Schumacher, Medlen, Connolly and Treble Earn Victories at Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals BRAINERD, Minn. - Funny Car driver Eric Medlen and Pro Stock's David Connolly each earned the first victory of their careers Sunday at the 23rd annual Lucas Oil...
Schumacher, Medlen, Connolly and Treble Earn Victories at Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals
BRAINERD, Minn. - Funny Car driver Eric Medlen and Pro Stock's David Connolly each earned the first victory of their careers Sunday at the 23rd annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Craig Treble (Pro Stock Bike) also earned the win in their respective categories at the $1.6 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event.
Medlen, a long-time crew member in the John Force Racing program, started his professional career this season. He earned the victory over three-time champion Gary Scelzi. Medlen turned in a 4.999-second pass at 302.62 mph in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang, beating Scelzi's 5.286 at 247.66 in his Oakley Dodge Stratus.
"I didn't see Scelzi for a while, then I saw way too much of him, then we started catching him and by the time I got to the lights, I didn't know who had won," Medlen said. "I know it was close. If hope had anything to do with it, I might have edged him right there."
Medlen spent eight years working on the cars before he got the chance to drive one. He has credited his team members for helping him with the transition to the driver's seat.
"It didn't really hit me that I won my first race until the crew guys got out of the (return vehicle) at the other end," Medlen said. "We've been through so much over the years and they're the closest people to my heart. When you look in their eyes and see the joy in there, it hits you.
"And then dad (crew chief John Medlen) came up and the tears came. All my life I've just wanted to be part of whatever he was doing and now we've won a race together and that's forever."
Connolly has been to four final rounds this season, including the last three events. The 21-year-old beat the defending Pro Stock champion and current points leader, Greg Anderson. Connolly earned the win with a 6.799 pass at 203.31 in his Bullet Motorsports Chevy Cavalier to top Anderson's 6.818 at 202.97 in his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac Grand Am.
Connolly has earned wins in the sportsman categories before, but the first pro victory has added special significance. He became the 50th driver in NHRA history to post a Pro Stock victory.
"I've always dreamed of this day but I never really thought it would happen," Connolly said. "Even winning sportsman races, this is just completely different. It's unbelievable. And to be the 50th winner in the class with the 50th U.S. Nationals (in Indianapolis) coming up, that makes it even more special. Maybe 50 is my lucky number."
Anderson has been nearly unbeatable this season, earning 12 victories in 14 final rounds in the first 16 events of the season. Anderson had beaten Connolly three times before Sunday.
"To beat Greg, and on top of that to drive around him, makes this very special," Connolly said. "He's the guy right now and any time you race him you have to be totally on your game. You have to be perfect. Even today he left on me. He just picked the wrong lane, I think.
"The thing is those other finals got me used to the pressure because the nervousness was gone this time. I just wanted to win so bad."
Schumacher used a 4.615 run at 321.96 to earn his 17th career win and sixth of the season in the U.S. Army dragster. The Top Fuel points leader beat David Grubnic's 4.606 at 317.49 in the Red Line Oil dragster.
"We sure worked hard for this one," Schumacher said. "The first two runs in qualifying something was clearly wrong with the car. Then we made a good pass in Round 3. Then the ignition went out in Round 4. You just can't give up three of four passes like that and feel real good heading into race day, especially with the new wing angle and nitro percentage deal.
"Then in Round 1 (of eliminations) they got on the radio after my burnout and said the blower belt was shredding itself to pieces. Alan [Johnson, crew chief] said to just go for it and we were totally lucky to get that win. After that, I've said it before, you can't give Alan too many chances or he'll rip your heart out and that's what happened."
Grubnic has been in six career final rounds, including four this season. He has yet to earn a professional win.
"Poor Dave," Schumacher said. "I could hear him and feel him and I thought I even saw his nose a few times, but this one was mine. He'll get his, believe me."
Treble earned the eighth victory of his career with a win over three-time champion Angelle Savoie. Treble went 7.199 at 183.00 on his Matco Tools Suzuki to beat Savoie's 7.395 at 150.10 on her U.S. Army Suzuki.
Treble had been 0-for-3 in final rounds this season.
"We knew what we were up against and I'm not even sure we thought we had a chance," Treble said. "She ran a 7.13 in the semis and we'd struggled all day except one round. But the Vance & Hines guys came over and told me I had the power to run a good pass and we got after it."
Treble's first career victory came at Brainerd in 1999.
"I got my first win here and I've been to three finals here so I love this place. I've been doing this since 1998 so any place where you have three final-round appearances is going to be special."
The next NHRA POWERade series event is the 17th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Mid-South NHRA Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park in Memphis, Ten., Aug. 20-22.