Schumacher, Toliver and Anderson Earn Season-Opening Wins at K&N Filters Winternationals
POMONA, Calif. - Tony Schumacher earned the first Top Fuel victory of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season Sunday during the 44th annual K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway.
Jerry Toliver and Greg Anderson also earned wins in their respective categories at the $2 million race, the first of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Series. The race was delayed a week because of rain.
Schumacher's 12th career victory was a little easier than normal for the U.S. Army dragster team. His final round opponent could not make the run. Doug Kalitta's Mac Tools dragster broke on the starting line and Schumacher got a single pass for the victory.
"We sat through the rainout, we came back and we won," Schumacher said. "I've been waiting to win Pomona. When I found out that I was on a single run, I was OK with it. They have a tough car and right now, every 20 points count."
Kalitta was 4-1 against Schumacher in career final-round meetings before today.
"It was shaking real bad on the burnout and I knew we were not going to be able to make the run," Kalitta said. "I was hoping we could at least stage the car and hope for a red light start by (Schumacher). We don't know what happened, but we have great crew chiefs here and they are going to figure it out."
Toliver took nearly two seasons off before making a return to Funny Car racing for the 2004 season in his new Schick Quattro Toyota Celica. He beat Gary Densham with a 4.821-second run at 319.29 mph to earn his fifth career win and the first Toyota victory in NHRA history. Densham went 4.955 at 327.11 in a Ford Mustang in the losing effort.
"Last year I sat at home and wondered if I would ever race again nonetheless win an NHRA national event," Toliver said. "I told myself if I ever did win again I would savor the moment and that is what I am doing right now."
The win is a first by any foreign make in NHRA history.
"It wasn't easy out there today," Toliver said. "But when the racing gods are with you, it is just your day and I had a good feeling all weekend. It is great to be back and I have a great team and I am looking forward to the season."
Anderson earned his 17th career victory by defeating Warren Johnson in a battle between two Pontiacs. Anderson went 6.713 at 205.76 in his Vegas General Construction Grand Am to earn the win over Johnson's 6.761 at 204.23 in his GM Performance Parts Grand Am.
At one time Anderson worked for Johnson, serving as crew chief for the six-time NHRA POWERade Pro Stock champion.
"I respect the guy but it has gotten real tough lately between us," Anderson said. "This is the best way this race could have ended, with Warren and me in the final round. It turned out better for me, of course.
"When you get out of the car at the finish line, especially with a guy like Warren in the other lane, it's pretty gratifying."
Anderson is coming off the best season in Pro Stock where he won a record 12 events en route to the championship.
"I am very proud of everyone on the team," Anderson said. "We worried about everything in the offseason because we worked very hard but you never know what is going to happen until you get to Pomona. After the first lap, the weight was lifted, at least for now."
The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continues with the 20th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals, March 5-7, at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix.