Tony Schumacher claimed the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Saturday at the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of six races in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs.
Side-by-side racing is really what it’s become.
Schumacher powered his U.S. Army dragster to a leading performance of 3.773 seconds at 324.20 mph to earn his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season, bringing his career total to 71. In doing so, he keeps his Countdown to the Championship hopes alive in his bid to win his eighth world championship, heading into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations which will be aired on ESPN2HD.
“Side-by-side racing is really what it’s become,” Schumacher said. “There was a time when one car was a tenth of a second faster than everybody else, and he just didn’t have to make a mistake and he would win. But now it’s incredibly close. It’s going to be a battle, and I’m glad we all got today in to see where the conditions are going to be. How many cars ran 3.80s? It was one after another after another, and there were even a couple 3.7s. It’s great. The track is prepared good, and it’s getting better every day, and we’re going to have some fantastic racing.”
The battle atop the Top Fuel points standings remains hot as leader Antron Brown and his Matco Tools team qualified 13th with a run of 3.869 at 313.88 while Spencer Massey, who currently sits second in points, landed second with a time of 3.776 at 323.43. Brown will face rookie driver and the most recent winner on the circuit, Khalid alBalooshi, in the first round of Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations.
“To be honest with you, the conditions came to us,” Pedregon said. “Had we run when we were supposed to, I think the track wouldn’t have held that, but hey, we took advantage of it, as did a couple of cars. I think when I pulled into the water box we were fourth or fifth. It’s a credit to our team. It’s the fifth No. 1 of the year for our Snap-on Toyota, and man is it a great car. It’s one of the best cars I’ve driven in my 20-year Funny Car career. But we’ve got a goose egg in the win column, so we’ve got to enjoy this, but at the end of the day, we’re going to go out there tomorrow and see if we can’t get that win.”
Championship points leader Jack Beckman was seventh at the end of qualifying with a 4.091 pass at 309.06, while Ron Capps, who is currently second in points, landed eighth with a pass of 4.098 at 308.78 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. Mike Neff, the most recent winner who is third in points, qualified second and will face Jeff Arend in round one of eliminations.
“My mind-set is easy. Just win,” said Line, currently second in the points standings. “Obviously, Greg’s (Anderson) mind-set is a little bit different than mine. He’s trying to help me win, which is a great thing. You can say that it’s unorthodox because it hasn’t been done before. But that’s why we have teammates. Our philosophy has never been to try to race each other and dive. That’s been done in the past and nobody likes that. That’s not real racing.”
Points leader Allen Johnson and his Team Mopar/J & J Racing Dodge Avenger team qualified second with a time of 6.600 at 209.07 and will face Deric Kramer in round one. Erica Enders, who is currently third in the points standings, qualified fourth with a run of 6.626 at 208.71 in her GK Motorsports Chevy Cobalt.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Screamin’ Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson rider Krawiec won the rain-delayed final elimination round from Reading with a run of 6.966 at 194.13 defeating teammate Andrew Hines in the process to earn his eighth win of the 2012 season. With the win, he increases his championship points lead to 51 over Hines. Krawiec also scored the No.1 qualifying position for the fifth time this season, 14th of his career with a time of 6.902 at 195.11.
Hector Arana Jr. who currently sits third in the points qualified second with a time of 6.912 at 194.41 on his Lucas Oil Buell while father, Hector Arana Sr., landed seventh on the ladder with a 6.989 pass at 192.60. Hines qualified fourth with a run of 6.963 at 194.07 on his Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson.