Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army team marched to the top qualifying spot in the first of two sessions Friday in the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
"It was most important (to us) because a lot of others didn't get down the track," said Schumacher, who has earned three No. 1 qualifying positions this season and 70 in his career.
"We're going to race in the middle of the day (on Sunday during eliminations) and going down the track when the sun was out in those conditions makes it more comforting. We made a good clean run."
Schumacher earned three bonus points by being the quickest in Friday's first session while Don Schumacher Racing teammate and Top Fuel points leader Antron Brown did not place in the top-three in either session to earn bonus points.
That puts Brown 102 points ahead of Spencer Massey, who is qualified No. 3 in the FRAM/Prestone dragster, and 133 ahead of Schumacher with two events remaining in the season including this weekend's near Las Vegas.
"It's a super longshot," Schumacher said of catching Brown. "Antron would have to get beat in the first round and we'd have to win (the title) at these last two races. It's up to Antron.
"We don't wish anyone a mistake, but if we are going to have a chance that is required. I really hope he goes out and makes clean runs and becomes the world champ. He's definitely earned it and has done a great job. But Spencer is right there too."
Brown's best effort of 3.869 seconds (313.88) ranks 10th heading to Saturday's last two qualifying sessions before Sunday's championship eliminations in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
In Funny Car, points leader Jack Beckman and the Battery eXtender Powered by Schumacher/Valvoline NextGen Dodge Charger R/T was quickest among the four DSR Funny Car teams. Beckman ranks fourth with a best run of 4.093 (306.88) and Capps' NAPA Carlyle Tools Dodge is right behind in the fifth position with an elapsed time of 4.098 (308.78).
Neither driver was quick enough to earn bonus points, but Mike Neff of John Force Racing is on the provisional pole and picked up three points to narrow Beckman's lead to 51 points. Capps still trails Beckman by 23.
Johnny Gray and his Big O Tires/Service Central Dodge ranks 10th while Matt Hagan and the Aaron's Dream Machine/Mopar team are 15th among the 21 teams vying for one of 16 positions for Sunday's eliminations.
Source: Don Schumacher Racing