Sonoma: Saturday qualifying report

JOHNSON, SCHUMACHER, PEDREGON AND HINES EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT FRAM AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS SONOMA, Calif. -- Kurt Johnson continued to be the hottest Pro Stock driver in the NHRA POWERade Series by taking the No. 1 ...

JOHNSON, SCHUMACHER, PEDREGON AND HINES EARN NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT FRAM AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS

SONOMA, Calif. -- Kurt Johnson continued to be the hottest Pro Stock driver in the NHRA POWERade Series by taking the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the FRAM Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

Tony Schumacher, Tony Pedregon and Andrew Hines also will lead their respective categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations. The $1.5 million race, which will be televised on ESPN2, is the 15th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Johnson, who has won two of the last three events, raced to the No. 1 qualifying position with a track record time of 6.676 seconds at 206.80 mph in his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt. It was his third top qualifying award of the season and 26th of his career.

"After yesterday's runs we had to make a chassis adjustment and change the carburetor and hope that everything meshed," Johnson said. "We knew the conditions would be good and the track would be there, but you never know. Overall we're pretty happy."

Schumacher drove his U.S. Army dragster to his fifth top qualifying performance of the season in Top Fuel, with his track record time of 4.529 seconds from Friday holding the position. It was the 16th No. 1 effort of his career and another positive move as he battles rival Doug Kalitta for the POWERade Series world championship title.

"We still have a long season left but when it is this close every point counts," said Schumacher who gained one point on second-place qualifier Kalitta (4.549, 321.88) by virtue of his better qualifying position. "It was good to get the No. 1 position, but the best thing for me was making three runs in the 50s and two of those came in the heat. Qualifying No. 1 sounds like a great deal but it's not so easy anymore. There's a lot of tough competition out there and no easy rounds. We have to be ready for John Smith tomorrow."

Pedregon also claimed the top spot with his run from Friday, a track record run of 4.759 at 321.12 in his Madagascar-themed Q-Racing Chevy Monte Carlo. It is his third No. 1 of the season and 31st of his career.

"We're happy with the No. 1 spot," said Pedregon, who will race his brother Cruz in the first round. "It's where you want to start and there's some points and bonus money that comes with it, but on race day it's all the same. I think the competition is tougher than ever because there are 16 legitimate cars out there. Now there's pressure on every round and that just shows that the level of competition has increased, which is healthy for the sport."

Hines earned his sixth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 14th of his career in Pro Stock Motorcycle, powering his Screamin' Eagle/Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a track record time of 7.021 at 192.47.

"It's an awesome feeling to be No. 1 for the sixth time this season," said Hines, who hopes to join the season's seven other winners in the two-wheel category with a victory tomorrow.. "For some reason the bike and I haven't been able to team up yet on Sunday. We've had some problems. Once we get it to come together I think we'll have the bike to beat. It's been a while since I've won a race and I'd like to take home another Wally. I think the bike is there to win the race."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Tony Schumacher , Andrew Hines