Schumacher holds onto points lead Memphis, TN (October 10): As competitors wondered what Sunday would bring at the AutoZone Nationals in Memphis, TN, Team Exide and Tony Schumacher had not yet made the 16-car field for the rain-delayed final ...
Schumacher holds onto points lead
Memphis, TN (October 10): As competitors wondered what Sunday would bring at the AutoZone Nationals in Memphis, TN, Team Exide and Tony Schumacher had not yet made the 16-car field for the rain-delayed final eliminations.
Rain washed out final qualifying on Saturday night, forcing officials to provide a second qualifying session at 10am Sunday morning and delaying final eliminations until 1pm. As Schumacher went to the staging lanes he and his Exide Batteries team knew their quest for a Winston Championship was on the line as they had one final attempt to make the field.
As Schumacher's car thundered down the track it was apparent that it was on a good pass, but until the numbers appeared on the scoreboard, the Exide team held their breath and waited. In true championship form, Schumacher and team vaulted from the last in the field to second with a 4.591 ET at 316.75 MPH.
"We needed that to get in the race, but we also wanted to show that we have earned our spot in the points standings," said a relieved Schumacher. "Dan Olson (Crew Chief) worked his magic again. He has time and time again put an unbelievable tune-up in this car when we really need it the most."
After securing the number 2 qualifying spot, Schumacher was paired first round against Mike Smith. Schumacher had a reaction time advantage, but the race was over quickly as Smith smoked his tires and Schumacher cruised down the track with a 4.651 ET at 312.93 MPH.
Other first round casualties, where Gary Scelzi, Cory McClenathan and Doug Herbert. Schumacher's second round opponent was Kenny Bernstein, who is also chasing the Exide team in the points standings.
As the "King of Speed" and the "Kid of Speed" paired off, Schumacher smoked his tires about 300 feet down track and the race was over as Bernstein was on a full pass. As Bernstein went through the lights, he apparently had an engine failure that cut down a tire and left him crashing dramatically down the track in front of Schumacher.
"I'm glad that Kenny is OK," said a stunned Schumacher, "it is one of those things that you hate to see happen, especially from where I was sitting. Pieces where hitting my car as I was coming up behind him trying to get slowed down."
Bernstein was unhurt but unable to repair the damage to his Budweiser dragster, forcing him out of eliminations. Though Schumacher was done for the day, he still was able to maintain a 20 point lead over Joe Amato and stretched his lead slightly over Gary Scelzi to 66 points.
As Team Exide heads into the final three races of their rookie season, they seem to have momentum on their side as they pursue the Winston Championship and regardless of the outcome have grabbed the attention of fellow Top Fuel competitors and the hearts of NHRA drag racing fans.