ASHLEY GRABS HIS FIFTH POLE OF 2007 IN BRAINERD; SCHUMACHER, LINE AND ELLIS ALSO SITTING IN TOP SPOT BRAINERD, Minn. -- Mike Ashley had the quickest Funny Car of all four qualifying sessions to easily secure the No. 1 position in the elimination...
ASHLEY GRABS HIS FIFTH POLE OF 2007 IN BRAINERD; SCHUMACHER, LINE AND ELLIS ALSO SITTING IN TOP SPOT
BRAINERD, Minn. -- Mike Ashley had the quickest Funny Car of all four qualifying sessions to easily secure the No. 1 position in the elimination field of the 26th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.
Ashley's fifth career low qualifying effort was the most impressive on his resume as he lowered the bar in each of the first three rounds, finally stopping at 4.781 seconds. He later added a 4.812 to cement his position as the man to beat on Sunday.
Tony Schumacher also is off to great start at Brainerd International Raceway, moving to the front of the Top Fuel class with a 4.548 Saturday morning.
Friday Pro Stock leaders Jason Line and Chip Ellis both needed to pick up the pace Saturday to keep their top ranking. Line responded to the challenge with a 6.740, while Ellis posted the first six-second bike pass in track history to earn his first pole of the year.
Next in line to secure a position in the Countdown to the Championship, Ashley is leaving nothing to chance. His 4.781 at 327.51 mph in Round 3 came after several racers had passed his Friday night mark of 4.833. Unfazed, he cruised down the strip in his Torco Dodge Charger R/T to collect his second straight low qualifier award.
"Being the quickest and fastest of every session is pretty impressive," Ashley said. "The last few races we've been sidetracked a bit trying different things. We decided to go back to what got us to the dance in the first place and just make absolutely sure we get down the track every run."
Teammates John Force and Robert Hight, along with veteran Kenny Bernstein, also posted 4.7-second runs Saturday. Force earned second place on the grid with a 4.786 at 325.30 mph in his Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang. Hight was third with a 4.796 at 322.58 mph in the Auto Club Ford, while Bernstein powered to a fourth-best 4.796 at 319.60 mph in the Monster Energy Drink Dodge.
Schumacher opened Saturday's action with a strong 4.548 at 328.54 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to take over the No. 1 spot. He ran a 4.624 in the afternoon even though he tossed the blower belt well before the finish line. This is Schumacher seventh Technicoat Low Qualifier award of the season and the 42nd of his career.
"We made three good runs, all in the heat, and we're racing in the heat tomorrow so I'm really happy right now," Schumacher said. "What can I say? Alan Johnson [crew chief] is the man. He's had this thing running strong and I have a lot of confidence in what we're doing right now."
In Pro Stock, Jason Line sent a strong signal to the rest of the class when he posted the quickest pass of the weekend in the last session, well after the morning cloud cover had cleared. Despite the increased temperatures, Line still coaxed a 6.740 at 204.66 mph out of his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to earn his second low qualifier award of the season and the 13th of his career.
"If I could win anywhere it would be right here," Line said. "This is home for me. This is where it all started. It would mean more to me than Indy, to be honest. The trophies look the same and the points count the same, this is just a place where that core group of people that I grew up with all race. It's special."
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, rider Chip Ellis knew he needed to step it up Saturday to score his first low qualifier award of the year and he answered with the tracks first six-second Pro Stock Motorcycle pass, a 6.990 at 191.08 mph. The rider of the Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin has eight career No. 1 qualifying efforts.
"We tried something this morning when it was still real cloudy because we figured that would be the best session of the weekend," Ellis said. "We improved to a 7.01 but overall it didn't really work the way we wanted, except for down low. So we took the stuff that worked and put it with the tune-up from yesterday and we got the 6.99. I'm really excited."
Peggy Llewellyn improved to a 7.031 at 188.57 mph on her Klement Racing Buell to lock up second place, the best start of her brief career.
Angelle Sampey and Karen Stoffer also earned to-half berths, placing three female riders on the preferred side of the ladder. Sampey's U.S. Army Suzuki posted a 7.042 at 188.67 mph, which placed her fourth, while Stoffer's Geico Motorcycle Suzuki went 7.112 to slot her eighth.