Sonoma: Friday qualifying report

BROWN JOINS SIX-SECOND CLUB, SCHUMACHER, HIGHT AND GAINES SET TRACK RECORDS AT SONOMA SONOMA, Calif. -- Antron Brown became the third Pro Stock Motorcycle rider in drag racing history to post a six-second run Friday when he traversed Infineon ...

BROWN JOINS SIX-SECOND CLUB, SCHUMACHER, HIGHT AND GAINES SET TRACK RECORDS AT SONOMA

SONOMA, Calif. -- Antron Brown became the third Pro Stock Motorcycle rider in drag racing history to post a six-second run Friday when he traversed Infineon Raceway in 6.983 seconds during the first round of qualifying at the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals.

Ironically, Brown's historic run was not one of the four Infineon Raceway records set in the first two rounds of time trials. Top Fuel leader Tony Schumacher, second-year Funny Car racer Robert Hight, and Pro Stock veteran V. Gaines all set elapsed time records in their classes, while Greg Anderson added a speed record in Pro Stock.

Brown's 6.983-second pass at 191.51 mph on his U.S. Army Suzuki was remarkable, but the track record remains with point leader Andrew Hines, who posted a 6.968 at last year's race. Nevertheless, Brown is the third member of the NHRA Mickey Thompson 6-Second Pro Stock Bike Club and will receive a $2,000 bonus from the tire maker for his effort.

"The six-second deal is very huge," Brown said. "It feels awesome to do it and to be the first Suzuki to do it in competition. We've done it a bunch in testing but we'd come and stub our toe and run like a 7.01 or a 7.02 at the races. Credit my crew chief Steve Tartaglia."

Hines almost reached into the sixes himself but came up one-thousandth of a second short when he tripped the timers in 7.000 seconds at 192.69 mph on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson V-Rod.

After Schumacher opened with a 4.543 at 328.94 mph, which was still No. 1 when he arrived at the starting line in the last pairing of the day, anticipation was high that the U.S. Army driver would set another record. He didn't disappoint as his Alan Johnson-tuned Top Fuel dragster passed the scoreboards in 4.486 seconds at 326.48 mph, the quickest pass in track history.

"At 1,000 feet that rev limiter hits and you just get out of the car at the other end and think, 'man, what would it have run?'" Schumacher said. "That was a cool pass but the one that impressed me was the 4.54 earlier today that was a tenth of a second quicker than everyone else. That's the lap that will help us win the race Sunday. Tonight was just a whoo-wee run."

Brandon Bernstein, driver of the Budweiser Top Fuel dragster, was well back in second with a 4.557 at 327.79 mph. Denver winner and Rookie of the Year candidate J.R. Todd continues to run well, qualifying third with a 4.586 at 321.19 mph in the Skull Shine rail.

Running a special Rookie-of-the-Year paint scheme on his Auto Club Ford Mustang, sophomore pro Hight put a huge gap on the field with a track-record 4.738 at 325.30 mph. Hight was born and raised in Alturas, Calif., near the Oregon border and considers Infineon his home track.

"That was pretty exciting," said Hight, who has been low qualifier five times this year. "The joke is that if you qualify No. 1 you should just drive past the scales and have the run thrown out because there hasn't been any No. 1 qualifiers that have won a race this year. But we don't feel that way at all."

Hight's father-in-law and boss, John Force, is not qualified.

Gaines' Dodge Stratus R/T was the quickest of both sessions with his 6.651 at 206.86 mph setting an Infineon Raceway elapsed time record. The pass also marked a career-best E.T. for the Lakewood, Colo., driver.

"We've had a great car, what I would call a No. 1 or No. 2 car, for the last six or seven races but we've had little things wrong with the set-up and just missed it," Gaines said. "We've aspired to be the No. 1 qualifier for a number of years and it would certainly be a great thrill if we can hold on through tomorrow."

Points leader Jason Line is second with a 6.656 at 207.02 mph in his Pontiac GTO.

-nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Brandon Bernstein , Jason Line , Andrew Hines , Robert Hight , J.R. Todd , Steve Tartaglia