Force establishes E.T. national record at Route 66 Raceway; Schumacher, Anderson and Scali earn top honors at Route 66. JOLIET, Ill. - John Force established a national record for elapsed time earning him his 114th career No. 1 qualifying...
Force establishes E.T. national record at Route 66 Raceway; Schumacher, Anderson and Scali earn top honors at Route 66.
JOLIET, Ill. - John Force established a national record for elapsed time earning him his 114th career No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the sixth annual Lucas Oil NHRA Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.
Tony Schumacher, Greg Anderson and Geno Scali also were the top performers in their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 10th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Force powered his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang down the quarter-mile track in a record time of 4.721 seconds at 325.30 mph to lead all Funny Car competitors for the second time this season. Force backed up the run with an earlier pass of 4.750 and earned an additional 20 POWERade points for the performance achievement. The 106-time event winner is seeking his first victory of the season and came to Route 66 Raceway more than 450 points behind teammate and current points leader Tony Pedregon.
"Getting the points for the national record doesn't help me right now," said Force. "To be honest, I thought Tony's car was going to set the record. He ran a 4.77 next to us and he only had seven cylinders. We know (Whit) Bazemore is right on our bumper and his car can step up at any time. We were out there to go after the record because we knew he would go for it and we didn't want to give him the 20 points. My Mustang has really been good the last three races but it has been the driver that has been off."
The three Ford Mustangs owned by Force occupy the first three positions in the order with Force atop the 16-car field followed by Pedregon and Gary Densham. It is the third time this season that Force Racing has been the top three cars (Phoenix and Bristol, Tenn.). Bazemore and Del Worsham round out the top five heading into eliminations.
"All three of our hot rods are running well," said Force. "Good job to (Gary) Scelzi and what he did out there. Then Densham runs a 77. In the end we want to win the POWERade championship but we know Tony has the best car out there. We can still win it, but we are way back there."
Scelzi, a three-time Top Fuel champion, made the fastest Funny Car pass in NHRA history when he reached a speed of 327.98 in his Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T during Saturday's first round of qualifying. During eliminations he will need to run a speed of at least 324.70 to establish a national record.
"It's great to be the fastest Funny Car again, but we want the national record," said Scelzi. "We want to back it up. That's our whole goal."
Schumacher covered the distance in the U.S. Army dragster in a career-best time of 4.512 seconds at 326.16 mph to giving him top honors in Top Fuel for the first time this season and the fifth time in his career. Schumacher, who entered the event 10th in the standings, recently hired Alan Johnson as crew chief for the U.S. Army team replacing Dan Olson. The hiring of Johnson paid immediate dividends as Schumacher drove to the top spot for the first time since September of 2002.
"We didn't hire Alan Johnson to figure out a tune-up, we hired him because he knows what to do and has won championships," said Schumacher. "He has been tuning Jim Head's dragster lately and we have given him a good budget and a great team to work with. We haven't had very good luck here at our home track, but Alan has. He won here with Gary and he beat up on us all the time. A crew chief can have a good handle on certain tracks, and not such a good handle on others. We want to win here not just because it is our home track, but for Alan, and we owe it to the Army."
Doug Kalitta qualified second in the Mac Tools dragster and defending NHRA POWERade Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon is third. Doug Herbert failed to qualify his Snap-on dragster for Sunday's eliminations, snapping a qualifying streak of 59 consecutive events dating back to Memphis, Tenn., in 2000.
Anderson earned his eighth career No. 1 qualifying spot and the fifth of the season when his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am shut the clocks off in a track record time of 6.761 at 203.58 to lead the Pro Stock category. It also was Anderson's fourth straight top qualifying effort and he has advanced to the final round at the previous three events.
"Being No. 1 has paid off for the last three races, with two wins and a runner-up finish," said Anderson. "(Route 66 Raceway) is kind of special for me. The last time I was here I had a little bit of a problem and ended up sliding down the track on my lid. I seem to find away to get attention at this track but this time I will try and do it the normal way. I'm going to try and win my third straight."
Six-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson failed to qualify for eliminations. Anderson used to be the crew chief for Johnson before making a full-time commitment to driving. Allen Johnson, who led Pro Stock qualifying after the first two sessions, also failed to make the field.
"It is absolutely brutal out here," said Anderson. "If you don't make the right run at the right time, you go home. You have to have consistency out here. Warren has a new car and just needs more runs on it. He has a few bugs to work out. I love seeing him in eliminations because if you beat him or Kurt, that's big. It's a heck of a break for me as far as the point standings go. I have to take advantage of it because if I go out in the first round, it's all for naught."
Scali, a Chicago native and hometown favorite, was the top qualifier in Pro Stock Bike for the third time this season with his pass of 7.139 at 186.36 atop his Trim Tex Suzuki. Scali has one victory on the year and is the current leader in the POWERade point standings.
"This year is a fantasy," said the 38-year-old Scali. "All the time we have put in, the hard work, is all paying off. This is the third time I have been No. 1 with a new team, and I did it at my hometown track. Trim Tex is based here and they are all out watching as well. It is really special to be No. 1 in front of my sponsors, fans, my family and my friends."