Atlanta Tony Schumacher runner-up, but keeps points lead

Commerce, Ga. (May 7): Starting from the No. 4 qualifying position at the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals, defending NHRA Winston Top Fuel Champion, Tony Schumacher not only wanted to add to his points lead, but he looked for another...

Commerce, Ga. (May 7): Starting from the No. 4 qualifying position at the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals, defending NHRA Winston Top Fuel Champion, Tony Schumacher not only wanted to add to his points lead, but he looked for another trip to the winner's circle.

In the first round of final eliminations, Schumacher faced Terry Mullins. Schumacher not only cruised to victory with a 4.615 e.t. at 309.63 mph, but Dan Olson's tune-up once again propelled Schumacher to a season quick e.t. under the new NHRA rules.

"Dan wanted to make a statement," said Schumacher, "we are ready to go rounds today."

In round two, Schumacher faced Doug Kalitta, who had previously defeated Don Lampus. Though Kalitta had a reaction time advantage, Schumacher ran a 4.673 e.t. at 302.69 mph. That win would set up a semifinal round meeting for Schumacher with Larry Dixon, who was trying to win his third race in a row and was the only repeat winner of the 2000 season.

"Dixon is going to be tough," said Schumacher, "they have been running great and we will definitely have to have our best for them."

Schumacher couldn't have been more correct as he and Dixon left the starting line at virtually the same time. Schumacher's e.t. of 4.658 seconds at 313.29 mph was just good enough to edge Dixon's 4.672 e.t.. The margin of victory for Schumacher was less than a half a car length.

It was still a victory and sent the Exide team to their fifth final round appearance in the first seven races of the 2000 season.

"That was a pretty awesome drag race," exclaimed Schumacher, "it looks like we get another chance to run Gary (Scelzi). We are 0-4 against Gary in finals rounds, hopefully we can change that."

In front of a capacity crowd, the current NHRA Winston Champion Schumacher and the former champion and Winston Scelzi driver prepared to run. Scelzi left first but Schumacher dragster looked to be on a good run. As Schumacher's car hit the lights trailing Scelzi, there was a flash of flame.

Schumacher's 4.697 e.t. at 307.44 mph was not good enough to catch Sclezi's 4.629 e.t.. The margin of victory was .077 seconds.

"We did all we could today," said Schumacher, "the guys did an awesome job at giving me a great race car and we didn't beat ourselves."

"We a failure past the lights so it wouldn't have made a difference, but best of all we still have the points lead."

Schumacher and Team Exide will carry a 25 point lead over Scelzi to Englishtown in two weeks after having Mother's day weekend off.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta