SCHUMACHER, FORCE, ANDERSON AND ELLIS HOLD ON FOR NO.1 QUALIFIERS AT 25TH ANNUAL LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS BRAINERD, Minn. - Reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher continued his amazing second-half run Saturday at Brainerd International ...
SCHUMACHER, FORCE, ANDERSON AND ELLIS HOLD ON FOR NO.1 QUALIFIERS AT 25TH ANNUAL LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS
BRAINERD, Minn. - Reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher continued his amazing second-half run Saturday at Brainerd International Raceway by qualifying No. 1 for the 25th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.
Schumacher has raced to four finals in a row and back-to-back low qualifiers to pull to within 121 points of the POWERade Series championship lead, held by Doug Kalitta.
Joining Schumacher on BIR's low qualifier podium was 13-time Funny Car champ John Force, three-time Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson, and rising Pro Stock Motorcycle star Chip Ellis. Final eliminations for this $1.6 million event are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
Schumacher didn't match his run of record from Friday -- the 4.499 at 330.72 mph that earned the U.S. Army race team its eighth low qualifier of the year and the 30th of his career -- but the 4.55 and 4.59 he did post on Saturday prove he's a solid contender for the Brainerd title. Kalitta ceded four points to Schumacher in qualifying eighth overall with a 4.580.
"This is so much fun," Schumacher said. "Last year I had a blast watching those three Funny Cars race down to the wire for the championship. Now it looks like we're going to have the same deal in Top Fuel and I'm happy to be a part of it. The beginning of the year was heartbreaking but we knew we had a car and that we'd get it going at some point. Chasing everyone down has been a blast."
Funny Car's Ron Capps made the biggest move Saturday but his 4.778 at 320.20 mph in his Brut Dodge Charger wasn't quite enough to unseat Friday leader Force's 4.773 at 323.74 mph. The Castrol GTX Ford Mustang driver now has 130 No. 1 qualifying efforts, second only to Pro Stock legend Warren Johnson's 136 No. 1 starts.
"It was very important to go down the track on that last run because it was still in the heat," Force said. "Now we know we have a car that can play on Sunday. We're just gonna go out and try to win the race."
Whit Bazemore, who won the Seattle race three weeks ago, failed to qualify for this event in his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Charger.
Anderson's No. 1 starting spot marks the eighth time this year he'll lead Pro Stock into race day. Just to make sure he'd keep the top slot, Anderson drove his Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO through an improved 6.736 at 204.20 mph early Saturday.
"We always say these races are won or lost at the shop," Anderson said. "After Sonoma we were able to get in four really good days back in Mooresville [N.C.] to work on everything and I think we actually helped ourselves a little bit. We've certainly come into this race with a lot of confidence, especially after the little bit of testing we were able to do at the track by the shop."
Anderson teammate Jason Line, a fellow Minnesotan and the current points leader, also improved slightly Saturday, posting a second-best 6.753 at 203.06 mph in his identical Summit Racing Equipment Pontiac GTO.
Soaring humidity readings and a strong headwind kept anyone in Pro Stock Motorcycle from challenging Ellis' Friday night pass of 7.086 at 186.41 mph. A winner of two of the last three events, Ellis has now earned five low qualifier awards this season.
"The adjusted altitude readings showed way over 3,000 feet today," Ellis said. "That, plus a 15-mph wind in your face makes a big difference. We're happy with the Drag Specialties Buell right now. If we tune it up right and I ride right we can win this deal."
Andrew Hines, who leads Ellis by 51 points and Angelle Sampey by 33 markers, moved up to second on the grid with a third-round 7.105 at 186.82 mph on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod. Sampey and her U.S. Army teammate and fellow title contender Antron brown both earned top-half starting slots. Sampey is sixth with a 7.134, while Brown is eighth with a 7.143.
Defending event champion GT Tonglet missed the field by five-thousandths of a second.