Richmond: Friday qualifying report

SCHUMACHER BLISTERS VMP TRACK TO EARN PROVISIONAL NO. 1 Neff, Connolly also earn provisional poles at fourth of six races in the Countdown to1 DINWIDDIE, Va. -- Top Fuel points leader Tony Schumacher blistered the Virginia Motorsports Park ...

SCHUMACHER BLISTERS VMP TRACK TO EARN PROVISIONAL NO. 1
Neff, Connolly also earn provisional poles at fourth of six races in the Countdown to1

DINWIDDIE, Va. -- Top Fuel points leader Tony Schumacher blistered the Virginia Motorsports Park track with a run of 3.771 seconds at 317.05 mph in his U.S. Army dragster to earn the provisional No. 1 qualifying position after the first of two days of qualifying Friday at the Virginia NHRA Nationals.

Mike Neff (Funny Car) and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) rounded out the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 22nd of 24 races this season and the fourth race in the six-race NHRA Playoff, the Countdown to 1.

Schumacher, who enters the weekend with a 166-point lead over Cory McClenathan, made quite an opening statement in his bid to clinch his fifth straight and sixth overall world championship.

"That's as Army strong as it gets. That's a pretty stout run," said Schumacher, who is bidding for his seventh No. 1 of 2008 and the 54th of his career for the U.S. Army team.

Neff hammered his Old Spice Ford Mustang down the track in 4.041 seconds at 304.80 mph to earn the provisional top spot in Funny Car. The No. 1 would be the second for one of the favorites to win the 2008 Auto Club Road to the Future award.

"That is fantastic. That was bitchin'. I mean, conditions are great here. It just makes it so much fun to get back to these conditions. We should see these conditions for the last two races of the season as well," said Neff, who was joined by teammates Ashley Force (No. 2 at 4.048), Robert Hight (No. 6 at 4.070) and John Force (No. 10 at 4.080) among the 12 provisionally qualified cars in Funny Car.

"All the Force cars make a lot of power and I think this is when it shows, when the conditions are like this and you're actually able to use it," Neff said.

For Connolly, if the 6.574 at 209.07 in his Lucas Oil Chevy Cobalt holds up Saturday, it would be his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and the eighth of his career. Connolly entered the weekend in sixth place, 94 points behind Jeg Coughlin.

"There's nothing I wouldn't want more than to go coast to coast, stick this thing in the No. 1 spot and win the race because right now, as far as the Countdown goes, we're struggling, we're a little behind. It's do or die. It's a critical weekend for us and we're glad we hit the ground running so far," Connolly said.

Meanwhile, every Countdown to 1 driver is among the qualified save for one, points leader Coughlin. He'll have two more chances on Saturday to get into the 16-car field or face what would be a devastating DNQ.

Racing resumes Saturday with the third and fourth qualifying sessions, beginning at Noon at 2:30 p.m.

-credit: nhra

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Ashley Force , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly , Mike Neff