Phoenix: Saturday qualifying report

SCHUMACHER, MEDLEN AND ANDERSON EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING AWARDS AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Tony Schumacher raced to a string of 4.4-second passes to secure the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the Checker ...

SCHUMACHER, MEDLEN AND ANDERSON EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING AWARDS AT CHECKER SCHUCK'S KRAGEN NHRA NATIONALS

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Tony Schumacher raced to a string of 4.4-second passes to secure the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals presented by Castrol at Firebird International Raceway.

Eric Medlen and Greg Anderson also were No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the $1.5 million race, the second of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

It's just the third time a racer has posted 4.4-second runs during all four qualifying attempts. Schumacher, a three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion, also claimed the other two, one at the 2003 NHRA Finals and the second at last year's fall race in Chicago.

Schumacher's performance, a 4.459 second run at 330.96 mph, earned him his second consecutive top qualifying position of the year and the 24th of his career. He also logged runs of 4.47, 4.48, and 4.49 in his U.S. Army dragster. He will face rookie driver Alan Bradshaw in Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.

He credited his crew chief for the consistent performance of his race car.

"Some crew chief has to be the best," said Schumacher, who won this event last year and also in 2000 and 2002. "In Top Fuel it's obviously Alan Johnson. I compare it to chess. We all basically have the same pieces and play on the same board, but some guys are just better than others. I can't give you an answer why and I bet Alan can't either. It's just the way it is. He's very expensive, but worth every penny."

Schumacher is looking to get back to his winning ways after losing in the second round at the season-opener two weeks ago. Winternationals winner Melanie Troxel is third with a 4.502 at 326.48 in her Skull Gear/Torco Race Fuels dragster.

"I'll still be nervous tomorrow morning," Schumacher said. "We just went 4.49 and Melanie went 4.50. That's not a huge advantage. There are lots of cars right there that could win. We just qualified a little bit better than they did."

Eric Medlen earned his sixth career low qualifier award in Funny Car with his Friday performance of 4.707 at 321.96 mph in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang.

"We got to run in the heat today both times," said Medlen, who will meet Scott Kalitta in the first round. "It's harder to do but you saw a lot of guys pick it up and run better. That proves the track is there. You just have to tune your car right."

Cruz Pedregon was second in his Advance Auto Parts Chevy Monte Carlo with a 4.717 at 325.45. Defending race winner John Force, who has won this race a record eight times, will start seventh in his Castrol GTX Mustang with a qualifying best of 4.742 at 316.52.

In Pro Stock, Anderson denied Friday leader Erica Enders a shot at history on his final attempt by producing a track record time of 6.671 seconds at 206.83 mph in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO. Enders was bidding to become the first female in class history to earn No. 1 qualifier honors, but she ended up second instead.

"It's just a matter of time of time before she gets a (No. 1 qualifying position) and before she gets a win," Anderson said. "She's doing a great job and she's got a great team behind her. That's the key. It's just inevitable when it's going to happen. But being a guy, like most the guys in the class, we're going to try and hold her off as long as we can, but we know it won't be forever."

It was Anderson's 42nd No. 1 qualifying performance of his career, second of the season and second at this track. He will face defending race winner Allen Johnson in the opening round.

"That run was pretty much all you can get out of this track," said Anderson, who won this event in 2003. "It's very tricky but it's always that way so I guess we shouldn't be surprised. It took both of our cars all four passes to get it figured out. This is probably the best we've ever done here."

-nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Scott Kalitta , Melanie Troxel , Allen Johnson , Alan Bradshaw , Eric Medlen