ANDERSON RACES TO LANDMARK 50TH CAREER VICTORY AT FRAM-AUTOLITE NHRA NATIONALS Schumacher, Force and Smith also win at Infineon Raceway SONOMA, Calif. -- Greg Anderson recorded his landmark 50th Pro Stock victory Sunday to highlight a...
ANDERSON RACES TO LANDMARK 50TH CAREER VICTORY AT FRAM-AUTOLITE NHRA
Schumacher, Force and Smith also win at Infineon Raceway
SONOMA, Calif. -- Greg Anderson recorded his landmark 50th Pro Stock victory Sunday to highlight a spectacular day of drag racing at the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway.
Anderson became just the sixth professional and the 10th driver in history to win 50 NHRA races. He is the second quickest to the mark, winning No. 50 in his 189th career start. Legend Bob Glidden won 50 times in his first 139 races.
Anderson shared winner's circle with an emotional John Force, who defended fallen teammate Eric Medlen's Funny Car win here from a year ago. Top Fuel ace Tony Schumacher dropped Bob Vandergriff to 0-10 lifetime in final rounds. Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Matt Smith padded his series lead with his third victory of the season, this one over first-time finalist Eddie Krawiec.
The Pro Stock final was a wire-to-wire performance for Anderson, who left first on teammate Jason Line and slowly crept away to take the stripe with a 6.657 at 207.72 mph over Line's 6.688 at 204.08 mph run in his identical Summit Racing Pontiac GTO.
"It's quite an accomplishment (to reach 50 wins)," Anderson said. "I don't know how to explain it. It's fitting that we had a struggle between No. 49 and No. 50. Fifty should be tough to get. It should be hard. We were cruising right along but then we got slapped in the face this summer. It's a real reminder to never get too cocky."
The Pro Stock section of the Countdown to the Championship is more than halfway full after Line and Allen Johnson clinched positions, joining Anderson, Jeg Coughlin, and Dave Connolly in the field.
Force immediately dedicated his Funny Car win to Medlen, the Northern California native and defending event winner who died earlier this year in a testing accident. He also presented the winner's trophy to Medlen's father John, who serves as a roving crew chief for his three remaining teams.
Final-round opponent Del Worsham put up a valiant fight, running a 4.851 at 314.68 mph in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevrolet Impala SS, his best pass of the day, but Force's Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang was just a little bit quicker, posting his 124th career win with a 4.831 at 320.58 mph. It was Force's seventh win at Infineon Raceway in 11 finals.
"We had a team meeting this morning and I said that between me, Ashley, and Robert [Hight], one of us had to win this race for Eric," said Force, who moved to seventh in the Countdown standings. "I remember how happy he was when he won here last year because he's from this area. He had that goofy smile and was eating ice cream and just having a blast. We wanted to win and dedicate it to Eric."
After a terrible start to the year, Force has now been to three finals in the last four races, winning twice. His final-round record is now 124-74. Worsham's last win came 43 races ago at the 2005 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. His runner-up finish did lift him to ninth place in the points, 85 behind Jim Head.
Robert Hight joined Ron Capps in the Countdown to the Championship group. They are the only two Funny Car racers to qualify so far.
Schumacher may have started his own career with a 0-8 mark in final rounds before scoring his first win, but he showed the hapless Vandergriff little mercy in Sunday's Top Fuel final, powering his U.S. Army dragster past Vandergriff to win with a 4.534 at 329.42 mph in his U.S. Army dragster. Vandergriff trailed with a 4.597 at 305.84 mph in his UPS dragster. It was Schumacher's 39th career victory.
It was obvious that Schumacher had the car to beat as he ran low elapsed time of every round -- running a 4.542, a 4.537, and a 4.558 -- before lowering the boom in the final with the quickest and fastest pass of the entire weekend.
"Bob gave us a great race," Schumacher said. "He was next to us the whole way, we knew he would be, and we had to be prepared for that. He's been to 10 finals so he knows what he's doing and he'll win his before he's done, trust me. I told him he'll have his day and I believe that."
By moving into second place, Schumacher, along with Brandon Bernstein, Larry Dixon, and J.R. Todd, managed to clinch positions in the Countdown to the Champion field Sunday, leaving just three open slots in the Top Fuel category.
Although he was a slight underdog in the Pro Stock Motorcycle final, Smith responded with a slightly quicker reaction time on his Torco Buell and then managed to hold off Kraweic's Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to win by a tenth of a second: 6.992 at 189.10 mph to Krawiec's 7.090 at 190.16 mph.
"Dad [former Pro Stock driver Rickie Smith] won his first race here (1993, Pro Stock) and I was in that picture so it's special to come back and win one for myself," Smith said. "This ended up being our day I guess. It's mind-blowing the season we're having."
Smith got some company in the Countdown to the Championship field when Sampey earned enough points to secure a position in the top eight. Krawiec's runner-up result moved him into 10th place in the standings, 29 markers behind the final Countdown spot.
The NHRA POWERade Series Countdown to the Championship continues with the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Aug. 9-12 at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway.