Brainerd: Saturday qualifying report

SCHUMACHER SEEKING FOURTH CONSECUTIVE VICTORY FROM NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITION AT LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS Ashley Force, Greg Anderson and Matt Smith also claim No. 1 qualifying positions at Brainerd International Raceway BRAINERD, Minn. -- Tony...


Ashley Force, Greg Anderson and Matt Smith also claim No. 1 qualifying positions at Brainerd International Raceway

BRAINERD, Minn. -- Tony Schumacher will attempt to win his fourth consecutive race and ninth overall Sunday from the No. 1 qualifying position at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Ashley Force, Greg Anderson and Matt Smith also were No. 1 qualifiers and will lead their respective categories into Sunday's 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event, the 16th of 18 events in the Countdown to 10, NHRA's regular season. The Countdown to 1, NHRA's six-race championship playoffs, begin Sept. 11-14 at zMax Dragway at Concord near Charlotte, N.C.

Schumacher continued to have the fastest Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, as he claimed his fifth No. 1 qualifying performance of the season and 66th of his career with his 3.864 second run at 312.21 mph from Friday. With the 15-car field, Schumacher will get a first-round bye run and then will have to face the winner of the Brandon Bernstein-Rod Fuller first round match.

"It's a good spot (to be in) and more importantly the car is running great," Schumacher said. "Today we went out there and found the limit. The first round single tomorrow doesn't matter. We want to win the race and to do that you need to win four rounds. Obviously we're not worried about the first round, that's the easy one. It's the other three rounds that we're worried about. We're in a beautiful place and the sun's going to be out and it'll be a little slippery and the driver is going to come into play and it's going to be fun. That's what I wake up for. There's a little gladiator in all of us."

Schumacher holds the record for most consecutive victories in Top Fuel, winning five in a row in 2005 in his U.S. Army dragster. Only two other drivers have won four or more consecutively in the category, including Cory McClenathan (1997) and the late Scott Kalitta (1994). If Schumacher wins tomorrow, he will continue his streak that started back in early July in Denver. He followed that win with victories in Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.

"You can't get complacent," he said. "Winning the last three races doesn't matter now. You have to forget about the Western Swing. You have to focus on this race, every round. There are guys out there who would like to win one race, so to win five in a row is pretty tough. You can't get caught up in trying to win four in a row, or five in a row. You have to stay focused on winning the round you are running. When we finally get beat, then we can talk about how many we were able to win in a row."

Force claimed her second-straight No. 1 qualifying performance in Funny Car with her Friday run of 4.110 at 299.40 in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. Force becomes only the third female in NHRA history to post back-to-back No. 1 qualifying efforts in professional category racing. Shirley Muldowney and Angelle Sampey have logged multiple qualifying streaks in their careers.

"It's great to be No. 1 but we really hope to win some rounds tomorrow," Force said. "We've struggled at the last few races even though we've been qualifying well. We just haven't had any luck. I'm happy about being No. 1 but I'm trying not to get too excited. This is the best qualifying performance we've had at John Force Racing in a while. We're all in the top half of the field so hopefully we won't race each other until the late rounds."

Pro Stock's Anderson earned his fourth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 66th of his career based on his Friday performance of 6.679 at 206.76 his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP. Fellow native Minnesota racers Kurt and Warren Johnson had the quickest cars during Saturday's two qualifying sessions and moved up to second and third respectively.

"Thank God for Friday," Anderson said. "We didn't set the world on fire today and didn't exactly build our confidence any. Perhaps we lulled the competition into a false sense of security and we've got them right where we want them for tomorrow. We'll be alright. We knew the sun was going to be out today so we tried some things with the setup and just missed it because the racetrack didn't go away as much as we thought it might. We did learn some things. We know where the edge is now. I am going into the first round thinking I've got the baddest hot rod on the planet. That's the confidence I get from the crew I've got over there working on this car."

Smith, who has been suffering with kidney stones throughout the weekend, rode his Nitro Fish Wear Buell to a track record time of 6.958 seconds at 189.55 to claim his third top qualifying performance of the season and 10th of his career.

"I've been fighting a little bit of a kidney stone and it's about to wear me out," Smith said. "We debuted a brand new bike here and I think we've got a good bike for tomorrow. We knew it was a good bike yesterday. On the second pass yesterday I did a bad job of riding and it still ran a 6.98. We tried a test deal today on the second run and it didn't work out, so tomorrow we'll go back to basics and we'll be alright."

He says the plan is to race tomorrow, kidney stones or not.

"I will run somehow or another," Smith said. "I've been taking some Tylenol for the pain. I am going to the hospital tonight. Hopefully we can get it broke up tonight. I'll spend some time in there if I have to."

Several drivers secured their positions in the Countdown to 1 following today's qualifying, including Cory McClenathan and Brandon Bernstein in Top Fuel; Robert Hight and Tony Pedregon in Funny Car; Jeg Coughlin in Pro Stock; and Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

-credit: nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Jeg Coughlin , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Cory McClenathan , Scott Kalitta , Ashley Force , Brandon Bernstein , Matthew Smith , Robert Hight , Rod Fuller , Angelle Sampey