Schumacher stays alive, Line clinches Pro stock

Tony Schumacher may not win a third consecutive NHRA POWERade Series championship, but it won't be for lack of trying. The reigning back-to-back champion in Top Fuel made that abundantly clear after moving closer to the class lead with a ...

Tony Schumacher may not win a third consecutive NHRA POWERade Series championship, but it won't be for lack of trying.

The reigning back-to-back champion in Top Fuel made that abundantly clear after moving closer to the class lead with a dominating victory Sunday in the ACDelco Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Schumacher, who was more than 300 points at one point this season, is now within striking distance of leader Doug Kalitta after earning his fourth victory of the season. He was joined in the winner's circle by first-time winner Jack Beckman in Funny Car, Richie Stevens in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Jason Line may have been the day's biggest winner. He clinched his first Pro Stock title when he beat three-time champion Greg Anderson in the semifinals before losing to Stevens in the finals.

"I can't describe it," said Line, whose teammate Anderson has won the class the last three seasons. "It's so unbelievable. I think when you consider that this is the team's fourth in a row ... I can't believe any other Pro Stock team has done that.

"It says a lot about our team. It was very good day. I would have liked to do a better job in the final, but all in all it was great."

The feelings are the same for Schumacher, who was pleased to pull within 45 points of Kalitta heading in the season finale at Pomona, Calif. in two weeks, but he also believes he left something on the table after his final-round pass of 4.469 seconds came a little short of setting a national lapsed time record and 20-point bonus.

"(That) was the best win light I've ever seen," said Schumacher, who saved his championship hopes when he beat Kalitta in the semifinals. "It would have been such a cool deal if we could have set the (national elapsed time record). When we took out Kalitta (in the semifinals), that was a possible 80-point swing, because he didn't get the 20, we did get the 20 and a chance to run for 20 in the final and a world record (for another 20).

"We got everything, but the world record. But for whatever reason, something broke (near the 1000-foot mark) and we came up short (of the record). But it's kind of how our season has gone. We were 300 something points back, and if we pull it off, we did it the hard way."

Beckman, meanwhile, did it the easy way, scoring his first Funny Car victory by making four consistent runs. He opened with a 4.793 in a first-round win over Gary Densham, before beating Del Worsham (4.825), Tony Bartone (4.803) and Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.783).

"I think because drag racing is so unpredictable, I've always tried to make the lows feel not as low," Beckman said. "Because I've done that, I think I clipped off some of the highs. But all that went out the window when I climbed (out of the car after winning).

"To do something like this, which has been a dream of mine since I was seven years old, this is as high as it gets."

Sunday's event also proved to be rewarding for 13-time Funny Car champion John Force. Although he didn't win the event, he did manage to solidify his points lead. Force increased his advantage to 71 and 73 points, respectively, over Ron Capps and Robert Hight, who both lost in the first round. Hight's early exit was the most frustrating. He lost to Bartone, when his car broke a supercharger drive shaft after the burnout.

"I know my job is to win," Force said. "But I know how much Capps wants to win. I know how much Robert wants to win. When (Capps) goes out, it's good for me. I want to win, but I don't need to win this way."

Stevens was the surprise winner in Pro Stock after earning back-to-back hole-shot victories in the semifinals and finals. He beat Line after a near-perfect reaction time in the finals.

"I knew I had to be on the (Christmas Tree) in the semifinals against (Dave Connolly) and the finals against Jason," Stevens said. "We were able to pull it off."

The day was also pretty good for Hines, who moved from 27 points behind Antron Brown to 37 in front of the U.S. Army rider.

Hines, who is seeking his third consecutive class championship, beat Brown in the second round before scoring wins against Ryan Schnitz and GT Tonglet.

"I wasn't happy coming here to be 27 points down," Hines said. "I needed to get back in the 'box,' and I did that this weekend. I made eight excellent runs and we were able to win."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Tony Bartone , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Jack Beckman , Jason Line , Ryan Schnitz , Andrew Hines , GT Tonglet , Robert Hight , Dave Connolly , Tommy Johnson Jr.