, Pro Stock/Pro Mod

Final finishing order (1-16) at the 21st annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The race was the ninth of 22 events in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _ 1. Justin Ashley; 2. Shawn Langdon; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Antron Brown; 5. Mike Salinas; 6. Doug Foley; 7. Leah Pruett; 8. Brittany Force; 9. Josh Hart; 10. Lex Joon; 11. Doug Kalitta; 12. Austin Prock; 13. Tony Schumacher; 14. Spencer Massey; 15. Clay Millican; 16. Cameron Ferre. 

Funny Car _ 1. Ron Capps; 2. Tim Wilkerson; 3. Alexis DeJoria; 4. John Force; 5. Cruz Pedregon; 6. Robert Hight; 7. Matt Hagan; 8. Chad Green; 9. J.R. Todd; 10. Jim Campbell; 11. Bob Tasca III; 12. Paul Lee; 13. Terry Haddock; 14. Phil Burkart; 15. Jack Wyatt.

Pro Stock _ 1. Aaron Stanfield; 2. Erica Enders; 3. Dallas Glenn; 4. Kyle Koretsky; 5. Greg Anderson; 6. Matt Hartford; 7. Camrie Caruso; 8. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 9. Deric Kramer; 10. Mason McGaha; 11. Cristian Cuadra; 12. Bo Butner; 13. Kenny Delco; 14. Chris McGaha; 15. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 16. Wally Stroupe.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Jerry Savoie; 2. Angelle Sampey; 3. Angie Smith; 4. Marc Ingwersen; 5. Steve Johnson; 6. Joey Gladstone; 7. Matt Smith; 8. Ryan Oehler; 9. Eddie Krawiec; 10. LE Tonglet; 11. Jim Underdahl; 12. Karen Stoffer; 13. Malcolm Phillips Jr.; 14. Ron Tornow; 15. Jianna Evaristo; 16. Chris Bostick. 

Final Pro and Sportsman results from the 21st annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway: 

Top Fuel _ Justin Ashley, 3.813-seconds, 325.30 mph def. Shawn Langdon, 3.841-seconds, 320.51 mph.

Funny Car _ Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 3.984, 324.36 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.075, 315.86.

Pro Stock _ Aaron Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 8.033, 184.98 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 8.801, 103.98.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.929, 194.30 def. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, Foul/Red Light. 

Super Stock _ Mike Crutchfield, Pontiac G5, 9.061, 148.54 def. Scott Libersher, Chevy Camaro, Foul/Red Light. 

Stock Eliminator _ Daren Poole-Adams, Chevy Camaro, 9.667, 136.66 def. Todd Ewing, Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Super Comp _ Shawn Langdon, Dragster, 8.893, 161.38 def. John Labbous Jr., Dragster, 8.862, 165.68.

Super Gas _ Chris Lewis, Dadbod, 9.902, 166.27 def. Ausby Brewington, Mercury Zephyr, 9.897, 146.99.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Tyler Caheely, Chevy Cavalier, 6.811, 198.64 def. Cole Prejean, Pontiac GTO, 7.222, 190.54.

Factory Stock Showdown _ David Barton, Chevy Camaro, 7.889, 174.28 def. Stephen Bell, Camaro, 7.930, 173.92.

Final round-by-round results from the 21st annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE _ Leah Pruett, 3.835, 324.36 def. Austin Prock, 4.107, 298.27; Justin Ashley, 3.824, 322.50 def. Josh Hart, 3.827, 318.69; Antron Brown, 3.863, 313.88 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.401, 199.94; Mike Salinas, 3.754, 329.99 def. Cameron Ferre, 9.524, 78.28; Steve Torrence, 3.943, 261.07 def. Lex Joon, 3.943, 286.01; Brittany Force, 3.844, 312.42 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.065, 282.60; Doug Foley, 4.704, 245.14 def. Clay Millican, 6.293, 122.64; Shawn Langdon, 3.809, 322.50 def. Spencer Massey, 4.484, 181.40; 

QUARTERFINALS _ Brown, 3.930, 305.36 def. Force, 6.338, 96.38; Ashley, 3.917, 293.98 def. Foley, 3.942, 311.85; Langdon, 3.853, 318.92 def. Salinas, 3.816, 321.04; Torrence, 3.891, 315.86 def. Pruett, 3.960, 306.74;

SEMIFINALS _ Ashley, 3.816, 323.35 def. Torrence, 3.873, 319.98; Langdon, 3.847, 317.87 def. Brown, 3.896, 307.93;

FINAL _ Ashley, 3.813, 325.30 def. Langdon, 3.841, 320.51.

