BRAINERD, Minn., August 15 - U.S. Army Top Fuel pilot Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher secured the third starting spot here Saturday during final qualifying for the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Schumacher recorded a 3.893-second run at 308.71 mph in the third qualifying round before rain wiped out the last session.

The Chicago-area resident will take on 14th-place qualifier, David Grubnic, in the opening round of final eliminations on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. CT. It will be Grubnic's first race of 2009.

"Despite the fact this is the first time we've seen David this year, we better be prepared for him," said Schumacher. "He's a good, experienced driver who is associated with a solid team in Kalitta Racing. For sure, he's going to be a tough foe."

Heading into the 16th race of the season, Schumacher would like to collect a much needed victory while strengthening his second-place position in the Top Fuel standings.

"We could definitely use a good performance tomorrow," said the six-time world champion. "We want to make sure we hold on to second-place going into the Countdown to One next month so we're as close to the leader as possible."

Three races remain before the points reset for the NHRA's version of the playoffs. At that time, only the top 10 in the standings will be eligible to compete for the world championship.

"We already clinched a spot in the playoffs, so the pressure is off from that standpoint," he added. "But, we don't want to just sit around waiting for the Countdown to begin. I can assure you we're going to go after wins over these next three races."

-credit: dsr