SCHUMACHER WOWS INDY CROWD AGAIN Arend, Naylor and Ellis round out provisional No. 1s CLERMONT, Ind. -- Tony Schumacher's dominance of the world's greatest drag race continued Friday as the five-time Mac Tool U.S. Nationals winner closed out the...
SCHUMACHER WOWS INDY CROWD AGAIN
Arend, Naylor and Ellis round out provisional No. 1s
CLERMONT, Ind. -- Tony Schumacher's dominance of the world's greatest drag race continued Friday as the five-time Mac Tool U.S. Nationals winner closed out the opening qualifying session with a 4.477-second blast at 333.66 mph to claim the provisional No. 1 in Top Fuel.
In the other categories, Funny Car qualifying leader Jeff Arend (4.754 at 327.51 mph) and Pro Stock front man Max Naylor (6.655 at 206.39 mph) were mostly overwhelmed by their accomplishments, while Chip Ellis's provisional top qualifying pass of 6.970 at 188.78 mph in Pro Stock Motorcycle kept his recent hot streak alive.
The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals marks the beginning of the POWERade Series playoffs, the Countdown to the Championship, and there were some notable non-qualifiers on Day 1, including four drivers in the playoffs: Whit Bazemore in Top Fuel, Tony Pedregon in Funny Car, Greg Anderson and Jason Line in Pro Stock, and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Schumacher, who entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed, has won this race five times in the last seven years and trails only "Big Daddy" Don Garlits (eight wins) in the all-time wins list at the NHRA's longest-running race.
"It took us a long time to win a race from the No. 1 qualifying position last year but we finally got it done right here at this track," said Schumacher, who pilots the U.S. Army dragster. "It was perfect. Now we're in the exact same position again. It's not over yet by any stretch. We've got four more rounds of qualifying to go and what is sure to be a brutal race day but we're up for the challenge."
Transplanted local Larry Dixon, the No. 3 seed in Top Fuel, matched his career-best elapsed time of 4.481 seconds during a 327.74 mph pass in his SkyTel dragster to claim second place behind Schumacher.
Arend tied Rookie of the Year favorite Ashley Force with an identical 4.754 elapsed time in the day's lone session but takes the No. 1 spot on the ladder on the strength of his superior top speed of 327.51 mph in his Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevrolet Impala SS. Force topped out at 309.70 mph in her Castrol GTX/Auto Club Ford Mustang.
"It's more than a dream come true," Arend said. "To be No. 1 qualifier at Indy is just flat-out awesome. K.B. [Kenny Bernstein] had one of his patented stellar lights in the other lane and he was way out on me. It threw me off because I figured I was just not that fast. But they told me I ran a 4.75 at the other end and I was happy to hear that. I'm a little surprised no one ran quicker but we'll take it."
Pro Stock leader Naylor, a 54-year-old pro racing in his second season on tour, is a big surprise at the top of the Day 1 grid. Naylor bettered Greg Anderson's one-year-old track elapsed time record with a 6.655 at 206.39 mph in his Jagermeister Dodge Stratus R/T. It's his best qualifying start ever.
"This weekend is the highlight of any drag racers career," Naylor said. "It's a big deal for our team and I told the guys that no matter what happens for the rest of our lives or this weekend, we can always say we were No. 1 at Indy. It's a major accomplishment. Our entire team is very pleased and very excited."
Anderson, the top seed in Pro Stock, had trouble with his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO and clicked it off early, as did his teammate, reigning series champion Jason Line, the No. 5 seed.
Ellis, the No. 5 seed in Pro Stock Motorcycle, continues his recent string of very impressive qualifying efforts with a huge 6.970 at 188.78 mph on his Drag Specialties S&S Buell V-Twin. Ellis' elapsed time set an O'Reilly Raceway Park track record and was the only Pro Stock Motorcycle run in the six-second range. Ellis hasn't qualified lower than seventh all year.
"We always guess at what we think we'll run before every pass and we were all guessing around 6.99 or 7-flat," Ellis said, "so for us to go up there and run a 6.97, especially with a 12-15 mph headwind, was pretty good. If the wind had been blowing the other way we'd have run a 6.89.
Karen Stoffer (No. 4 seed) and Peggy Llewellyn (No. 8 seed) are second and third on the grid, Stoffer with a 7.018 at 188.31 mph on her Geico Motorcycle Suzuki and Llewellyn a 7.029 at 187.34 mph on the Klement Racing Buell.