Clear blue skies over the Nevada desert mountains set the stage for final eliminations at the 5th Annual ACDelco NHRA Nationals on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, although it's hard to tell which is bigger this weekend, those mountains or...
Clear blue skies over the Nevada desert mountains set the stage for final eliminations at the 5th Annual ACDelco NHRA Nationals on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, although it's hard to tell which is bigger this weekend, those mountains or Don Schumacher's smile.
The teams of Don Schumacher Racing had great success in Vegas, including a Top Fuel championship, four teams reaching the POWERade finals, regaining the Funny Car points lead and too many giant cardboard checks to count.
A quietly emotional Schumacher shared, "I'm just a very, very lucky guy that these people have come to work for me. (They) are wiling to do this out here weekend after weekend and forego their family and home and everything else. I'm a very fortunate individual that these people have come together under my organization."
Schumacher's son Tony had a stellar weekend in his US Army Top Fuel dragster winning the 2005 POWERade Championship Friday night, the $100,000 Budweiser Shootout Saturday night and the $40,000 ACDelco Nationals Sunday afternoon. To top it off, Budweiser threw in a $50,000 bonus check for winning both Saturday and Sunday, only the second time in history a top fuel driver has claimed a double-up bonus.
Schumacher's road to his sixth consecutive final round included victories over Clay Millican, Brandon Bernstein and Doug Herbert. David Grubnic lined up next to Schumacher in the finals after defeating Cory McClenathan, Morgan Lucas and teammate Scott Kalitta. Although both cars made a clean pass down the raceway, Schumacher led from the start to capture his fourth consecutive victory, the 29th of his career.
"Absolutely fantastic. We have such a great team. We've had highs and lows, but we just thrive on that competition." The Sarge also enjoyed watching his DSR teammates competing today saying "I was having the time of my life watching the funny cars."
With the Top Fuel championship decided all eyes are now on the battle for the Funny Car title. Going into Vegas, John Force led the points. But after Force was defeated in the first round of eliminations, Gary Scelzi took back the Funny Car championship points lead as he marched to the final round taking out Gary Densham, Eric Medlen and Del Worsham. Scelzi's Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps took him on in the finals after wins over Tim Wilkerson, Mike Ashley and Tony Bartone.
With "The Don" standing between his two teams, wearing neutral colors, Capps and Scelzi sped side-by-side down the quarter mile. Although Scelzi was quicker off the start, Capps closed the gap down the track getting the win light with a .01 second margin of victory. Conceding to the amazing amount of pressure, Capps shared, "Rolling up here for the finals I knew this was either going to be a real good race or we were both going to smoke the tires because they had every knob twisted. I'm glad I can't see out the side. I didn't know it was that close."
Capps victory moved him into second in championship points just 2 points behind Scelzi. Scelzi, a three-time Top Fuel champion, is trying to join Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers to win a championship in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Scelzi, Capps and Force have one race remaining decide the 2005 champion.
The race for the Pro Stock Motorcycle championship has yet to be clinched as the top two drivers, Vance & Hines Motorsports teammates Andrew Hines and GT Tonglet, went out in the first round of eliminations. Angelle Sampey closed the gap when she met Chip Ellis in the finals. To get there Sampey beat Joe DeSantis, Steve Johnson and Craig Treble. Ellis took out Matt Guidera, Matt Smith and Tom Bradford.
Sampey and her team once again brought Don Schumacher to the line, this time sporting a black and yellow US Army crew shirt. But after a last minute lane change, Sampey was too quick off the line, red-lighting and handing the victory to Ellis.
Rookie of the year candidate Ellis shared "I knew she red lighted. I knew I won as soon as I left. Today was just my day. I've hit bad lights all day, but I've had a very fast motorcycle and we were able to pull it off." Ellis happily shared his day with his daughter McKenzie who's celebrating her fourth birthday.
Pro Stock driver Kurt Johnson raced his way to victory lane passing Bob Panella Jr., Jeg Coughlin and Erica Enders to reach the final round. Challenging Johnson in the finals was POWERade champion Greg Anderson who beat Allen Johnson, Mark Pawuk and Greg Stanfield. Johnson had an incredible .002 reaction time to beat Anderson to the finish line.
Unsure of his Vegas luck Johnson shared "I got a cramp in my foot right before the final. I'm sitting in the car saying this is not a good time for this to happen. I had a flat tire on Saturday morning. Man all this bad luck going on it had to change in Vegas. And sure enough. Today was a fun day to win."
Teams now head west for the Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals November 3-6 in Pomona, CA.