Indianapolis: Saturday qualifying report

HINES RACES TO $25,000 VICTORY IN RINGERS GLOVES PRO BIKE BATTLE Schumacher, Force, Anderson and Smith are qualifying leaders at Mac Tools U.S. Nationals INDIANAPOLIS -- Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Andrew Hines claimed the largest payout in...


Schumacher, Force, Anderson and Smith are qualifying leaders at Mac Tools U.S. Nationals

INDIANAPOLIS -- Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Andrew Hines claimed the largest payout in class history by winning the $25,000 top prize in the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle Saturday at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

The special race within a race bonus event highlighted a spectacular day of qualifying for the 52nd annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the $2.6 million showcase event in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the event, the 18th of 23 on the tour.

For the third year in a row, a Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod from the vaunted Vance & Hines stable came away with a win in the Ringers Gloves Pro Bike Battle, which features the top eight qualifiers from the previous 12 months. Hines won in 2004, while teammate GT Tonglet took the trophy in 2005. This year the winner's purse increased from $15,000 to $25,000.

The back-to-back series champ and current points leader, Hines left Ellis at the starting line and led all the way down the track, crossing the finish line with a 7.062 at 188.15 mph to Ellis' 7.114 at 184.75 mph on his Drag Specialties S&S Buell.

"That's three years in a row for our team and that's hard to believe," Hines said. "I felt like I was making a good run and I didn't hear Chip. I was just tucked in, looking at the wall and thinking, 'come on finish line.' If we can keep this up, we've got a shot at that $10,000 bonus for winning on Monday."

Hines has put himself in position to earn another $20,000 from NHRA should he manage to "Double-up" and win the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Monday. The race and the "Double-up" bonus are worth $10,000 each.

Schumacher answered points leader Doug Kalitta's opening day salvo with a blistering 4.475 at 332.59 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to move up the Top Fuel ladder to the No. 1 spot. Schumacher's top speed was the fastest ever recorded at ORP. Kalitta dropped to third with a best of 4.497 seconds in his Mac Tools dragster.

"We don't want [Kalitta] to be No. 1 because we need every single point we can get," Schumacher said. "That's a world-class team over there. They haven't won a championship yet but they're of that caliber. I always say, we don't just come for the trophy we come for the challenge and it's a big one right now."

Force's 4.691 at 328.54 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang was a true crowd-pleaser as the four-time Indy champ and series points leader lit-up the night sky from one end of the track to the other. Force took the points lead from Ron Capps at the last event by 17 markers. Capps is qualified sixth here with a 4.730 at 324.67 mph in his Brut Dodge Charger.

"It's funny because we're low E.T. now but right before that run I was as nervous as can be," Force said. "We'd been pushed down to the bump and I was about to get knocked out. I looked at [crew chief Austin] Coil and said, 'Well, what do you think?' He said, 'I think I'm gonna be sick.' Then it was our turn to go and he said, 'Well, no guts, no glory.' This sport can bring you to your knees. I don't care how many championships you've won."

Three-time and defending series champion Anderson found his Indy tune-up in the third session and quickly moved to the front of Pro Stock with a 6.681 at 206.23 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. Anderson has won three of the last four Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, including the last three in a row.

"This place is magic to me and always has been," Anderson said. "For a drag racer, it just doesn't get any better to have this track, and this race, be the one where you always seem to shine."

Smith's track record 6.994 at 188.70 mph was the 10th quickest pass in Pro Stock Motorcycle history and his first in the six-second range. The Torco Buell V-Twin rider also became the fifth member of the Mickey Thompson 6-Second Pro Stock Bike Club and put himself in position to claim his second consecutive low qualifier honor.

"It means a lot to join that club," Smith said. "My dad [Pro Stock racer Rickie Smith] was a member of the 6-Second Club in Pro Stock and for both of us to be a part of the history books like that is pretty amazing."

Sunday's final two qualifying sessions are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday's eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Rickie Smith , Andrew Hines , Matt Smith