Rain in Joliet on Saturday mixed with fast times

Rain delays make for long day, fast times at Route 66 in Joliet Grey skies, low clouds and scattered sprinkles set a cold, dreary stage for the last day of qualifying for the Ninth annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in...


Rain delays make for long day, fast times at Route 66 in Joliet

Grey skies, low clouds and scattered sprinkles set a cold, dreary stage for the last day of qualifying for the Ninth annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL. The rain delays may have been annoying to fans, but for Melanie Troxel and Ron Capps they were excruciating.

Neither Troxel nor Capps, points leaders in Top Fuel and Funny Car respectively, were in the field for Sunday's finals after two qualifying runs on Friday. After several stops in the action, drivers were able to get in a third round of runs. The NHRA cancelled the fourth round of qualifications due to time constraints.

Capps sat through several rain delays and the announcement of the schedule change before his third and final attempt to qualify. Despite ending his run on fire, Capps flashed a smile after climbing out his machine. "It lit up at the finish line," Capps recalled. "The thing was on fire but I almost forgot to get out of the car."

He continued, "I was worried about whether we got in or not. Then it started to get really hot, but I didn't want to get out because I wouldn't be able to hear what Ace (Capp's crew chief) was saying." Capps did indeed make the field, sitting twelfth on the ladder.

Tommy Johnson Jr. earned his first pole since 2001, leading the quick field of Funny Cars with his run of 4.67 seconds and top speed of 328.7 MPH. Whit Bazemore, Eric Medlen, Robert Hight and Cruz Pedregon round out the top five for Funny Car.

Reigning POWERade Top Fuel Champion Tony Schumacher sits atop his bracket after powering down the quarter mile in 4.44 seconds reaching a top speed of 327.2 mph. Schumacher, a Chicagoland native and local favorite, is still searching for his first win of the 2006 season.

Troxel and her team joined in a collective sigh of relief after her third run set her safely in the field in the twelth spot. Doug Kalitta, David Baca, Doug Herbert and David Grubnic complete the top five.

Amidst Saturday's qualifying, Pro Stock held the King Demon Crown bonus event. Drivers have been accumulating points during qualification since last year's Chicago race and the top eight competed for their share of $76,000 prize money.

Greg Anderson blasted down the racetrack in a Pro Stock record 6.62 seconds to beat teammate Jason Line in the Crown's final. "That was the best drag race I've ever been a part of," Anderson said. "I shoved it in high gear and peeked over and we were dead even. I thought there was no way I could do anything else to get ahead because he has the exact same stuff as we do. Somehow I crept ahead by an inch or two in the last hundred feet."

Anderson's victory came with a $50,000 check. If he wins the Pro Stock finals on Sunday he'll earn a $25,000 "Double-Up" bonus from the NHRA.

Richie Stevens tops the Pro Stock ladder after posting 207.4 MPH in 6.63 seconds. "I feel like I've won the race just by getting the pole since it's been so long," Stevens explained. "We made 3 really good runs. It's easy to go out and make a good run when you have a good car and we have a great car this year."

Mike Edwards, Dave Connolly, Allen Johnson and Greg Anderson round out the top five.

Chip Ellis became the second rider in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle history to break the seven second barrier with his 6.98 second run down the quarter mile. The feat earned Ellis a $3,000 bonus check from the NHRA Mickey Thompson 6-Second Pro Stock Bike Club. Andrew Hines was the first member of the club after a 6.99 second run at the 2005 Gatornationals.

Ellis sits in the top spot on the final PSM bracket followed by Matt Smith, Hines, Matt Guidera and Angelle Sampey.

Final eliminations for the Ninth annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals begin Sunday at 11am at Route 66 Raceway.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , David Grubnic , Cruz Pedregon , Melanie Troxel , Allen Johnson , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Eric Medlen , Chip Ellis , Robert Hight , Matt Guidera , Angelle Sampey , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.