Tony completed his fourth and final attempt in 3.757 seconds at 325.14 mph.
After Tony Schumacher qualified 10th and lost in the opening round of the season's first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event two weeks ago, he stated the U.S. Army team could not start championship eliminations qualified in the bottom half of the 16-car field.
Tony, the seven-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion, added that he was confident in the plan for the team's progress laid out by crew chief Mike Green.
And the plan took a big step forward in Saturday's last qualifying session in the NHRA Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.
"That last run is what we expect with our U.S. Army team," said Tony, who has won four times at the track. "The last season didn't end the way we hoped it would and it wasn't much better when we opened the year at Pomona.
"But I have faith in what Mike's plan is and we saw it start to pay off on our last run. That put us in the top-half (of the field) so we'll get our choice of lanes in the first run. That's huge, but we still have to have another solid run if we went to get the second round and keep improving."
The performance nearly earned Tony his fifth No. 1 qualifying position at the track.
Doug Kalitta earned the pole with a track-record time of 3.735 on Friday, but Green and assistant Neal Strausbaugh helped Tony produce Saturday's quickest run. That bodes well for the Army team when Sunday's forecast for a high of 80 is close to Saturday's conditions that were warmer than opening day.
"Mike and Neal put it together today, and I know they can match it on Sunday."