Don Schumacher Racing dominated the NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car action at this weekend’s Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, but it took some nail-biting during Sunday’s final before the Brownsburg-based team claimed their trophies.
Meanwhile in Pro Stock, hometown hero Allen Johnson had everything his way all weekend – until the final round came along. Johnson fell in as close a drag race as you can ever have, as Mike Edwards used a .005-second reaction time to nip Johnson in a virtual dead heat.
The timing clock projects its times to the crowd down to .001 seconds, and the margin-of-victory for Edwards on the time sheets was officially a .000. The timing system luckily goes up to 16 decimal places, and somewhere in that mathematical abyss lay the precious increment of time that Edwards needed to claim the victory.
“We’d rather stick it in the fence and wreck the car rather than lose a race the way we lost this one,” lamented Johnson. “Hats off to Mike though, his guys did a great job today.”
In Top Fuel it was the DSR machine of Antron Brown that led the way all weekend, but on Sunday it was the man they call The Sarge that started giving the orders. Tony Schumacher picked up the team’s mantle when Brown was eliminated by Doug Kalitta in the semis, with Schumacher getting a holeshot win in the final over Kalitta to take his first NHRA national win of the season.
"We won 15 races in a year once and we're not used to not winning," Schumacher explained. "We've had the points lead twice already this year without winning, and we didn't want to win the championship without winning a race, that's not cool. But our guys did a great job, we had a big motor change for the third round and the guys did an outstanding job getting the car ready."
The win capped a huge weekend for Schumacher, who was helping his U.S. Army sponsor celebrate its birthday. Schumacher’s second-round win over points leader Spencer Massey put him in position to take over the series lead, and his victories over Clay Millican and Kalitta sealed the deal, giving Schumacher the series lead with his sixth Bristol win.
DSR put three of its four Funny Cars into the semifinals today, but had to sweat out a win for Ron Capps over Alexis DeJoria that wasn’t in the bag until DeJoria’s car gave up halfway down the strip in the final.
Capps continued his remarkable turnaround that has seen him qualify for six consecutive NHRA Funny Car final rounds after not qualifying in Vegas. The Vegas DNQ spurred DSR to change personnel on his team, bringing Rahn Tobler over to Capps’ squad in a move that has seen Capps cut deeply into Robert Hight’s series lead.
"Every race that we go to, this team with Rahn is getting stronger," Capps said. "It's almost harder on the driver when you have a car like this. When the car is that good, you don't want to be the piece of the puzzle that lets the team down. Now it's not out of the question to catch Robert (Hight) for the points lead. That's the carrot we'll have in front of us for the rest of the season."
Capps had one of the fastest cars in the class all day, but had to come from behind to beat Tony Pedregon in the second round, then beat stablemate Johnny Gray in the semi to advance to a date with DeJoria, who celebrated her first-ever semifinal appearance by beating John Beckman to earn her first final-round berth. Both Capps and DeJoria were running together at the halfway mark before DeJoria’s Ford lost traction, allowing Capps to scream to the victory.
We’d rather stick it in the fence and wreck the car rather than lose a race the way we lost this one.
In Pro Stock, Edwards was in Johnson’s shadow all weekend – until it counted. Johnson had the best qualifying time and ran the three best times of the elimination rounds before meeting Edwards in the final. Unfortunately for Johnson, meeting Edwards in the final round at Bristol has been a death sentence for the last four years, as he has won every Pro Stock round at Bristol since 2009. He did it today with strong performance at the starting line, carving reaction times of .007 seconds in the semi to beat Erica Enders and then cut a .005 light to nip Johnson.
"I guess I'll quit beating up on myself for my reaction times, at least for this weekend," grinned Edwards. "We came up here and tested for two days, I wanted this one really bad. But to win a race like that with four zeros on the clock, I don't know how you explain something like that. Sometimes it's just your day. I wish we could run 'em all here."