Joliet: Saturday qualifying report

SCHUMACHER CONTINUES QUALIFYING DOMINANCE; ELLIS JOINS MICKEY THOMPSON 6-SECOND CLUB JOLIET, Ill. -- Tony Schumacher ran the quickest Top Fuel pass of the year - a 4.447 at 327.27 mph - to lead a record-setting two days of professional...

SCHUMACHER CONTINUES QUALIFYING DOMINANCE; ELLIS JOINS MICKEY THOMPSON 6-SECOND CLUB

JOLIET, Ill. -- Tony Schumacher ran the quickest Top Fuel pass of the year - a 4.447 at 327.27 mph - to lead a record-setting two days of professional qualifying at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway. Qualifying ended Saturday with three of the quickest professional fields ever assembled.

Tommy Johnson Jr., Richie Stevens Jr., and Chip Ellis all topped record groups in their respective categories, with Ellis becoming only the second rider in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle history to clock a sub-seven-second run. Johnson's 4.672 spanned to Tim Wilkerson's 16th-best 4.802 in Funny Car. Stevens' 6.635 bracketed Steve Schmidt's 6.700 in Pro Stock, and Ellis' 6.988 was anchored by Geno Scali's 7.119 on the bottom of the Pro Stock Motorcycle grid.

Professional eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

Schumacher, a three-time and defending series champion, has now earned six low qualifier awards this year for his U.S. Army team, but he'd gladly trade them in for his first victory of the season.

"The win is the thing," Schumacher said. "We know we have the car and we know it'll turn around at some point for us. When it does this car is going to fly and we'll win a bunch of races."

Johnson's 4.672 at 328.70 looked untouchable Friday, but Whit Bazemore gave him a run in the day's only Funny Car session when he dipped to a 4.674 at 330.88 mph. Still, Johnson remained the low qualifier in his Skoal Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the first time he's earned the No. 1 spot in five and a half years.

"We got the quickest field in NHRA history," Johnson said. "To lead after qualifying is impressive. To win the race against the quickest 16 ever would really be something. I hope we can get it done. We'd love to be the first No. 1 qualifier to win a race this year."

Nitro points leaders Melanie Troxel and Ron Capps sweated out Saturday's numerous rain delays and shortened schedule to move from out of the field to the top 16 in each of their categories. Troxel's 4.555 and Capps' 4.771 slotted them both in 12th place.

Stevens secured his third career No. 1 qualifier award with a 6.635 at 207.40 mph in his Mopar Dodge Stratus R/T. The run was the second quickest in class history and it got the attention of class dominator Greg Anderson, who qualified fifth with a 6.663.

"Hearing Greg say that they need to do something to catch that Mopar really gives you a boost of confidence," Stevens said. "To run big numbers is one thing. To run better than him is something else. It's a real credit to [crew chief] David Nickens and all the guys on this team. It's taken some time but it's coming around for us."

Ellis' 6.988-second run on his Drag Specialties S&S Cycle Buell V-Twin made him just the second Pro Stock Motorcycle rider to record a six-second pass.

"The thing of it is you need a bike that's good and you got to ride it good," Ellis said. "I'm really just glad we got to make a run at all the way the weather was. I've ridden a Funny Bike at 6.5-seconds and 200-plus mph a hundred times so it wasn't that big a deal to me. It was cool to do it on a Pro Stock Bike. I guess it just hasn't sunk in yet."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Richie Stevens Jr. , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Geno Scali , Tim Wilkerson , Melanie Troxel , Steve Schmidt , Chip Ellis , Tommy Johnson Jr.