Schumacher looks to end NHRA jinx

What jinx? At least that's Tony Schumacher's approach for Sunday's NHRA Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway as he hopes to become the first competitor in Top Fuel to win from the pole this season after scoring his seventh No. 1 qualifying...

What jinx? At least that's Tony Schumacher's approach for Sunday's NHRA Fram Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway as he hopes to become the first competitor in Top Fuel to win from the pole this season after scoring his seventh No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday. Other top qualifiers for Sunday's race are Robert Hight in Funny Car, Greg Anderson in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

"All the people keep talking about the superstition (of nobody winning from the pole)," said Schumacher, who earned the top spot in Top Fuel with the 4.486-second pass at 331.36 mph that he achieved on Friday. "But (we) don't care about that. We want the No. 1 spot. We need every single point we can get right now. "It doesn't matter if you are marked, you still have to go faster than the guy in the other lane. And we, since the U.S. Army car has qualified No. 1 six times (previously), have been failing. It (hasn't been) other people not being able to win (from No. 1), it's been us, six times. I think we will be able to do it (Sunday). We have the car. We just have to do what we've been doing." And that has been winning.

Schumacher, winner of 18 national events the past two seasons, struggled with consistency during much of the first half of the season. But his U.S. Army team has found their groove lately, winning two of the past three events to close within 150 points of the lead. He hopes to trim that deficit even more Sunday. But he will also keep a close eye on points-leader Doug Kalitta.

"I like Doug," said Schumacher, who will line up against No. 16 Steve Chrisman in the first round. "He's a great guy, but we're fighting for a championship. My sole purpose is to win the championship right now. If he goes out and wins every race, or goes to the final round, it's going to be tough to catch him. We just have to do our job and hope they can make some mistakes."

Other first-round matchups include Kalitta, who qualified third (4.582), against No. 13 David Baca (4.642) and No. 2 Brandon Bernstein (4.532) vs. No. 15 Larry Dixon (4.711). Melanie Troxel (4.608), who is second in points, meets rookie Hillary Will (4.597) in an all-women first-round encounter.

Hight will also be looking to end a bigger curse in Funny Car, where no competitor has won from the pole since Hight's teammate, Eric Medlen, won from the No. 1 position at Brainerd, Minn. last August, a stretch of 22 consecutive events. It's Hight's second consecutive pole and his sixth this season.

"We haven't done the job on raceday" said Hight, who qualified No. 1 with a 4.738 and will face the single-car entry of Bob Gilbertson (4.968) in the first round. "It's been something little that has bit us. We have to fix that. I have faith in my crew that we can do that.

"We have to just treat each (run) one by one. The one thing I have learned about this sport is that every run you make is different. The conditions change. How you have to react to the car, how the car reacts ... It's all different. It's an on-going learning curve. Once you think you have it solved, it jumps up and bites you."

Saturday's qualifying sessions proved to quite enjoyable in both Pro Stock divisions.

Greg Anderson, who has ruled the factory hot rod class the past three years, set a provisional national record with a stout 6.631 pass at 207.82 mph. He can earn 20 additional points if he leaves with the national record at the completion of today's event, per NHRA rules.

"Anytime you can run a national record you certainly have something to be proud of," Anderson said. "It felt like a real nice run, but we had great conditions and everybody is stepping up to the plate.

"There were four cars that ran 6.64 or better, and (teammate Jason Line) and I ran 6.63, so we're excited about that."

It comes at a good time for the three-time champion, who hopes to rebound from a summer stumble, which has saw him drop out of the class points lead. Anderson came into this weekend trailing Line by 25 points.

"I think we are going to have a good day tomorrow. We turned our season around here last year, and I think we can do it again. I'm pumped, excited."

The feeling is the same for Hines, who led the quickest Pro Stock Motorcycle field with a track record 6.974 on Saturday. In all, four PSM riders eclipsed the seven-second barrier, including No. 2 Tom Bradford (6.981), No. 3 Antron Brown (6.981) and No. 4 Chip Ellis (6.998). Previously, only five riders had ever cracked into the six-second club.

"The top four on the qualifying sheet ran in the sixes," said Hines, who faces Mike Berry in the first round. "Just to be the leader of that pack feels great. This is our first No. 1 since (last September), so that's pretty sweet.

"We're pretty hungry, so if we can keep it going, it will be pretty good for the championship."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Bob Gilbertson , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Mike Berry , David Baca , Melanie Troxel , Brandon Bernstein , Andrew Hines , Eric Medlen , Tom Bradford , Hillary Will , Steve Chrisman