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE _ Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.134, 259.41 def. Jack Wyatt, Dodge Charger, Broke; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, 4.114, 273.00 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.686, 178.83; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.085, 268.65 was unopposed; John Force, Camaro, 4.138, 265.38 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 6.760, 102.48; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.169, 279.79 def. Phil Burkart, Chevy Monte Carlo, 7.915, 76.96; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.148, 302.89 def. J.R. Todd, Supra, 4.168, 283.25; Chad Green, Mustang, 4.259, 229.74 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.442, 205.69; Ron Capps, Supra, 4.052, 311.63 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 6.023, 112.08;

QUARTERFINALS _ Wilkerson, 4.823, 194.58 def. Green, Broke; DeJoria, 4.068, 317.12 def. Hagan, 4.914, 201.70; Force, 4.096, 300.60 def. Pedregon, 4.177, 289.88; Capps, 4.031, 319.45 def. Hight, 4.526, 194.74;

SEMIFINALS _ Wilkerson, 4.135, 306.67 def. Force, 4.395, 263.41; Capps, 4.016, 318.99 def. DeJoria, 4.050, 321.50;

FINAL _ Capps, 3.984, 324.36 def. Wilkerson, 4.075, 315.86.

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE _ Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.679, 206.35 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Chevy Camaro, 7.411, 141.22; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.656, 205.51 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.672, 207.05; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.651, 206.42 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.655, 207.66; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.613, 206.51 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.682, 206.29; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.643, 206.45 def. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.664, 207.08; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.637, 206.76 def. Cristian Cuadra, Mustang, 6.671, 206.16; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.614, 206.99 def. Wally Stroupe, Camaro, 7.609, 129.22; Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.636, 205.07 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.736, 204.17;

QUARTERFINALS _ Enders, 6.668, 205.91 def. Hartford, 6.689, 205.54; Glenn, 6.688, 205.54 def. Caruso, 13.570, 61.48; Stanfield, 6.641, 207.24 def. Cuadra Jr., Foul/Red Light; Koretsky, 6.678, 206.16 def. Anderson, 6.653, 205.91;

SEMIFINALS _ Enders, 6.657, 205.98 def. Glenn, 6.678, 206.29; Stanfield, 6.637, 206.80 def. Koretsky, 6.691, 205.85;

FINAL _ Stanfield, 8.033, 184.98 def. Enders, 8.801, 103.98.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

ROUND ONE _ Ryan Oehler, EBR, 6.967, 192.99 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, Foul/Red Light; Angie Smith, EBR, 6.820, 197.59 def. Malcolm Phillips Jr., Suzuki, 7.033, 193.40; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.891, 195.05 def. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.880, 195.05; Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.971, 194.55 def. Chris Bostick, Suzuki, Broke/No Show; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.884, 195.62 def. Ron Tornow, Victory, 7.072, 184.30; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.882, 192.82 def. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 7.229, 178.05; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.866, 195.53 def. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.931, 193.46; Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.935, 193.65 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.998, 191.97;

QUARTERFINALS _ A. Smith, 6.803, 198.47 def. Johnson, 6.888, 194.58; Ingwersen, 6.894, 194.02 def. M. Smith, 6.985, 195.05; Savoie, 6.916, 196.19 def. Gladstone, 6.965, 193.52; Sampey, 6.900, 194.80 def. Oehler, 10.003, 86.49;

SEMIFINALS _ Sampey, 6.907, 197.54 def. Ingwersen, 7.558, 135.80; Savoie, 6.979, 193.74 def. A. Smith, 6.984, 196.56;

FINAL _ Savoie, 6.929, 194.30 def. Sampey, Foul/Red Light.

Point standings (top-10) following the 21st annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway:

Top Fuel _1. Brittany Force, 724; 2. Mike Salinas, 699; 3. Justin Ashley, 672; 4. Steve Torrence, 653; 5. Austin Prock, 459; 6. Shawn Langdon, 435; 7. Clay Millican, 430; 8. Josh Hart, 414; 9. Doug Kalitta, 405; 10. Antron Brown, 370.

Funny Car _1. Matt Hagan, 854; 2. Robert Hight, 812; 3. Ron Capps, 748; 4. John Force, 588; 5. Cruz Pedregon, 507; 6. J.R. Todd, 435; 7. Alexis DeJoria, 434; 8. Bob Tasca III, 420; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 411; 10. Chad Green, 373.

Pro Stock _1. Erica Enders, 690; 2. Aaron Stanfield, 607; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 482; 4. Dallas Glenn, 439; 5. Greg Anderson, 401; 6. Mason McGaha, 383; 7. Camrie Caruso, 369; 8. Bo Butner, 306; 9. Deric Kramer, 302; 10. Fernando Cuadra Jr., 300.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _1. Steve Johnson, 453; 2. Karen Stoffer, 374; 3. Matt Smith, 326; 4. Angie Smith, 320; 5. Angelle Sampey, 314; 6. Eddie Krawiec, 313; 7. Joey Gladstone, 290; 8. Jerry Savoie, 271; 9. Marc Ingwersen, 261; 10. Jim Underdahl, 227.

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing).

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 20 2022
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