Tony Schumacher swept the NHRA Western Swing with his Top Fuel victory today at the Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, scoring his fifth win in the last six NHRA events. Robert Hight, Dave Connolly and Matt Guidera also captured wins in California.
Schumacher's win in Sonoma completed his sweep of the three Top Fuel Western Swing events, with earlier wins in Denver and Seattle. At Infineon, Schumacher defeated Hillary Will in the finals, 3.886 to 3.988.
"We have outstanding drive and outstanding commitment, and we put all of our effort and energy into every run," Schumacher said. "We happen to really be hitting it right now, catching some breaks when we need them and running strong when we have to.
"People have been saying 'You've locked up Number 1 [in the Countdown]. You don't even need to show up until after Indy,'" Schumacher continued. "But the fact is we don't show up for that. We show up to try to win races."
Schumacher started the day by eliminating Doug Kalitta, who was inducted into the Infineon Raceway Wall of Fame this weekend. He then took out Rod Fuller and Steve Torrence to reach the finals. Will beat teammate David Grubnic, Cory McClenathan and Antron Brown in earlier rounds.
Brown secured his place in the Countdown to the Championship with his first-round win over Steve Chrisman. Brown is now the second driver to reserve a spot, joining Schumacher in the 10-car Countdown field.
Hight reached the 20th final round of his career defeating Gary Densham, 4.16 to 4.22, to grab his second win of the season. He took out Del Worsham in the first round then went on to defeat Cruz Pedregon and Tony Pedregon.
"It's unbelievable," Hight shared. "It's always been a dream of mine to win at this racetrack since I've been driving. I actually have been to every national event contested here. I was coming to the races as a spectator before I ever got a job working on a crew.
"To finally get a chance to do the job for John, to work on his car for a lot of years and now to drive one of the best Funny Cars in the nation is like a dream come true. I grew up in Northern California. This would be the closest race track to where I used to live," added Hight.
Densham got past Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and points leader Tim Wilkerson to reach the money round versus Hight, also the 20th final round in Densham's professional career.
Both Pro Stock classes ended on holeshots, first with Matt Guidera winning the Pro Stock Motorcycle title with a 7.054 to Andrew Hines' 7.026. Guidera's margin of victory was .004 seconds.
"We really had to work for it this weekend," Guidera said. "This place is great, but it's very difficult to race here. We have an aggressive setup and when the track gets a little greasy, we tend to spin the tire at half-track. It was very challenging.
"We haven't shown the same performance that we had at the beginning of the year and we didn't show it here," Guidera continued. "I was riding timid in the last couple of races because I was afraid to go red, but you can't do that any more. You had better be .020 or better or you're going to get left on."
Guidera eliminated Mike Berry, Karen Stoffer and Chip Ellis to reach the final. Hines defeated Hector Arana, Matt Smith and Eddie Krawiec on his way to the money round.
Hines is the first rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle to claim a spot in The Countdown.
Dave Connolly also won his Wally on a holeshot, defeating Jeg Coughlin in the Pro Stock final, 6.628 to 6.627. Connolly eliminated Vinnie Deceglie, Mike Edwards and Johnny Gray in earlier rounds.
"Some days you just get the feeling that you're going to win, and today was one of those days," Connolly said. "Brita Cagnazzi, Victor Cagnazzi's wife, had a bottle of champagne and was ready to celebrate her birthday. I told her after the first round to put that thing on ice because we were going to need it.
"I looked up to [Coughlin] when I was a kid. I've learned a lot from him and having him as a teammate is a win-win situation. To race him in the final and win on a holeshot is special."
Connolly's final opponent Coughlin got to the finals by defeating Ron Krisher, Jason Line and Greg Anderson.
Line and Kurt Johnson have reserved spots in the Pro Stock Countdown to One.
NHRA teams will pack up and head east to Minnesota for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway August 7-10.