Richmond: Saturday qualifying report

CRUZ PEDREGON DELIVERS A STUNNING NO. 1 QUALIFYING RUN IN FUNNY CAR Schumacher, Anderson also earn provisional poles at fourth of six races in the Countdown to 1 DINWIDDIE, Va. -- Cruz Pedregon bolstered his flickering championship aspirations...

CRUZ PEDREGON DELIVERS A STUNNING NO. 1 QUALIFYING RUN IN FUNNY CAR
Schumacher, Anderson also earn provisional poles at fourth of six races in the Countdown to 1

DINWIDDIE, Va. -- Cruz Pedregon bolstered his flickering championship aspirations Saturday with a stunning 4.041 at 306.88 in his Advance Auto Parts Toyota Solara to claim the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car at the Virginia NHRA Nationals.

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) rounded out the No. 1 qualifiers at the 22nd of 24 NHRA POWERade Series races this season and the fourth race in the six-race NHRA Playoff, the Countdown to 1.

Pedregon entered the weekend 115 points behind Tim Wilkerson and he'll go into Sunday with a 109-point deficit, essentially needing to win six more rounds (drivers earn 20 points for each round-win) than Wilkerson with just 12 rounds of racing left.

"It sends a message that we're hanging in there for this championship. The Advance Auto Parts car is flying," said Pedregon, who sits on the pole for the third time this year and 36th time in his career.

Pedregon will face Tony Bartone (4.157) in one of several compelling first-round Funny Car matchups;* * * others to watch include Robert Hight vs. John Force and Tim Wilkerson vs. Ashley Force.

Schumacher's 3.771 seconds at 317.05 from Friday night held up Saturday so he'll start from the pole for the seventh time this season. He'll open with No. 16 qualifier Scott Palmer as he seeks his 14th win of 2008, 55th of his career, but just his first at Virginia Motorsports Park.

"For the U.S. Army, outstanding job; (Sunday) is a big day, huge," said Schumacher, who can clinch his fifth straight and sixth overall POWERade Series world championship by winning the race and having a number of drivers behind him eliminated early. "Right now we absolutely have to win first round. We've come way too far to get this far ahead and give up anything."

Pro Stock's Anderson delivered the top qualifying pass Saturday with his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GXP on the final qualifying pass of the weekend when he matched Jeg Coughlin's 6.554 but earned the pole by virtue of his track record speed of 210.21 mph.

Anderson was the regular season champion in Pro Stock, but he's lost three straight rounds after opening the playoffs with a win over Dave Connolly and has slipped to fourth place, 62 points behind Coughlin.

"We haven't won a race since Denver and we want to win a race," said Anderson, who will open with Steve Spiess (6.590) in the first round of Sunday's race. "I've got to win a race. I've got to get that winning groove back before I can win a championship. If I can't win a race I don't deserve to win a championship."

It was the sixth No. 1 of the season and the 68th of his career for Anderson, who paced the quickest field in Pro Stock history and the first to have a driver (Rickie Jones Jr., 6.591) DNQ with a six-fifty pass.

The race begins Sunday at 11 a.m.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Tony Bartone , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson , Ashley Force , Scott Palmer , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly , Rickie Jones , Steve Spiess